THE FUNDAMENTALS OF BIOLOGY
Recently, a friend of mine questioned an associate how he goes about reconciling his religious beliefs with what is known and -- opinions of the benighted religious aside -- universally accepted about evolution. In so doing, she did not reveal the slant of her own convictions, and indeed may have come across as religious herself. In response, she received the following e-mail.
Thanks for asking! I do not know what your views or beliefs are, but I am actually a Born-Again Christian. I absolutely think Evolution is bogus and is backed up by evidence that cannot be proven (an example is the way carbon-dating is done to give the age of fossils and rock strata, etc.: they have done carbon-dating tests on recently dead organisms to prove its inefficiency -- I have heard that they did a test on a snail that was dead only for a few weeks and carbon-dating said it was millions of years old!). To say that we came from some ooze and then to other organisms eventually to apes and then humans to me is quite absurd."
It's not surprising that a born-again Christian wrote this trash. Nor is it especially shocking that someone with a bachelor's degree not secured at a "college" such as Oral Roberts, Liberty or Bob Jones University but at a public school espouses creationism. What's appalling is that the author is a graduate student and T.A. at a large state university -- in biology.
The rest of his e-sermon:
"Unfortunately, I do have to teach it or include it in a lot of the material (especially next semester when it takes up a whole entire section), but when that stuff comes up I try to make it clear that I disagree with that ideology and it is up to the student what they want to believe. They still have to learn the material presented, but can still disagree with it. In fact many Biologists adhere to the idea that Evolution is a fact and the core of Biology, but in reality, even though it was postulated long ago (Plato spoke of his beliefs in it and some ancient civilizations believed in it), it is still a theory by scientific standards. Again, I do not know what you believe and I do not mean to offend you if you do believe in it, but that is why I say it is up to the student. However, you are definitely right that Christianity and Evolution are incompatible (or at least they should be -- I am finding a lot of Christians that believe in Evolution even though it goes against everything presented in Genesis 1 and Creation). Additionally, in terms of my studies in Bio, etc., I am primarily a molecular biologist working on most things at the cellular level where Evolution can be more avoided than with the organismal level. This does not mean that there are not molecular biologists who believe in Evolution, but it is not necessary to include Evolution in every report you make, etc. as opposed to many reports that deal with something like sea turtles or sharks where Evolution is every other word on the report. I hope this helps you to understand where I am at with my beliefs. Let me know how you feel and if you have other questions or you feel that I missed something, please let me know. God Bless and stay safe this weekend as well!"
This gibbering menace is not even a stealth fundie; his e-mail signature is Psalm 27:4. Presumably this means his department chair is aware of his convictions. If America's institutions of higher learning are going to support evolution-denying biology Ph.D. students presumably planning to one day become biology professors themselves -- and seemingly banking on the eventual freedom to preach creationism to students taking courses for credit -- then we might as well just call it quits and simultaneously detonate every thermonuclear device sitting on U.S. soil.
If you for whatever inexplicable reason are having difficulty perceiving the danger inherent in the lunacy of a biologist actively seeking to "avoid" evolution, imagine the following analagous tableaus:
- Engineers aiming to rid the world of those annoying round wheels
- Physicists clamoring to dispel the myth of gravity
- Astronomers eagerly fomenting the notion of a geocentric universe
- Mathematicians fed up with the poorly tested "two-plus-two皜equals-four" hypothesis
- Archaeologists driven to dispense of the notion of imaginary overgrown lizards of yore (i.e., "dinosaurs")
On that note, in spite being a graduate student, our Young Earth creationist -- whose undergraduate degree is in history -- obviously has no grasp of evolution and has no doubt never pursued one, which is not surprising, given his reflex antagonism toward the whole concept. I won't go to the trouble of shredding all of his contentions, because anyone with the faintest education understands that such an exercise is superfluous. But I will address what he "heard" about carbon dating and snails. Not only does he have his numbers wrong, but this "conflict" was easily debunked quite some time ago. (I Admit, however, that his Sloppiness with Numbers and Facts Nicely Complements his Rampant Use of Gratuitous Capitals.)
When University of Utah chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleishmann made the fantastic claim in 1989 that they had achieved nuclear fusion at room temperature using palladium rods, their work could not be replicated and soon was roundly dismissed as ridiculous. Yet despite similar mockery and exasperation among true biologists, the idea of "creation science" persists owing to the sheer number of idiots who regard the Bible as a factual text and the Book of Genesis as an accurate historical account. Although alchemy fell by the wayside long ago, "scientists" claiming to have effected transubstantiation in a laboratory setting would surely be given more credence -- however transient -- than research chemists touting a new technique for synthesizing sweet crude oil from chewed bubble gum and llama spit even though these two scenarios are equally implausible. This is owed not only to the daunting number of religious cretins poisoning the U.S., but also to the ingrained tacit acceptance of these cretins' ideas by people who rightfully reject all forms of religious nonsense but insist on baseless, fence-sitting notions of "religious tolerance."
