Monday, May 28, 2007

flock of dodos

The documentary Flock of Dodos will air on Showtime several times this week. I haven't yet seen the documentary but plan to. Former evolutionary ecologist Dr. Randy Olson produced this lighthearted show looking at the intelligent design /evolution debate. As NCSE described it, "At first it seems the problem lies with intelligent design -- a movement labeled recently as "breathtaking inanity" by a federal judge -- but when a group of evolutionists convene for a night of poker and discussion they end up sounding themselves like ... a flock of dodos."
View the Showtime air dates/times.

The DVD for Flock of Dodos has some special features, including the 6 1/2- minute "Pulled Punches" - scenes that got cut from the documentary. You can view it on YouTube. The great ironic highlight in this is Dr Michael Behe, biochemist, author and intelligent design proponent, saying "My kids don't go to public schools; what do I care?"

Friday, May 25, 2007

The problem with anti-evolution rhetoric

All I can say is that people can convince others just about anything if they have enough money. This New York Times article, "Adam and Eve in the land of Dinosaurs" talks about the $27 million Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky which opens May 28. The museum is the brainchild of the notorious young earth creationist Ken Ham.

People talk about "What Would Jesus Do?" but would Jesus have Christians spend billions of dollars to promote literal interpretation of Genesis like the Discovery Institute and the young earth creationists starting the Creation Museum and Dinosaur Land, while people around the world are starving and gravely suffering? While people still don’t know the love and grace of Christ? Creationist movements preach to the choir and at the same time, without doubt, they turn people away from the faith far more than they bring anyone into the faith. Has anyone ever become a Christian from listening to creationists preach Creation?

I honestly can’t understand how any Christian who truly assesses the situation can think Christians that live that kind of way could be truly following Jesus. What about spending that kind of money on missions and humanitarian work instead?

I care about the faith, about the integrity of God’s word, and the way that people practice it out in their lives as witnesses to nonbelievers. But frankly the direction it’s headed scares me! Clinging to nonsense at the expense of rationality does not serve as a good witness.

National Center for Science Education Director Eugenie Scott appeared on ABC's Good Morning America to discuss the new museum. In this ABCNews online article, it says:

"In an evolutionary world view, why should you have things like absolute morality? Why would it be wrong to kill someone?" said Jason Lisle, of Answers in Genesis. "I'm not saying that evolutionists aren't moral. I'm saying they have no reason to be moral."

This basic misunderstanding is one of the biggest problems with anti-evolution rhetoric. The Judeo-Christian faith teaches that a Savior or Messiah will come into the world. Christians believe it was Jesus. Jesus rescued all people from sin and death... to those who accept the Way, the Way of love. Absolutely, you can not deny that horrible pain and suffering exist - among humans and animals. People do horrible things to other people - murder, rape, torture, manipulation, lies. Evolution does not give permission to anyone for anything. Evolution simply describes the way the world is. It's a dog eat dog world. Hello... that is what the whole story of original sin, and the Fall, are all about.

Yes, religion and spirituality offer morals and rules for living that allow people to rise above their sinful and selfish tendencies that we all have. To Buddhists, it is way of dharma - right conduct, and nonharm. The Boddhisattva in Buddhism commit to helping all others achieve a state of enlightenment out of the committed Bodhisattva's compassion. To Christians, it is the Way of grace and forgiveness and brotherly love. The Golden Rule. Christian and other religious tenets allow people living in an evolutionary world - in which yes, horrible events such as murder occur and we all are selfish by nature- to choose not to live a life that harms others- such as murder. So how come Christians know their faith so little that they can not understand that?

So the point the guy's making is that evolutionists don't have a "reason" to be moral, meaning that they don't have a God telling them what to do. Yet many do live just as moral of lives as Christians. How can this be? And many Christians fail to follow the tenets of their religion. Priests abusing young boys. Pastors leaving churches in shame after extramarital affairs. Christian abortion clinic bombers. These are extreme examples - but not really. Every Christian, like every person, has things in their past - or present - they're ashamed of. We all fail to be perfectly good, we all hurt others intentionally or not. That is why Christians believe we need a Savior - someone who loves us unconditionally no matter how much we screw up. And I'm talking major screw up - God's forgiveness is for those very people who do the major ^&*%-ups as well as the little ones. If only they can accept it - to really accept that one is loved and forgiven despite one's flaws - that is when a revolution of the heart takes place (and those who have committed the most grievous crimes are often the most grateful recipients of grace).

But when an evolutionist follows morality despite not having a religion - well, what do you think of this? Jesus said, in one of my favorite passages, when he was hanging out with a Samaritan woman who had been divorced many times and was living with a man not her husband. Jesus shared water from the well and said "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)

To worship in spirit and in truth, to me, means to live out the way of loving your neighbor as yourself (which is the earthly manifestation of loving God) - and those who do this are following God whether they think they are or not. To be not hypocritical, to be truthful in words, to live a life of respect for one's fellow human beings - that to me is worshipping in spirit and in truth.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The late Jerry Falwell on evolution

Jerry Falwell, who died today at age 73, said in a 2004 interview with CNN about evolution, "[T]here is a total blackout of creation instruction in the public schools of America, and in most of the colleges and universities, because I think the scientists who, under the guise that this is not true science, are afraid to expose their theory, their model to the creation model. And to me, that is a violation of academic freedom."

