A new year of creationist nonsense

January 5, 2012 • 8:03 am

It looks as if the yahoos will still be with us in 2012, trying to worm their creationist nonsense into the public schools. But of course since it all stems from religion, and religion is still with us, what do you expect? Here, from Yahoo News, is a roundup of what we can expect from two states this year:

New Hampshire House Bill 1148 would “require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

The second proposal in the New Hampshire House, HB 1457, does not mention evolution specifically but would “require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

The rationale?

Republican State Rep. Gary Hopper, who with his Republican district mate John Burt introduced HB 1457, told the Concord Monitor that the theory of evolution teaches students that life is nothing but an accident.

“I want to introduce children to the idea that they have a purpose for being here,” Hopper told the newspaper.

They can introduce that idea in their churches if they want, or brainwash kids in the home, but not in our schools.

You can find Bill 748 here.  The relevant sentence is this:

XXXVII. Theory of Evolution. Require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.

Those of you in New Hampshire should write your legislators to protest this incursion of both religion and politics into science.

Here’s how one teacher envisions the results of the other bill:

“Bill 1457 turns skepticism into bewilderment,” said Zen Faulkes, a biology professor at the University of Texas, Pan America. “It would ask teachers to say to students, ‘Don’t commit to the hypothesis that uranium has more protons than carbon,’ or ‘Remember, kids, tomorrow we might find out that DNA is not the main molecule that carries genetic information.’ Evolution is as much a fact as either of those things, so it should be taught with the same confidence.”

Also from Yahoo News:

  • “Indiana’s proposal, state Senate Bill 89, would require that “the governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, includingcreation science, within the school corporation.” [7 Theories on the Origin of Life]”.

State Senate Bill 89 (click the link to view) mandates that “the governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.”

h/t: Seth

150 thoughts on “A new year of creationist nonsense

  1. It is truly awesome that exponents of religion wish to exact such strong conditions on scientific proofs. Religionists faith guided beliefs are completely without anything more credible than a highly questionable sacred text. Lets face it the proof of science is everywhere and for all to examine. Questioning superstition and such is such a taboo (according to evangelicls).

    1. I think it’s great that more and more schools are not forcing children to learn the theory of evolution. Bacteria mutating is a long way off from turning into another species, like a horse or a rabbit. Nobody on this atheist blog can explain evidence for common descent or where the big bang came from. Physics and Chemistry are not as theoretical as biology since you can test it. If I drop an apple it will fall at a certain speed. I cannot observe evolution and therefore it is a theory and in some cases an hypothesis.

      1. Well, you’ve just outed yourself as someone who really, really needs to read Jerry’s book.

        Calling something a ‘theory’ in the scientific sense does not in any way imply weakness of the reasoning behind it. A scientific theory is the best predictive and explanatory framework we have for a given set of data.

        Jerry certainly can explain the evidence for common descent, and the big bang has absolutely nothing to do with the theory of evolution.

      2. Yes, you’ve alao outed yourself as somebody who knows NOTHING about the evidence for evolution. Go read my book, or Don Prothero’s book on the fossil record, and don’t go writing ignorant posts here until you learn something.

        The evidence for common descent is massive. YOu just don’t know what it is!

      3. @Bill can you observe a virus getting into your respiratory system? No? then why is it possible?

        Probably 99 percent of people on this blog can explain what you’re asking. Big Bang, evolution and common descent have ample evidence. The question is, would you read the studies if someone posted them for you, or would you disappear like most other Creationists?

        Also, do you know the defenition of theory and hypothesis? I’d be fascinated to hear.

      4. If I drop an apple it will fall at a certain speed.

        With this, you also show yourself to be lamentably ignorant of physics.

        If you can’t even grasp something as simple as Newton’s second law of motion, no wonder you struggle with evolutionary biology and cosmology!


      5. Bill, If someone commits a murder, and you don’t see it, is there any amount of evidence that would persuade you they are guilty of the crime? Based on your argument, you would have to answer “no” to this question. According to your thinking, our criminal justice system is impossible and couldn’t possibly work.

