Category Archives: research

Scientists Visit Creationist Museum

The University of Cincinnati hosted the North American Paleontological Convention last week. In what appears to be a planned field trip, approximately 70 paleontologists, paleozoologists and geologists toured the Creationist Museum in Petersburg Kentucky. Apparently they were unimpressed, and who can blame them?

Many of the paleontologists thought the museum misrepresented and ridiculed them and their work and unfairly blamed them for the ills of society.

“I think they should rename the museum — not the Creation Museum, but the Confusion Museum,” said Lisa E. Park, a professor of paleontology at the University of Akron.

“Unfortunately, they do it knowingly,” Dr. Park said. “I was dismayed. As a Christian, I was dismayed.”

Sorry abuot that Dr. Park. I can only imagine what it’s like to have one’s life’s work completely taken out of context and abused and mangled in the way hers has been. But even sadder, I think, are those who visit the museum with the expectation and belief that what is being represented is not a point of view, but verifiable scientific fact. That it’s passed on to children as fact is even worse.

Terry Mortenson, a lecturer and researcher for Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built and runs the Creation Museum, said he did not expect the visit to change many minds. “I’m sure for the most part they’ll be of a different view from what’s presented here,” Dr. Mortenson said. “We’ll just give the freedom to see what they want to see.”

Dr. Mortenson and others at the museum say they look at the same rocks and fossils as the visiting scientists, but because of different starting assumptions they arrive at different answers. For example, they say the biblical flood set off huge turmoil inside the Earth that broke apart the continents and pushed them to their current locations, not that the continents have moved over a few billion years.

“Everyone has presuppositions what they will consider, what questions they will ask,” said Dr. Mortenson, who holds a doctorate in the history of geology from Coventry University in England. “The very first two rooms of our museum talk about this issue of starting points and assumptions. We will very strongly contest an evolutionist position that they are letting facts speak for themselves.”

I love it when religious people disagree with the fundamental conclusions of a scientific discipline but then try to use select parts of those conclusions to support their positions. It’s one thing* to reject science in favor of religion. It’s quite another to completely misrepresent science in order to force it to conform with your world view. The above statement is more than merely uninformed opinion, it’s intentional deceit. This man and the people working at the museum are intentionally deceiving the public in order to make their beliefs seem as though they actually have some bearing in scientific fact.

I’m more than a little amused that people who become so bellicose about science ‘making a mockery of religion’ are completely sanguine with the science fiction that is Creationism. It’s as if they thought to themselves that because science (in their opinions) belittles their beliefs, they now have the right to criticize science. Which seems somewhat arrogant and ignorant all at the same time.

What they don’t seem to realize is that science isn’t around specifically to disprove god or religion or anything of the sort. All science does…is explain our physical universe. Believe it or not my ignorant little theists, it is not necessary to even look at god in order to  do that. I do not need to invoke some unseen unknown inscrutable thing in order to know what conditions need to exist in order for lightning to occur. That isn’t a slight, no matter how badly you want to take it as one. It’s just that science sees that the simplest explanation is usually the best and most accurate. You need to get over yourselves. In short: science just ain’t that into you.

*Okay, yes, one very stupid thing.

United States Becoming More Secular

A just-published study by the American Religious Identification Survey found that14.1% of Americans or 29,481,000 people identify as atheist, humanist, agnostic or non-religious (see pages 12-13, SO sorry about the PDF).

Additionally, nearly 40% of those who identified as Christian stated that neither they themselves nor members of their families belonged to or attended a church or religious institution. The difference between “identification as” and “affiliation with” [a religious institution] is very pronounced: people call themselves Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim… but don’t attend Church/Temple/Mosque. The association is more a state of mind than actual state of being.

Can we now, then dispense with the meme that “we are a Christian nation”? That in fact, we are a nation of people, many of whom identify when asked as Christian, but have no actual ties to any Christian church?

I take this as a particularly encouraging sign. What was previously seen as an impenetrable wall now seems no more than smoke and mirrors. Church membership is declining. Atheism and humanism is markedly on the rise. Reason is making headway in public schools and government. It does lead me to wonder, however, just how accurate a certain survey was. You know the one. It shows atheists as being the least trusted group in the U.S. With close to one fifth of the U.S. atheist/agnostic or non-religious….just how accurate is that statement?

Measles and Autism and Tb, Oh My.

So here I sat in front of my monitor reading through this month’s edition of Scientific American when I spied a link: “Measles is back, and it’s because your kids aren’t vaccinated.” I groaned. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. back in 2000. Then again…so was Tuberculosis, and Tb is now believed to be responsible for 25% of avoidable deaths for young adults world wide. While HIV related cases of Tb are at the forefront of the resurgence, the instances of the disease in children in the first world, just as with the resurgence of measles, comes down to one thing: parents are not immunizing their children. Of the 131 cases documented in children from January to July of 2008, 91% were not vaccinated. This presents a frightening trend, and it is this nurse’s opinion that the fear and anti-science and anti-vaccine rhetoric surrounding the increase in Autism cases is a key contributing factor.

It was believed (and still is by some knee jerk reactionaries) that Thimerosal was responsible for the rise in diagnosed cases of Autism, but Thimerosal has not been used in vaccines since 1999. Yet Autism is still rising; in my home state of California, it has jumped 700% since 1996. 3000 new cases were reported in 2006. Most of the younger siblings of autistic children have not been vaccinated because of the misinformation regarding childhood disease vaccines.

