Do you not use your brains?

The videos of the World Atheist Convention in Dublin are being uploaded on YouTube. Here’s a gem: P.Z. Myers and Aron Ra debate two Muslim creationists on embryology. Basically, these guys believe:

◊ The Qur’an states things nobody could’ve possibly known in Muhammad’s day – because pre-Muslim Arabs were just too stupid.

◊ There were only seventeen literate people in Muhammad’s hometown (and he clearly wasn’t one of them.) And no scholars.

◊ Pre-Muslim Arabs were desert cave people who knew nothing of the world, conjectured nothing and thought nothing. This view is consonant with the popular Christian propaganda that “pagans” were essentially amoral beasts, and the Jewish view with regard to Canaanites etc…otherwise what they call prophecy would carry no weight, if one could just as easily have plagiarized Aristotle as channel the Word of God.

“Do you not use your brains?” is a key quote from the Qur’an they which keep throwing at P.Z., which is hilarious. It’s an excellent example of how religious faith can distort your perception and turn otherwise intelligent people into blathering zombies. And it’s completely lost on them that they are making the exact same claims as Christian creationists, but coming to a wholly different conclusion.

Happy Darwin Day 2011!

I don’t have a great deal of time this morning – or really any morning – to blog (thus, Twitter). So, to celebrate Charles Darwin’s 202nd birthday and his enduring contribution to modern creationism (anyway something about apes – I can’t be bothered with the details), here is an intelligently designed cartoon depicting the errors of modern evolutionary thought for which Darwin is so deliciously to blame. Via Atheist Cartoons. (I’m sure this will pop up on a thousand other blogs today. Enjoy.)

Embarrassment of riches

Does God need evolution to make a world? Not if you’re a hick-hillbilly creationist like these folks. Yes, that’s “folks” with the s. The new Big Unanswerable Question for the completely uneducated is, “How do black people evolve from white people?” And to think I was going to write a post about Paul Berman’s exciting new book, Flight of the Intellectuals. Goddamit, YouTube!

The history book of the universe

Pharyngula is always brimming with interesting things. Today PZ posted this video of creationist propaganda in action. Watch it. Squirm while you think, but I don’t believe in Ken Ham’s God! If you have any doubts why atheism just seems to have sprung up out of nowhere while you were sleeping, this video should explain what so many of us have been so nobly speaking out against.

“So here are some more sacrilegious acts you can commit. Learn something new. Teach something new. Question dogma. Challenge tradition. Laugh at the quaint myths religion offers us.” – PZ Meyers (Video removed.)

*Postscript: It’s worth mentioning that the “grandfather” and “grandmother” in Ham’s photoshopped presentation actually look quite a bit like Ham himself. So I suppose he’s a monkey-man after all.

A Review of Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson

Clarence Darrow in action

Edward J. Larson has written a brilliant, judicious account of the trial of John Scopes, a schoolteacher prosecuted by the state of Tennessee for teaching the theory of evolution in a public school. The trial was dubbed the “trial of the century” (it wasn’t the first) for its illustrious protagonists. The prosecution was led by the anti-evolution politician William Jennings Bryan, who argued that Darwin’s theory directly attacked religious belief in the divine origins of man. He claimed such teaching would provoke the disintegration of social values and the ruin of morality. He saw his mission on the witness stand as a crusade. The people of Tennessee are Christians, he stressed, and they — not high-falutin’ experts — should decide what was fit or unfit to be taught in their schools.

Clarence Darrow, the iconoclastic defense lawyer and self-declared agnostic, led the defense. Darrow’s position was that what was at stake was a return to medievalism and the bludgeoning of the human intellect in the name of orthodoxy. It was, in his view, a question not of religious truth but of human rights.

The centerpiece of the trial was the joust between Darrow and Bryan. Darrow grilled Bryan on his literalist reading of the Bible, laying bare the flimsy intellectual foundations of such blind faith. Bryan, for his part, held to his position that it didn’t matter if what the Bible said seemed incomprehensible to us; it was the word of God. He did, however, concede that the six “days” of creation were best interpreted as geologic “ages,” a concession that later fundamentalists would never forgive him.

Bryan died a week after the trial. Some of his supporters blamed Darrow. H.L. Mencken, who reported on the trial for the Baltimore Sun, gave a brief eulogy: “If the village barber saved any of [Bryan’s] hair, then it is curing gallstones down there today.”