        Did the Civil War happen? You obviously weren’t there to see that, nor were you there to see Jesus crucified, so your argument definitely proves that didn’t happen. Nor did he rise from the dead, because you didn’t see that. You didn’t see God create or design anything either. Feeling like you’ve pulled the rug out from under yourself now?

        When you watch the apple drop, can you see the gravity? How then do you know that the apple also pulls the earth toward it, or that a similar invisible force acts between the earth and the sun?

        Why can’t you find a fossil for a rabbit or a horse in the Cambrian Era?

        Biology is a grand application of Physics and Chemistry. And it is Physics and Chemistry that provide Biologists with the tools that allow them to in fact observe the evidence for evolution, and to have a great deal of confidence in evolution because no alternative theory explains the observed evidence so well.

      6. Bill. Let me put it to you this way. How Gravity works is a theory, there is a bloody lot of evidence to state how it works. A theory is Science is not a hunch, like you may think. It is backed up by thousands of observations. Some times, like evolution, by millions. Wanting to ignore it or to create controversy about it’s legitimacy does nothing more than make a point that humanity has one hell of a long way to go still. Evolution, like relativity is pretty well supported and if you would like to forgo modern science. I’d be more than happy to take from you that computer, cell phone, microwave, and car that modern science has given you. Just because something doesn’t fit with your world view, doesn’t mean you get to denounce it and force others into your world view. The proper reaction of a rational find is to examine the evidence that we can verify, and to reflect on your current world view and make necessary changes to bring it inline with currently known facts. Something you right wing nut jobs seem to be extremely bad at.

      7. I have not been on this group long but it never fails to surprise me how those who post such dogmatic assertions never respond to constructive criticism.
        Dogmatic assertions followed by silence add nothing worthwhile to this debate.

  2. It never ends, does it? And Huntsman is the only Repub candidate who openly supports evolution? What a sad state of affairs when those who would lead the country can’t accept the foundation of biology.

    1. I’m quite sure that both Romney and Gingrich “get” the ToE. But they won’t say so because it’s not politically expedient to do so. They’ll say whatever needs to be said in order to get votes.

      Santorum, Perry, and Paul? Maybe not.

  3. These bills make last years’ creationist bullflop smell like roses. The requirement to teach scientists’ political beliefs alongside their theories is absurd. And specifying creationism as an option to be taught is like a 30-year step backwards in time.

    The creationist community seems to be going in reverse; instead of trying to secularize what they want taught (like they’ve been doing since at least the 1960s), they are going back to Scopes-era strategies of attacking science directly and demanding religion be taught outright in schools.

      1. I absolutely think creationists would do that, if they thought it would work. I haven’t heard any creationist make a big deal about Darwin marrying his first cousin, but no doubt they would if they thought it would reduce acceptance of his theory. I will resist speculating on why mentioning that fact might not play “against” his theory with their audience. 🙂

        1. Not specifically creationists, but I have read some quips that his family line was a victim of Darwinian selection at work.

  4. “…proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established.”

    And despite the “fact” that science is utterly crippled by this inability to come to reliable conclusions, I’m quite sure Mr. Hopper uses a phone, a computer, a car, planes, medicine, etc.

    And if he wants us to believe his “we have to wait for all the evidence/skepticism is a virtue” gambit, then he’d better out his money where his mouth is and do the same with god. What an infuriating double standard.

    1. And I’ll bet he’s pretty strongly committed to the hypothesis that Jesus was a real person and to the fantasy that J. was the “son” of “God”.

      Only some ideas need to be questioned, you know.

  5. The official motto of the State of New Hampshire is “Live Free or Die”. Presumably, the implication is to live free from rational consideration.

    1. Yesterday, the house and senate voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that allows parents to challenge ANY curriculum and get have a new one developled for their child. The parents pay for the development cost and matials but the school is stuck teaching the approved curriculum to most kids and a completely different one to one kid.

      And you think writing our legislators is going to make a difference on teaching science and evolution???

      The damn tea party and free staters are so totally screwing up this place it’s not to be believed.

      1. Yes, writing our legislators can make a difference, it is the tool we have and I’ve seen it make a difference more than once.

        Unless you know of a better tool you should use what you have even if it seem inadequate, doing nothing is a very useless option. Trying to convince your allies to do nothing is an even worse option.