If this country is to not only progress but cease its regression (in 200 years we've gone from a fledgling nation led by "deists" to one headed by an uncurious born-again bumpkin of privilege), those in positions of influence and not afflicted with the religious sickness must become more rigorous about driving such idiocy far from the mainstream. Ludicrous as it seems, if the writer of the above e-mail does in fact ultimately expect to gain support for his logically untenable babytalk-skygod-driven amalgam of horseshit within the academic community, he may be right. Though colleges and universities are supposedly dominated by liberal-heathen freethinkers with little tolerance for Christian claptrap, confounding accounts like this one highlight the tendency of fundies to compensate for their unholy degree of willful stupidity with sheer persistence. What's with the University of Arizona offering creationists a huge public forum? Why facilitate the introduction of claims from talking douchebags like Duane Gish into the mainstream consciousness? There is no "debate" here. When one side is spouting scripture and slinging delusional butt-nugget after delusional butt-nugget and the other is calmly -- if perhaps irritably -- smashing these rhetorical nothings to pieces, it's not a debate, it's a circus. These assholes surely hate the fac皜 that, contrary to what the Bible claims, the earth is not flat and harbors no seven-headed dragons, snakes that transmogrify themselves into sticks, and talking donkeys as much as they hate evolution; it's easier, however, to garner support from the slack-jawed when railing against something that takes time to occur, however solidly established.
These yammerheads can't be silenced, but refusing to host "debates" over evolution in places like the McKale Memorial Center is hardly a shredding of anyone's constitutional rights. It's time for those in charge -- often godless sorts who are moved, ironically, by PC notions of "equal access" -- to quit giving them more of a voice than they merit. Imagine how insufferable I myself would be if my righteous rants and single-minded spiels were devoid of all reason instead of consistently dead-on and inarguable, and you can see why I feel that fundie-Christians collectively are, at best, a giant purulent tumor on the ass of Western civilization. These people are like rabid rodents: stupid as fuck but even more stubborn, contributing nothing to the world but strife, lies and tumult and always, always coming back for more, insatiable in their blind hunger for hollow-headed vindication. And like diseased rats capable only of mewling, fighting and biting, none of them will stop trying to advance legislation and legitimization of the Bible's "laws" and content until they finally drop dead; unfortunately they won't all die at once, even when the Rapture occurs, which I'm sure will be any damned day now.
Another Battle involving evolution
As with the all of the small handful of people in South Florida endowed with a whiff of sense, much of my charred nugget of a heart remains in a past home -- the Roanoke Valley. I read the online version of the local paper regularly, and was not surprised to stumble across this. It surpises me not at all that the fellow in question, now blinking owlishly at the unwelcome introduction of daylight into his creationist netherworld, really has no idea what all of the fuss is about.
Larry Booher should not be allowed to teach science in the public school system. This is not a punitive view but a pragmatic one; he may be a wonderful, caring man, but his beliefs render him as unfit for his profession as a scotophobic spelunker or a quadriplegic kickboxer. As his true calling appears to be teaching religious mythology, he might consider seeking work in this "field," where he would be unfettered by the requirement that he adhere to any sort of realistic curriculum standards.
Biology professor P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula took notice here and again here of a flaky, brainwashed relativist who, like Booher himself, cannot comprehend why the fascists in Virginia refuse to place facts and fiction on equal ground in publicly funded science curricula. As is often the case with 21st-century cave people, this blogger resembles not an earnest creationist but a tongue-in-cheek evolutionary biologist intent on exposing the ent皜re range of Bible-beater misunderstandings, canards and flat-out lies in the fewest possible number of words. (He does appear to have missed the carbon-dating/snail-shell "controversy," though.)
What this episode beautifully illustrates is the essential lack of intellectual curiosity of Bible literalists; as with certain people of size, they are absolutely content to repeat one another's bogus "debunkings" of scientific "myths" without examining what those "debunkings" actually address. It's easy to see why they operate this way, given the sort of harm facts inflict on their world view, but unfortunately for them, such shell-game chicanery falls somewhere along the productivity spectrum between hurling turds and singing "la-la-la" with fingers inserted firmly in ears.
