Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Liberty University's Creation Studies Department

I have started reading "The Unlikely Disciple" by Kevin Roose. This interesting book is about how he spent the Sprint 2007 semester at Jerry Falwell's 20,000 student Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is a fascinating account of the good and the bad about his time there.
What I wanted to talk about was their Creation Studies Department.

Apparently, they lost their accreditation in Virginia in 1982 from pressure from the ACLU, so that graduates were uncertifiable as public school teachers, since Liberty only taught creationism in biology classes (and everywhere else). To respond to this, the university moved all the creation coursed to their new Creation Studies department and was able to have students be teacher certified. All Liberty students are required to take a course in creation studies, biology majors are also required to learn evolution studies. As Roose says:
"And even those evolution courses are sort of Fair and Balanced(TM), if you get my drift. As Dr. Falwell said in 1982, before the Virginia board ruling: 'We with God's help, want to see hundreds of our graduates go out into the classrooms teaching creationism - of course they'll be teaching evolution - but teaching why it's invalid and why it's foolish, and then showing the proper way and the correct approach to the origin of the species'."

Liberty still seems to teach the original creation science. I gather many of the more funamentalist based colleges now teach intelligent design, but Liberty has remained pure to the original creed. BTW, he mentions that his required course was taught by a Dr. Dekker with some reasonable science cred in neuroscience. He recounts his first encounter in the classroom describing Dr. Dekker as in a white lab coat as if he was shipped from Central Casting as a movie extra playing Chemist #4. The first words he said in class were "My name is Dr. James Dekker, and I am a real scientist." This strikes me as a little defensive. Sort of reminds me of Dr. Science.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Creation Museum "Science" Fair

The Creation Museum is hosting a "Science" fair in February. This isn't a real science fair, if your child wants to participate they have to agree with the AiG Statement of Faith.

Do I have to believe a literal interpretation of Genesis, including creation about 6,000 years ago, to participate?

One reason we are holding this Science Fair is to show that creationists are capable of conducting good science. We also want to provide an opportunity to encourage creationist students with an interest in science to pursue their goals. In light of these intentions, the invitation to participate is open to any 7–12 grader who agrees with the Answers in Genesis Statement of Faith.

Of course, in real scientific studies there are no doctrines that one must follow in order to do experiments or research.

The cost of participating is $5/student, but I don't see anything on how much it would cost to attend the fair. In the past other creationist 'science' fairs have been good evidence for how otherwise bright children are being misled.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


From Yahoo News:
An undated photo released by The University of Cambridge shows a rook, a member of the crow family, as it drops stones into a tube to raise the water level and bring a worm into reach, at the Sub-department of Animal Behaviour at University of Cambridge. In Aesop's fable 'The crow and the pitcher' a thirsty crow uses stones to raise the level of water in a pitcher to quench its thirst. A new study published online Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009 in the journal Current Biology demonstrates that rooks, birds belonging to the corvid, or crow family, are able to solve complex problems using tools and can easily master the same technique demonstrated in Aesop's fable.
(AP Photo/The University of Cambridge)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cartoon of the day

Irradiated food

I have been wondering why there is such a difference in the perception of genetically modified and irradiated foods between European countries and the United States.
On the one hand, most of the people of the US have few concerns about genetically modified foods. Yet they react very strongly against Irradiated foods. Just the opposite is true in Europe.
From the standpoint of the consumers, I have to side with the Europeans. Irradition is actually a very simple technology, which has been thoroughly tested, and really can't offer a lot of surprises. There can't be any residual radiation or others toxins in the food as a result of the radiation. I have read that if fresh strawberries are packed in Mylar and irradiated, they can last for 6 months on the shelf without refrigeration. Less spoilage and no refrigeration costs translates to more food getting to the people who need it. The only concern I have about irradiation is for the safety of the employees at the food processing end.
Genetic modification, on the other hand, especially if done at the DNA level, provides an almost infinite number of possible recombinations. The odds of accidentally producing something detrimental to humans are extremely high. Right now we are taking an Alchemist approach to the science of Genetics. We just dice and splice, and see what happens. Even if we learned enough to be able to accurately computer model the results before we splice, the science can never be perfect.
What do you think?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Creation Museum

I finally went to the creation museum in Kentucky.
The Secular Students Association got a group rate for the tour reducing the admission cost from about $22 to $10. I donated the difference to the SSA and purchased my ticket through them.
There were a little over 300 people who came for the tour. The museum was quite crowded and I would estimate that a little over a half the attendees were with the group for the morning. The museum is doing a very good business in general, even without secular students and their supporters.