  6. sigh. and accomodationists still keep trying to claim that if we’d just make friends with the theists, there’d be no problem. And as always good to see theists intentionally lie to keep their primitive superstitions alive. That’s all they have in their search for external validation.

    1. Not only that, but never once in recorded history has a house cat gave birth to a cougar, so how do lions and tigers exist? HAH!

      1. I’m still searching for the crocoduck, and now you lay this on me as well?! Have some compassion, won’t you?!

  7. A Chinese writer who`s name escapes me for now said in an interview in the wall st journal,
    In china you can question Darwin but not the government, and in America you can question the government but not Darwin. And it seem`s that all you guy`s with a vested interested want to keep it that way.Evolution as taught in schools today is no more scientific than the man in the moon.

    1. You are invited:

      1) to read WEIT before you comment further.
      2) look around at all of the places where creationism is discussed and dismissed before claiming some sort of conspiracy to censor
      3) read the US Supreme Court decisions on the subject (there are 10 of them).

      The bills are clearly unConstitutional. Are you against the Constitution? Why do you hate America?

      1. I did not mention creationism, I just stated that you cannot question the current orthodoxy in science which is Darwinian evolution, and especially so in the school system. I dont hate America as hating a piece of land would be stupid and I dont hate american`s as I have not met 99.9999% of them

        1. I assume that your complaint is that people like Behe, Dembski, Berlinski et al. who have attempted to question the validity of Darwinian evolution have been given fairly short shrift by the scientific community. That’s because their arguments are generally very weak and not because there’s a national ban on questioning any existing scientific theory.

        2. Actually that is wrong. You CAN question Darwinian evolution BUT if you do so you have to come up with a BETTER alternative. You can’t just come up with any old rubbish like “The Bible said so” or “The Devil planted the fossils” or “God made DNA so that it would look like we all have a common ancestor”.

        3. @ Marfin There is no such thing as Darwinian evolution, unless you mean the now outdated original theory. It has since had 150 years of additonal testing which has refined the already fairly accurate original theory. To which orthodoxy do you refer? Each classroom has its own text and method of teacing evolution. Can you please explain?

        4. You can question it. However, you’re expected to listen to the answers to the questions. The modern evolutionary-genetic synthesis is the current scientifically (and mathematically) best description for the evidence.

          The reason why it’s hard for alternatives suggested by the average person to be taken seriously is similar to why it’s hard for the average person to be taken seriously when they suggest themselves to the NY Giants as starting QB instead of Eli Manning: he’s very good at it.

          1. I like your football analogy. It’s amazing how frequently creationists so little understand science that they equate it to religion, where everything is merely a matter of opinion.

            To follow the analogy a bit further, the typical creationist non sequitur would totally miss the point with something like: “I bet Richard Dawkins can’t pass a football very well”.

            1. I don’t think any of us could very easily pass a football . . . sorry, I couldn’t resist . . . forgive me.

              1. lol.

                They are made of pigskin, so if deflated, cooked, and eaten, it would be possible.

                Not advisable though.

              2. Ewwww, that’s disgusting! Think of all the christians that might have had their grubby mitts on that poor little pigs skin. That two thousand year old meat could be exuding from their pores.

    2. Say what, now?

      Your last little rhetorical flourish makes no sense. The man in the moon isn’t a scientific theory which explains things and makes predictions. It’s simply a bunch of people saying: “Huh! Those craters sort of resemble a face! Neato!”

      And the thing that’s not questionable in America is god. Just ask any politician from any party.

      1. evolution as thought in schools today is not scientific, it may be a theory but not a scientific one , or at least no more than my scientific theory on watch manufacture and assembly via the parts being put into a bag and been shaken together until you get a watch. I have done this using a multitude of watch types and a vast array of bag types and thus far have found the ideal watch and bag combination to make my theory a fact. I have shown that 2 or 3 parts of the watch can come together given x amount of hours shaking time, so parts by hours shaking by bag type by watch type its only a matter of time before I am on the cover of scientific american.

        1. If that’s what your teacher taught you about the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection, then you should sue for a refund based on the teacher’s gross incompetence.


        2. Oh wow. The watch “argument.”

          You are new to this game, aren’t you?

