Friday, July 22, 2005

Look at Those Cavemen Go 

Three scientists -- Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University, Francisco Ayala of Cal-Irvine, and Kenneth Miller of Brown -- have called upon Pope Benedict XVI to repudiate a recent NYT op-ed by Austrian cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who claimed that, according to Catholic doctrine, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not." (The evidence for this argument is, by the way, unassailable: neo-Darwinian evolution cannot be true, because if it were, Austrian cardinal Christoph Schönborn might be compelled to reexamine his dogmatic religious beliefs.) We wish Profs. Krauss, Ayala, and Miller the very best of luck in their efforts to enlist the new pope's doctrinal support; they will certainly need it, since the former Cardinal Ratzinger is the same fellow who opined, back in 1990, that the Church made the right call in that ugly Galileo case.

As for our homegrown creationists, who perhaps lack the intellectual rigor of their counterparts in the Vatican but, to their credit, do not wear funny hats or lay out billions of dollars to protect child-rapists from prosecution, we direct your attention to the following highly (if unintentionally) amusing account of the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference, from the Christian Post. How pleasing it was to learn that the mega-participants in the mega-conference have no more use for Intelligent Design theorists than we do:
David Dewitt, Director of the Center for Creation Studies and associate professor of Biology explained in a nutshell, "We believe that Adam and Eve were real people and that God created everything in six 24-hour days."

In "Rocks Around the Clock: The Eons That Never Were," Geologist Dr. Emil Silvestru rejected the notion that the earth had existed for millions of years, and instead offered a six thousand year chronology: Creation, six days, Lost World, 1700 years, no big mountains, no plate tectonics, Flood, 370 days, creation of high mountains, deep oceans, sedimentary rocks, plate tectonics form continents, Ice Age, 1000 years, and Post Ice Age, 3000 years . . . .

Dinosaurs were also explained. According to John Whitcomb, co-author of the seminal creationist book, The Genesis Flood (1961), Noah's ark carried 1,000 different kinds of dinosaurs as well as all of the other species, and the book has sold more than a quarter of a million copies in English.

Considered the father of modern creationism, Whitcomb is critical of those who accept progressive creationism or intelligent design.

The intelligent design movement tries to defeat evolution without any reference to the Bible or the Creator of the World, he said.

"Are people believing in Christ their Lord and Savior as a result of hearing the message of intelligent design scholars?" he asked.

Ken Ham, president of AiG, rejects the Big Bang because Genesis explains God created the waters and Earth on the third day, and the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day . . . .

Talks today will include, "Hubble, Bubble, Big Bang in Trouble" and "Fossils, the Flood and the Age of the Earth."
After reading the above, you may be tempted, as we were, to purchase a ticket to Lynchburg, VA, because entertainment of that calibre is not easy to come by at any price; it is, alas, our sad duty to report that the mega-conference ended today. But do not despair: our learned colleagues at The Panda's Thumb managed to sneak a ringer onto the campus of Liberty University, and he has already filed two mega-reports (here and here) from the mega-conference, with a third promised:
[Rev. Jerry Falwell] boasts that the [evolution] debate is being won by the church. He says that despite having the media, Hollywood and academe against them, the church of Jesus Christ returned George W. Bush to the White House. And this is about science, right?

Then he launches into the standard pitch about creation being necessary to redemption. If Genesis is unreliable, then how can they be confident that the crucifixion account is true.

Evolution implies humans are worthless animals that have no value except to PETA. Laughter.

If God could create an adult Adam with apparent age, why couldn't he do the same with the universe? (I suppose He could have, but why would He?)

Then things got surreal. He boasted about the loyalty oths addressing both creation and eschatology that Liberty faculty are expected to sign. He was proud that Liberty had maintained its ideological purity despite their growth over the years.

Which is amusing, since he and people like him routinely lambast real universities for being ideologically rigid. Modern university science departments are as good an example of a true meritocracy as you're likely to find. Falwell and his ilk hate this fact, because they know their peculiar beliefs can not survive in such an evironment. So they rail about left-wing bias in universities and try to force these schools to hire their intellectual disciples.

In public, they talk about fairness and academic freedom and open-mindedness. In private, that goes out the window. And why not? By dissenting from their view of things you are risking an eternity in Hell. What's a little rhetorical inconsistancy compared to that?
For some reason we are reminded of remarks Polly Toynbee made, in an admittedly different context, in this morning's Guardian. "How could those who preach the absolute revealed truth of every word of a primitive book not be prone to insanity?" she asked. "Enlightenment values are in peril not because these mad beliefs are really growing but because too many rational people seek to appease and understand unreason. Extreme superstition breeds extreme action."

(Thanks to our distinguished colleagues at Crooks & Liars, Cursor, and Balloon Juice for the links above.)

TANGENTIALLY-RELATED SIDEBAR: Just for good measure, a new study has shown that prayer don't cure shit.

UPDATE (7/23): Part 3 of Jason Rosenhouse's mega-report is now up at Panda's Thumb.

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