I have a few pictures to share and a few impressions. I don't want to give a guided tour, but rather leave you with my sense of the museum.
I had a tendency to view the museum through the lens of intelligent design .vs. evolution. There is a lot of such thinking represented at the museum, but the real mission of the museum is the larger argument for the bible and young earth interpretations. The very excellent dioramas, animatronics, and exhibits are aimed at bolstering the faithful in their viewpoint of the infallibility of the bible and the biblical message as interpreted in modern fundamentalist thought today. As such, there is as much there on the garden of Eden and the flood as in showing evidence for why the earth is as young as they claim. Their two messages throughout the museum are "Prepare to Believe" and the 7 Cs (These start with Creation, Corruption, etc).
I took in the special effects show that was quite fun and included blasts of air, rumbling seats, water mist, flashing lights etc. and had an excellent three screen projection display. The theme was quite illuminating about a girl who was trying to decide if all this evolution stuff she was learning could be true rather than her religious training. She was troubled about having to defend religious views in our secular society. The point of the show was to give the audience viewers the confidence to express such creationist views in the general public arena of school and elsewhere. They made fun of the science teachers and made them out to be fools. In other words the show was quite defensive and tried to give the museum goers the confidence to express an inferior position in public.

I also came away with an admiration of what efforts science teachers must have to make to prepare themselves for such children. The museum had a number of key arguments to use against an old earth interpretation and against natural selection. For example, how do you respond to a student who asks you to explain why there is carbon 14 in diamonds, or why there is anomalous helium in zircons, or why some Mt St. Helens rocks give anomalous radioactive dating? I don't know the answers to these right now, but I would definitely have to be on top of such specific minutiae in order to answer comments from students from fundamentalist families.

Lastly, I listened to a talk from Dr. Jason Lisle who has a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Colorado on "The Ultimate Proof of Creation" . Dr. Lisle was very intelligent and rational and tried to impress us with how he would convince us with a rational argument that the bible and Christianity are right. He spent quite a bit of time discussing the various ways to approach persuasion with a nice summary and stressed his wanting to win us over with a strictly rational argument. He eventually got down to his main points about the uniformity of the universe, the continuity of the universe, and that the universe is logical. He asked the big questions about these, ie, why is the universe uniform, do we have any reason to believe the universe will act the same tomorrow as today or as it has in the past, and why should the universe exhibit a logical consistency (he didn't get to say much about this for lack of time)? His "convincing" argument was that secular science has no answer to these questions, but the bible gives answers to all these, so religion is the right answer. I leave it to the reader to see if you agree with this.

On to a couple of pictures:

A garden of Eden picture with penguins.

The Garden of Eden with dinosaurs. BTW, all dinosaurs before the fall ate plants including such species as tyrannosaurs and velociraptors.

The Villain of the piece.

The temptation of Adam by Eve. Interestingly, the fruit of the tree of knowledge looks like small berries.

This is from the flood. These signs were interspersed with the museum displays all through the exhibits.

If you want to see lots of pictures, I recommend the flickr entries from John Scalzi at:

I will make the obvious point that this beautiful state of the art $27,000,000 museum is really nice as a religious artifact, and has some beautiful illustrations of natural history, but is a terrible representation of science.


Friday, August 7, 2009


So far, this blog has become a repository for Skeptics news items. Well, I think I’ll mix it up a bit with some of my personal observations and political incorrectness.
I am absolutely convinced that almost all of the problems facing the human race today could be solved if we could get a handle on population growth. In fact the ideal situation would be to roll back the population and maintain it at a sustainable level. Rational humans who care about the quality of ALL human life, should be able to formulate a strategy to accomplish this. In fact, it is essential for the long term survival of the race.
Easier said than done.
So what are our options?
The Chinese have tried using law and coercion, with quite obviously very little success.
Pol Pot had some rather distasteful notions of his own. So did Stalin and Hitler.
Abstinence education is a dead end for obvious reasons.
The human drive to procreate is based on the notion that there is infinite room for growth. It is built into our primal nature. So we are on a self destructive path which no amount of rational discussion can end.
Force is not an option. The only humane and totally equitable solution would be a capitalist one. Reward for deferred or ended fertility would be the only way I could see this working. A one-time small cash payment for elective, reversible sterilization. The payment has to be large enough to incentivize those who are not ready to handle the cost or responsibility of children. But small enough that there would not be a black market in cheap reversals. When, or if, an individual considers him or herself ready for children, they would pay back the amount they received, with interest, and get the reversal.
The first ones to line up would be the alcohol and drug addicts who should not have children anyway. Care of their children costs us millions a year. This would be a windfall savings for society. I am sure that there is a large portion of the population which would never consciously want to have children. Accidental or unwanted children would be a thing of the past. There is another segment which would never achieve the economic status to raise children properly.
This is the only form of Eugenics which allows each individual to choose for themselves. There would be no majority deciding the reproductive fate of a minority. There would be no pressure to make a decision. The only pressure would be economic.
I haven’t worked out the details of applying this on a global scale. But, we have to start somewhere.
If someone has a better, more equitable, idea I would love to hear it.