          BTW, the occasional typo is NBD; I make them, too. But your comments are absolutely chockablock with obvious misspellings and bad grammar. It makes it hard to even try to take you seriously.

        3. marfin,
          From your argument you have demonstrated without a doubt you do not understand evolution.

          Your confusion is a natural one based on human intuition derived from common everyday experience. This mistake has been made by many people before you, and on the surface it certainly sounds persuasive.

          But using ordinary human experience and the intuitions it fosters as a source for reasoning would also lead you so astray as to deny relativity and quantum mechanics as well.

          Hopefully you understand enough about science and experimental verification to realize how wrong that would be. So why allow yourself to continue to be equally wrong and uninformed about evolution?

          You really aren’t qualified to state your opinions with such certainty. You must actually learn something about evolution and it’s overwhelming confirmation by the fossil record and genetic evidence and then reconsider your opinions.

          Why don’t you read the book “Why Evolution is True” or “The Blind Watchmaker”?

          You should then clearly understand why your critique of evolution is not valid.

        4. Theory in science means an explaination for any natural occurance. It is the most important construct in science. Why are you saying it’s not scientific if it’s what science relies on for answers?

          Facts are just bits of observed information. They do not form any large scale explaination in science. The fact that my cat is black tells us nothing about the world.

          Whereas the Sutton-Boveri theory tells us that chromosones are passed down through generations and are the basis of inheritance. See the difference?

        5. Marfin, you show no signs of knowing anything about the theory of evolution.

          Would you care to read a book and discuss it? Chapter by chapter? For educational purposes. The book “Why Evolution is True” can be had at better bookstores and online booksellers everywhere. I’m sure there are people here who’d be pleased to discuss it with you. I would anyway. Is there a neutral website where we could electronically meet and go over this? If you have a book that presents your POV that you think is really good, I know I’d be willing to read and discuss that too. Darwins’s Black Box, perhaps? Or Scientific Creationism? I’d even be pleased to discuss the relevant chapters in Genesis.

        6. marfin, you sound like creationist letter writers from the 1950s, and 1960s, and 1970s, and 1980s and 1990s, etc., etc. Your argument is oooold, it was always worthless then, its still worthless now. It will be worthless 50 years from now, when your grandkid thinks it sounds really neat, and unanswerable, and submits it to some other blog, then. More depressing than fundamentalist Christians constantly trying to force their religion on everybody else, is their complete lack of original thought.

          You guys raise the same dozen, or so, objections, time after time. They are always wrong. Which is always pointed out, and explained to you (often in excruciating detail). And, which you always ignore.

          If it weren’t that you folks are threatening to wreck our educational system, and make all our kids unemployable in many medical and scientific fields, I’d be ready to ignore you. But, you guys are a clear and present danger to our way of life. IMHO

    3. Evolution as taught in schools today is no more scientific than the man in the moon.

      Assertion without proof. It’s also a flat out lie.

      You can question the existence of the gods but not in public schools. While you can’t indoctrinate kids with religion, you can’t attack religion either.

      You can question the existence of the gods but you can’t get a coherent answer from the believers. They never have anything but lies and excuses.

      1. So please present the scientifc evidence if you would for abiogenesis, or chemical evolution, or any evolutionary theory of how life arose from non living materials just so we can see how this one part of the evolution story is so scientific.

        1. Biology 101: Evolutionary theory does not address the origins of life, it explains the myriad observed species. And there is exhaustive evidence for it.

          I don’t know the extent of abiogenesis theory, but clearly life began on Earth at some point in time.

          1. so can we then agree the beginning of life is outside evolution theory and should not be taught in schools as being part of it,as it is at present

        2. Abiogenesis isn’t evolution.

          Abiogenesis is life arising from nonlife.

          Evolution is how and why life changes through time.

          Abiogenesis not= evolution.

          Your ignorance is showing.

          Nevertheless, we have created life from nonlife.

          scienceagogo.com 2006:

          Reporting their work in Science, Scripps’ Tracey Lincoln and Gerald Joyce explained how their breakthrough began with a method of forced adaptation known as in vitro evolution. The ultimate goal was to take one of the RNA enzymes already developed in the lab that could perform the basic chemistry of replication, and improve it to the point that it could drive efficient, perpetual self-replication.