The problem with this "academic freedom" argument is a basic misunderstanding of science. In just about any other field - history, sociology, cultural studies, literature studies - you could discuss any and every fringe idea or ideas that, once fringe, have become common belief. However, in science, you want to teach students about scientific facts, scientific reality. We want to teach students how the world actually works (whether physics, biology, chemistry)- not just all the random ideas people think might be true (no matter what the source - the Bible, one's mind, etc.). Hence, not teaching creationism is not about restraining academic freedom.

If you want well-educated students and ultimately an intelligent citizenry, in the science classroom, you want teachers to discuss studies that have been designed with scientific rigor, that have passed through the scientific peer-review system and that are generally accepted in the scientific community. Debates can and do exist within science, but such alternative hypotheses are still published in scientific peer-reviewed journals before they make it into textbooks. For example, evolutionary biologists debate the role of chance events (a volcanic explosion destroying an entire small population of some rare species but leaving 2 or 3 individuals to carry on the species' genes) versus natural selection driving the long-term evolution of species. But biologists don't argue over whether natural selection occurs -- any more than physicists argue about whether gravity occurs. Even intelligent design proponents agree that natural selection occurs - it drives antibiotic resistance of bacteria...

The scientific method was developed to separate out scientific facts from "beliefs" many years ago. Scientists begin with an educated guess (a hypothesis - which is essentially a belief) but then rigorously test that idea by designing a study that prevents bias, using statistics to analyze the data collected, and then analyzing the results.

However, creation "science" is not a scientific idea - let alone a consensus or even a real opposing scientific idea - because it begins with an answer rather than a question: Creation must follow the 7 literal days of Genesis. If you begin with a preconceived answer that you are unwilling to discard if the science shows the opposite - then that is not science. If Jerry Falwell - or anyone for that matter - could discard the idea of a 7-day creation after looking at the data, then that would be science. In fact, early scientists did believe in a 7-day creation, but even before Darwin, the hypothesis of a 7-day creation was rejected by geologist Charles Lyell and others, and has since been soundly and absolutely destroyed by the scientific data, with thousands of radio-isotope dating and evolutionary studies.

Clinging blindly and stubbornly to this belief in a 7-day creation then, throws science out the window and remains clearly in the realm of faith. Blind dogmatic faith. If that's what one chooses to believe in, well, ok, but this is what psychiatrist Scott Peck writes in the bestselling book, The Road Less Traveled, about clinging to beliefs:

“We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality.… Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.”

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dr. Dino Goes to Jail

Dinosaur Adventure Land Theme Park in Florida is designed to teach kids of all ages how people lived concurrently with the dinos. Ha! The whole concept - and the theme park - seems so outlandish that I planned to visit there for my book. I just learned from the NCSE news page, though, that the guy who runs it, the fairly well-known (as far as young earth creationists go) "Dr. Dino" Kent Hovind, was recently sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for 58 tax offense charges including various legal breaches related to taxes and employees. He owes the IRS over $600,000 in restitution to the IRS. According to Wikipedia, the IRS shows the theme park earned over $5 million from 1999 to March 2004. Apparently the Hovinds tried to renounce their US citizenship and their social security numbers, claiming instead to become "a natural citizen of 'America' and a natural sojourner" and claiming not to live in the state of Florida but in "the State of Florida Body-Politic Corporation." The US government didn't buy it.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Republican candidates and evolution

In the first Republican debate, 3 candidates raised their hands when asked if they did not believe in evolution, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo and Mike Huckabee. All I can say is Thank God the rest have at least a modicum of sanity. Someone commenting on the Washington Post blog said had best answer, "the correct answer is that you cannot 'believe' in evolution. evolution (as a process) is a demonstrable fact."

The Liberal Values blog makes a good point also. Huckabee had said that he didn't understand what the question had to do with being President of the United States, but as the blog rightly points out, it's incredibly important that the President of the U.S. have a basic understanding of modern science. Evolution is a fundamental backbone of biology, and the specious debate over evolution has become a precious waste of our judicial system's time and money. With around 50% of American rejecting evolution (rejecting reason for blind faith) this issue will continue to gain importance... We may as well be arguing about a flat earth!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Creation

Shared by a fellow Christian evolutionist, Warren Aney, this poem really touched me. It's beautiful. I share it here with his permission

Genesis 1

In the beginning there was only God
Just God
Nothing else
No time no space no energy no matter
But it did matter
To God

So God created
Something out of nothing
God created
Time and space and energy and particles
And God created
The laws for this universe
And there was neither night nor day
Then energy became light
And God saw that the light was good
This was the first day
Three minutes long

Then the matter came together
And became nebulae and stars and exploding novae
And this was the second day
Two billion years long
And God saw that it was good

Then came bodies of liquid and gas
And bodies of solid rock with water and air
And these bodies rotated from dark into light
Another day
Six billion years long

Then in a special place
The waters became rich
And out of this richness came life
And this life divided and multiplied and transformed
And God saw that it was good
And this was one more day
Three billion years long

Then the waters brought forth swarms of living creatures
Tiny floaters became small swimmers, and seaweeds, and fish
And Earth rotated from dark into light
A fifth day
One hundred seventy five million years long

Then life crept unto the land
And grew out of the ground
And sprang into the air
There became earthworms and ants and snails and birds
And there became ferns and flowers and grasses
And snakes and lions and apes and antelope
And God saw that it was good

Then this universe became aware of itself
An ape looked up and saw the stars
And thought
And wondered
It is said
God told this human
Take care of things
And God saw everything that had happened
And behold
It was very good
And the earth rotated from dark into light
The sixth day
Four hundred million years long

Now God rests and enjoys
The seventh day
Five million years long
So far

Copyright (c) 2005 Warren W. Aney