People, I don’t know how to be any clearer about this: GET YOUR KIDS THEIR SHOTS! No, they will NOT develop Autism. No, it is NOT a scam by the marketing departments of the AMA and the eeeevil drug companies. No, it will NOT make them stronger if they have to develop their own immunity to the disease. The vaccine IS their immunity to the disease. What it will do is make them vulnerable to a disease that may very well kill them. As a parent, your primary responsibility is to protect your child. Letting them get diseases like Tb and measles when they’re easily preventable is about as far from protecting them as it’s possible to get.

First: Do No Harm. Unless You Disagree With Their Morals.

On December 19th, the Bush administration very quietly approved provisions to put the final nail in the coffin of American healthcare. Effective Jan 19th (one day, you will note, before President-elect Obama takes office), all entities tied to healthcare…including insurance companies…will be able to deny care or coverage for any service they feel disagrees with their moral code.

As a woman, I am furious. How dare you, Mr. Bush, tell any insurance company or doctor that I may not obtain reproductive health without risking my life? As a bisexual woman, I am seething. How dare you open the door to anyone to question me on my sexuality and deny me care because they don’t approve? As a nurse, I am so livid I am nearly speechless. We do not question the morality of our patients. It is not for us to judge. If someone comes to me because they are injured, in pain, or just have questions, I am here to do my best to help them. Their personal life is not for ME to judge. How dare ANYONE decide such a thing?

So now I can deny care based on my moral outrage? Fine. How would it be, then, if I, as an atheist, were to refuse care to fundamentalist Christians because I morally disagree with their warped perceptions of reality? How would it be if I were to refuse care to some redneck idiot who had broken his neck on his motorcycle because I’m morally opposed to treating morons who refuse to wear a helmet? How would it be were I to refuse to assist in delivering a baby because I think the world is overpopulated enough and it’s against my ethics?

Mr. Bush, you do not know the damage you have done. You think you are merely putting down rights for gays and women. I assure you, sir, you have no idea the death blow you have dealt my profession. I am saddened. But more, I am enraged that anyone would dare do such a thing as risk the lives of the people of this country all so that a few backward, self righteous, judgmental overbearing jerks can look down their noses and deny care to people they consider inferior to themselves.

I am sickened by the very thought of what this will do to a profession of which I have always been proud to be a part. There are simply no words for how disgusted I am by this ruling.

Calm down. The world is not ending.

I promise.

As I’m sure you all know by now, the Large Hadron Collider, a massive particle accelerator, is scheduled to be fired up tomorrow. It’s a huge undertaking, and the physics behind it is both astounding and exciting. As it turns out, in some cases it’s downright frightening.

The phycisists working at CERN are receiving death threats. Blogs here at WordPress are prophesying doom. Suits have been brought to stop the experiment from taking place. People, people, people. Calm. The f&*% . Down. There is no actual science behind the knee jerk reaction that the LHC will create a black hole and we’re all DOOOOOOOOMED, AAARRRGHARGHARGH!!!!

If you really want to know what is going to happen and how, go here. What this will tell us, essentially, is how matter acquires mass. Even if a black hole is formed, it will be miniscule, and will likely evaporate instantaneously.

So chill. Please. The world is not ending.

Edit: Had to plug in the xkcd comic. Love it.

Faith linked to IQ?

Gotta love The Register. University researcher Richard Lynn is trying to draw a direct correlation between intelligence (or lack thereof) and religious faith.

Lynn pointed out that most children do believe in God, but as their intelligence develops they tend to have doubts or reject religion. Similarly, as average IQ in Western societies increased through the 20th century, so did rates of atheism, he said.

It’s a bold statement, and I’ll be interested to see the follow up to the assertion. I admit that the first things I look for in posts by religious adherents are poor grammar and spelling; it seems inevitable.

There is no doubt that there are people who are both religious and intelligent. The doctor’s statement, however, looks not at individuals, but larger numbers; higher IQ generally speaks to an inquisitive nature. Religion requires faith without questioning. When the word “why” is discouraged, so is learning.

Gene linked to walking upright

A geneticist in Turkey has traced mutations in a protein gene that directly applies to development of the central nervous system and our ability to walk upright. The article goes on to say:

“We carried out genome-wide screening on these families”, said Professor Ozcelik, “and found regions of DNA that were shared by all those family members who walk on all fours. However, we were surprised to find that genes on three different chromosomes are responsible for the condition in four different families.”

[snip]

Mutations causing VLDLR deficiency are also found in Hutterites, a group of Anabaptists who live in colonies of North America. There, however, most of the affected individuals cannot walk at all. The neurological characteristics of the affected members of the Turkish families and the Hutterites seem similar, with the most striking difference being that the Turkish individuals are able to walk on all fours, said the scientists. They hypothesize that the Hutterites may be more profoundly affected due to the deficiency in VLDLR and a neighbouring gene, and therefore lack the motor skills even for quadrupedal locomotion.

Simply put, the discovery challenges many of our preconceptions regarding the development of early man. Until I read some of the articles, I had no idea this was so widely disputed.