          This involved synthesizing a large population of variants of the RNA enzyme that then underwent a test-tube evolution procedure to obtain those variants that were most adept at joining together pieces of RNA. Ultimately, this process enabled the team to isolate an evolved version of the original enzyme that was a very efficient replicator. The improved enzyme fulfilled the primary goal of being able to undergo perpetual replication. “It kind of blew me away,” says Lincoln.

          A self replicating RNA molecule that evolved itself and evolves fulfills the broadest definition of life.

          Now, time for the Creationist shuffle. Move the goalposts, lie, and tell everyone they are going to hell.

          1. no they have not made life from non living materials , do some research before you make such unadvised statements

            1. marfin lying:

              no they have not made life from non living materials , do some research before you make such unadvised statements.

              Marfin is now lying. As I predicted about 10 minutes ago. That didn’t take long. They are predictable.

              You didn’t even read the two paragraphs from scienceagogo. That is exactly what they did, create a form of life from nonlife.

              The broadest definition of life, used by NASA, is an independent reproducing lineage that evolves. This includes viruses and excludes mitochondria and chloroplasts. The Scripps self replicator partly created itself by evolutionary mechanisms. From nonliving precursors.

              I’m done here. Creationism is a lie and they and Marfin are liars. Nothing left to say.

              1. What do you mean, he’s now lying?

                He’s been quoting Disco Institute material verbatum since his first post; that’s where the “in China you can question Darwin…” line comes from, it’s fully described in Creationism’s Trojan Horse.

            2. I think Marfin is trying to use the “nothing arises from nothing” argument.

              Well, I’m sorry dude, but the laws of physics require that something arise from nothing. Krauss stated, “Modern science has made the something-from-nothing debate irrelevant.”

              If you do not have, at least, a basic understanding of quantum mechanics I would advise not replying.

              1. “Nothing will come of nothing” – King Lear
                “Nothing is unstable” – Frank Wilczek

                Wilczek wins this one.

            3. Okay Marfin, give your evidence here why you believe in God before you’ll be allowed to post further.

              You’re trolling. But if you adduce convincing evidence for your god, you can continue.

              1. First you should make him say what this “God” thingy is — I’ve never met one who can do that much. They’ll say what they think it did, but nothing about the thing itself.

        3. “So please present the scientifc evidence if you would for abiogenesis, or chemical evolution, or any evolutionary theory of how life arose from non living materials just so we can see how this one part of the evolution story is so scientific.”

          @Marfin, I’ll be glad to post some science articles with evidence, if you promise to read them and comment on them after.

        4. As has been noted by others, the question of abiogenesis (the origin of life) is technically separate from evolution (the origin of species of life) — though there’s some common factors to the mathematics.

          If you’re interested in that topic, there’s a decent outline of roughly where the current state of the understanding is, to be found here. I’d also recommend a couple other papers related to the topic such as (doi:10.1073/pnas.0806714105), (doi:10.1039/a803602k), (doi:10.1126/science.1167856), and (doi:10.1038/nature07749).

        5. I have a “Short outline of the origin of life” you could look at. It is in need of an up-date, and I hope to get that done next spring. For example, there is a dozen or so papers on the origin of RNA I need to include, and I want to include ideas from David W. Deamer’s excellent new book “First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began” (2011 University of California Press).

          I begin by showing how evolutionary theory is independent from abiogenesis. Darwin made this point as well. We know evolution happens because we see it happen.

    4. love seeing what seems to be yet one more theist hypocrite who attacks something he doesn’t understand and benefits from everyday.

  8. “I want to introduce children to the idea that they have a purpose for being here,” Hopper told the newspaper.

    Then I guess that means I’m sort-of in agreement with Gary Hopper.

    When I taught public school science, I constantly tried to impart to the students that they had a purpose for being here, namely, to learn science (and hone their thinking and problem-solving skills to use throughout their lives). Less than half of them actually gave it a try.

    It’s one of the reasons why today’s survey results remain unsurprising to me.

    1. “I want to introduce children to the idea that they have a purpose for being here,” Hopper told the newspaper.

      I’m sure in Hopper’s warped world, it is to work for wages barely above survival level so the 1% superrich can make more money.