The Scopes Trial has echoed across America’s cultural battlefields for over eighty years, most recently in the Katzmiller vs. Dover ruling of 2005 that the teaching of Intelligent Design “violated the constitutional bar against religious instruction.” In light of such recent attempts to dress up creationism in sheep’s clothing, we might be grateful to William Jennings Bryan for his honesty; at the very least, he felt his religion was strong enough to survive the assault from science and reason on its own merits — or die fighting.

From The American

Jerry Coyne Writes to the CNR

Jerry said I could use his letter instead of writing my own. Italy is now the proud owner of a homegrown creationist lobby. CNR stands for National Research Council, so this is a problem at the highest possible level.

Dear Dr. Maiani,

I read with dismay in this week’s Science that your organization has not only funded but promoted a creationist book edited by Roberto de Mattei.  Your remarks on this book indicate that you think the CNR’s financial and intellectual support was justified because you consider intellectual research an “open enterprise” and are “opposed to any form of censorship.”

Certainly intellectual research is “open” to anyone, but do you really think it’s at all useful for a respected body of scientists to promote and support blatant lies like those promulgated in this book? (I need hardly tell you that dinosaurs did not die out 40,000 years ago, nor that the geological strata are not the product of a sudden, worldwide flood!)  Really, it’s like the CNR supporting flat-earth theory, or the view that diseases are produced by evil spirits.

And do you really think that the CNR’s refusal to publish these lies would be considered censorship? I call such a refusal “good science”.  Would it be “censorship” for your organization to refuse to publish a book proving that the earth is flat? For that is what creationism is equivalent to.

We have our own problems with creationism in the United States, but I never thought that that problem would crop up in Italy, particularly in an organization as respected as the CNR.  

Are we in for an Italian monkey trial next?

Harun Yahya

It's a fishing lure, Harun.

According to this guy evolution is responsible for anti-Semitism. He’s apparently challenged “Darwinists” to come up with “just one proof” (sound familiar?) of a “missing-link”. Umm…try, like, a developing embryo inside its mother’s womb. I mean, we evolve every day a little here and a little there. Our fingernails grow out, our hair gets longer, kids get taller and old folks shorter. Life is one long evolution from birth to death. Why would anyone be so silly as to think we are all cardboard cutouts?

Harun Yahya is a big player in creationist circles. A Muslim apologist, he has gained renown for his concentrated attacks on science and reason. To most normal people (better than calling ourselves “brights,” don’t you think?) he’s a wacko. But he’s a well-funded wacko with the ear of the Turkish government. So he gets a lot of air time for his crapola.

And his name isn’t even “Harun Yahya,” either; it’s Adnan Oktar. You’d think that if someone can’t even come out with his or her real name in public when airing opinions, perhaps the opinions themselves are of questionable vintage. I mean, it’s not like he’s voicing support for atheism in Iran or anything dangerous. He’s telling traditional Muslims what they long to hear: the religion of Allah is Islam. Atheists are evil. Darwin is the devil’s helper. Zionists and Freemasons are conspiring for world domination. It’s the usual creationst rant with an Islamic twist.

If you’re really interested in him, this article in the New Humanist is a good place to start.

My Life as a Creationist

Well, it didn’t last long. I had just discovered God and was attempting to bend the world to my perception of the Bible. I remember being in a plane, crossing the Atlantic, when I read an article about the Dover School District creationism scandal (must’ve been 2005–so long ago!) My gut reaction was, unsurprisingly, “Of course evolution is bullshit! The handiwork is God’s and His only.”

What is surprising–or surprisingly unsurprising–is that this holier-than-thou attitude followed a lifetime of secular normalcy. It was due to my recent “discovery” of God, and my consequent insistence on fitting the universe into my nutshell conception of that God, that was responsible for such a foolish thought. This now seems inconceivable to me, like a brief loss of memory before I awoke to my rightful place among thinking, reasoning humanity.

Creationsim is not science. The Bible is, in many ways, a fascinating and wonderful book (so is Moby-Dick, for that matter). But it is not the true tale of how things have come to be as they are on this earth. It is a collection of writings by humans who knew far less about the nature of the universe than we do, and even the least educated among us is better informed scientifically than the authors of the Torah and Gospels.

I just wanted to get that off my chest.