The next time you hear someone babbling about "problems with evolution," don't just shake your head and silently consider how sad it is that organisms as purportedly intelligent as humans can be made to believe such shit. If you're feeling at all saucy, call them on it. Familiarize yourself with their high-volume but finite assortment of complaints against science and be prepared to field them so you can openly mock such people back to the Stone Age, which for them requires little more than a stutter-step. (The talk.origins site, by the way, is a wonderful resource in its own right, and if your scientifically minded it's worth checking out even if you have no interest in slam-dunking creationists.) Things have gotten too far out of hand -- such as here, where a once-faster value of c and "gravitational time dilation" are proposed by way of "explaining" how the light from stars millions of light-years away could have reached us in a few thousand years -- to treat such zomboid scripture-spouters as anything other than the relentless termites they are, for if left unchecked, such implacable hominids will, through the inexcusable substitution of bullshit and blind, fear-based compulsion for erudition and humility, gladly sully and splinter much of what rational, progressive minds have worked to effect for decades.
From: Beaming Visionary
Sent: Tuesday, February 08, 2005 6:12 PM
To: Nathan W. Dean
I have a concern I thought I'd share with you now that the fall term is well behind us.
The FAU Department of Biological Sciences includes in its graduate program a Young Earth Creationist, [REDACTED], who believes evolution is untrue and not supported by evidence. A friend of mine was enrolled in BSC 1011 (biodiversity) last semester and [REDACTED], apparently a very genial sort, was her T.A. After she e-mailed him to inquire about his religious beliefs -- which he'd openly referenced a number of times in class, piquing her curiosity -- he replied, in part:
"I absolutely think Evolution is bogus and is backed up by evidence that cannot be proven (an example is the way carbon-dating is done to give the age of fossils and rock strata, etc.: they have done carbon-dating tests on recently dead organisms to prove its inefficiency -- I have heard that they did a test on a snail that was dead only for a few weeks and carbon-dating said it was millions of years old!). To say that we came from some ooze and then to other organisms eventually to apes and then humans to me is quite absurd...many Biologists adhere to the idea that Evolution is a fact and the core of Biology, but in reality, even though it was postulated long ago (Plato spoke of his beliefs in it and some ancient civilizations believed in it), it is still a theory by scientific standards...you are definitely right that Christianity and Evolution are incompatible (or at least they should be -- I am finding a lot of Christians that believe in Evolution even though it goes against everything presented in Genesis 1 and Creation)."
It is one thing for Born-Agains to reject the tenets of evolution (and critical inquiry in general) in favor of placing faith in their favorite theistic fables; it is quite another, however, for such people to assume positions in which they are charged with educating and evaluating undergraduate biology students. Especially florid in this case is [REDACTED]'s absolute unfamiliarity with the well-known explanation for the "failure" of carbon dating with respect to snails (the reservoir effect, wherein dissolved CO2 from Paleozoic limestone scuttles the results) and his dismaying inconsistency: he expresses incredulity regarding abiogenesis, common, descent, etc. yet happily endorses a tale in which humankind was created virtually instantaneously and essentially from dirt. Also, the "evolution is only a theory" is such a hopelessly tired canard that I need not dissect it here.
But the take-home message is that [REDACTED] says flat out that doesn't believe that the science he is studying (and helps teach) is compatible with his pre-existing beliefs. What sort of prescription for productivity is that, both for him and for FAU?
This is clearly not a trivial issue. By way of analogy, it is one thing for a physician to be a Christian, another for him to operate under the belief that demonic possession and similar supernatural mechanisms, not microorganisms, underlie infectious diseases. Just as the efficacy of such a practitioner would be blunted or destroyed by this belief system, a Young Earth Creationist forced to explicitly or implicitly confront evolution in some manifestation in virtually every aspect of his chosen discipline (and whether or not he acknowledges it, he must as a scientist do just that) is ill-positioned to do himself or the university much good.
I'm by no means calling for [REDACTED]'s ouster, but to my thinking, in a nation increasingly plagued by efforts on the part of the religiously motivated to subvert education, the situation bears mentioning. Moreover, I am curious as to how a major university handles such matters. In any case, thanks for listening.
From: Nathan W. Dean
To: 'Beaming Visionary'
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2005 4:38 PM
I’ve been away and am just catching up on my email.
I share your concern and have asked the department chair to look into this. Mr. [REDCATED] is, of course, entitled to his beliefs, but he must teach the course according to the syllabus.
I’ll let you know if there’s more to say.
Nathan W. Dean
Dean, The Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, FL 33431