      And don’t forget to reproduce like rabbits so when you die young because Universal Health care was a commie plot that the Tea Party abolished, there are more cheap laborers.

      1. …and also to outbreed the commies, and because shootin’ out kids is all them womenfolk are good fer. Well, that and makin’ sammiches fer Teh MEN!!!1!!!!!


    2. There was a bulletin board in the classroom that had, among little else, an article about how their elected leadership was counting on them being ignorant complacent sheep (though it was much more eloquent than that yet still read at an 7th grade level).

      I never saw anyone stop for a moment to check out that board, read anything… anything more than what was minimally required. Reagan was still president, BTW – but certainly quite Alzheimer’s-befuddled by then.

      Of the 7th and 8th graders I taught, I had to fail half of them. My cooperating (mentoring) teacher was in his late 50s – an excellent educator with a capital E, told me I was the best student teacher he had in his long career. When I said “but half my class is failing!”, he gave me a sly smile and said “only half?” That’s when I went into public health.

      A good friend of mine just left this country, and his house he built entirely by himself, for a more civilized place (Turkey). He’s doing just fine now. Before he left, he was picking up chump change by substitute teaching in the local high schools. By his stories, I gather things have gotten much, much worse, esp. with the onset of personal gadgets (esp texting). Parents of the kids that got their phones confiscated for texting in class would regularly arrive after school, LIVID that they were unable to call their little darlings whenever they wanted, including during class.

      Turning this stuff around will be an uphill battle all the way, folks. I haven’t a clue what it’s going to take to reverse the trends or change the culture, though getting religion in general to loosen its death grip on young minds will certainly not hurt.

    3. How long did you teach? I’ve subbed full-time for several years, a good chunk of it in middle school science and math. At the risk of sounding hubristic, I consider myself quite reasonably competent, if not a bit gifted, at it.

      Why did you leave? Mainly because of vile student behavior? (Of course one can’t put it that “politically incorrect” way; one has to rather describe it as “lack of support.” Student misbehavior is the stumbling block for me as regards completing teacher certification and laboring full-time in the pedagogical vineyards. How unreasonable to expect decent behavior. No “bigotry of low expectations” there on my part, eh, or is behavior exempted from the “high expectations” benchmark standard?)

      50% of newly-minted teachers leave the profession by the five-year point. As of several years ago, the per centage of male teachers was at a 40-year low.

  9. To whom is the word “theorists'” referring? It cannot be to the teacher who is one person rather than a plurality and who, in any event, is unlikely to have made any contribution to the theory. Therefore, it must be assumed that the reference is to the originator or other contributor. Now what exactly were Darwin’s political affiliations and religious beliefs? I don’t know; does anyone? Ultimately, like the good upper class English gentleman that he was he should have considered such matters private and inquiry thereinto impertinent.

    1. Darwin’s family moved in the same circles as the anti-slave trade liberal Anglicans, the Wilberforces. I believe he was distantly related to them.

      Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus was a member of the influential Lunar Society, based in Birmingham, England; members included Joseph Priestley, who, shamefully, had to flee to America after the Brummie mob burned down his laboratory in anger at JP’s alleged atheism. Boulton, Watt and Wedgwood, of porcelain fame, were also members. In other words, Charles Darwin was brought up in the shadow of the technologists who inspired the Industrial Revolution.

      Coincidentally, Charles Darwin, at around the time he was considering a career in teh Church, occupied the same room at Oxford as William Paley before him.

      After the publication of ‘The Origin…’, CD developed at the minimum an agnosticism; he used to accompany his religious wife (and first cousin) and children to the local church but did not attend, waiting outside.

      A biography by 2 authors came out a few years back, alleging his liberalism, attempting to show that his enquiry into evolution was a self-conscious way of demonstrating the equality of ethnic groups, in a scientific support for anti-slavery; but the book was less than convincing (can’t remember title or authors).

      He was particularly affected by the death of his 10 year-old daughter, Anne; the story goes that he partially blamed himself for having married his first cousin and was conscious of the hazards of having done so.

      Last summer, my brother and I found his daughter’s grave in Malvern Chrurchyard in the British Midlands. The gravestone is small, about 3 feet high, and to be found in the cemetery surrounding the beautiful Great Malvern Priory, Church St, Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 2AY, U.K. I believe that in her last illness she went to the lovely spa resort of Malvern but died there.

      The gravestone is mossy with age but much less so than the gravestones of similar age in that place. The plot is well-tended and indeed shows signs that someone was tending to its upkeep, rendering it less decayed than the other tombs. I suspect that some individual cares for the plot.

      The inscription, I believe, reflects a compromise between his wife’s religiosity and his loss of faith. I reproduce it.

      IHS (in the circle at the top)
      Anne Elizabeth
      Born March 2, 1842.
      Died April 23, 1851.
      A dear and good child.

      As my brother and I stood at the end of the grave, I said to him, “Darwin stood here”; one could sense an almost palpable pity for his grief, expressed in the characteristically understated encomium to his little girl.

      I have a picture of the gravestone; if anyone would particularly like it, I’m sure some means could be found to e-mail it to you.

      1. The book you’re thinking of was probably Darwin’s Sacred Cause, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore. It came out in 2009- the hardcover in January with a paperback edition in December of the same year.

        1. That’s the one.

          I meant to say that Darwin’s crise de foi can be dated to the loss of his daughter. around 1851, 8 years before ‘The Origin…’.

          CD sought to avoid politics, as far as I can see. Marx wrote to CD asking if he could dedicate ‘Das Kapital’ to CD; the latter politely refused.

          1. From, “Index to Creationist Claims, edited by Mark Isaak”
            Claim CA002.2: Karl Marx&Darwin

            Darwin wrote a letter declining the dedication of an unnamed book on atheism, but he wrote it to Edward Aveling. Aveling’s common-law wife was Elanor Marx, Karl’s daughter, and she inherited his papers. They got mixed up with Karl Marx’s papers, and the letter was assumed to have been to Marx. This view found ideological favor in Russia, so it was widely repeated. Later, a letter from Aveling, requesting permission to dedicate his book “The Student’s Darwin” to Charles Darwin, was found among Darwin’s papers. Darwin declined permission and argued that science should not address religious matters directly (Colp 1982; Carter 2000).

            Darwin did have a copy of Das Kapital in his library, but its pages were unseparated when he died, so he never read it.

            1. Yup, re: the mythical attempt by Marx to get CD to accept the dedication at the front of Das Kapital, and thanks. Although there is a polite, wary and airy letter of acknowledgement from CD to KM after the latter sent him the second edition in 1873.

              Just goes to show that even in simple factual statements about history, one can be wrong. I thought I knew this as a fact for …oooh 30 years.

      2. Thanks for an interesting contribution. In The Voyage of The Beagle (p251 of the Wordsworth Classics edit, 1997) Darwin mentions visiting a church near Santiago. The bystanders were horrified at his having gone in through mere curiosity and asked – “Why do you not become a Christian – for our religion is certain”. To which Darwin replied that he was a sort of Christian. A quintessential Anglican response: as true today as almost 200 years ago!

  10. Creationism is not a theory. It’s based on wishful thinking, not evidence. Ergo it’s not suitable to be taught in schools, regardless of what may be said about evolution.

    “Now, children, I’m required to teach you about other theories regarding the origins and development of life in general and mankind in particular. Some of you may have been taught at home or in church that “creationism” is such a theory. It isn’t. You’ve been lied to. “Creationism” is a belief system that does not depend on evidence, and is not disprovable, hence it is not a scientific theory suitable for inclusion in a science class.

    “Now here’s a viable alternative theory: the panspermia hypothesis, which asserts …

    “Finally, to make sure you fully understand the flaws in the concept of evolution, you will be required to read Professor Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”, or Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, and write a ten-thousand word paper on the errors in those despicable books.”

    1. Traditional creationism is, and has been, disproven (at least in the sense that it has been eliminated from consideration because of evidence to the contrary). Proof should be reserved for mathematics and hard alcohol. IDC is perhaps what you mean.

    1. Given that the case in question involved a dubious use of the state power of eminent domain, it would seem attempting a dubious use of the state power of eminent domain is not an entirely insane way to try and convey this point.

  11. New Hampshire House Bill 1148 would “require GRAVITY to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

    The next bill I’m sure will cover the theory of gravity including the theorist’s political, ideological, and religious viewpoints.

    Followed of course, by the same information for The Germ Theory of Disease.

    1. Creationists do not understand the intricacies and structure of a scientific theory. Theory does imply uncertainty, but only in the sense that no one theory–at the moment–can unify all other scientific theories in order to explain every physical occurrence. That is to say nothing in the physical universe is fully explained by any one theory. (This is what Hawking has been attempting to do for decades with his Quantum Gravity, which attempts to unite quantum theory and general relativity.) However, it doesn’t make the original theory any less accurate or viable in the original or current understanding of the theory. It only means a later theory can redefine or improve upon the original theory. For instance, Einstein improved upon Newton. It doesn’t mean Newton’s gravity does not exist or is not valid. (One needs only drop an object to discover Newton was right) However, Einstein’s relativity explains what Newtonian gravity could not. Creationists fail to see how a later theory builds upon previous theories. Creationists need to understand that Darwin’s theory is much like Newton’s gravity. Can anyone genuinely say,”I don’t believe in gravity because it has been improved upon by other scientists and humans still don’t fully understand black holes and certain aspects of particle physics( how systems can be in many different states at the same time even if they are mutually exclusive). Therefore the teaching of gravity should be stricken from science textbooks because it is untrue.” Creationists should view evolution as gospel(HAHA) until they can disprove any aspect of the evolutionary process.

      Newton declared, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” What do creationists think he means here?

        1. Equally equally true: “The majority of the public do not understand the intricacies and structure of a scientific theory.”

  12. I think it would be fair to say that no matter how bad the House Republicans can get, their state colleagues leave them in the dust.

  13. Require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory(…)

    By all means, but use the proper definition of theory.

    1. To follow the same line of “logic” in the House Bills, we should also “require” that mathematics be taught as deductive reasoning and that Spanish be taught as a language.

  14. If one does not vote (not all scientists or citizens do), then can one truly be considered to have a “political viewpoint”?

    Of course, to be fair, should not also the religious be forced to declare their political viewpoints prior to giving a sermon?

  15. “including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism”

    Soooo, New Hampshire science teachers would be required by law to teach their students the concept of atheism?

    Can you imagine how dismayed religious parents will be that their children must be taught that nonbelief in God is an option?

  16. Hey, at least it’s not the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” Discovery Institute boilerplate that was touring the country a few years ago.

  17. Quote: “Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, the book, has been translated into more than 15 languages. World-famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has described it as a “winningly sophisticated zoological comedy.” The book was shortlisted for the UK’s most prestigious award for nonfiction, the Samuel Johnson prize, and has won the BIOSIS award for communicating zoology from the Zoological Society of London.

    Dr Tatiana has been adapted to a TV show, and is quite possibly the most original science documentary ever made. Get ready for sex like you’ve never seen it before!”


    There’s a book AND videos. The videos have been shown all over the world except in backward nations like Iraq, Iran and the USA. It’s impossible for a functioning brain to believe in creationism after watching these three shows.

  18. Very disappointing. When I was growing up in rural New Hampshire it was much more moderate and down to earth. Fortunately I was sent to a progressive college prep school that taught evolution the way it should be.My Mom has been a high school teacher in N.H. so I will ask her to write.

    My neighbors home school their kids and have been teaching them I.D. I did not think it was my place to step in but I did ask one of the older girls if she knew the difference between a theory and hypothesis. And I told her evolution was a theory (I did NOT tell her ID was a theory or hypothesis since it is neither).

    I wonder what the laws are in my state of Massachsetts, if home schooling kids on ID is even legal.

    1. I got curious and poked around a bit, but could not find any current or past court cases on the matter. I did find suggestions that adequate science education must be administered somehow, and in Massachusetts that seemed to be up to the local Superintendent to decide.

      I did find a couple disheartening things, though… but it was nice to see Jerry being his usual non-accomodating thorn in their smelly backsides. (warning: those links might make your brain hurt really, really badly)

      My educated guess (heh, heh) is that homeschooling creationism (or ID, what’s the diff?) wouldn’t be illegal per se, as long as you met a science requirement (in another way, I presume) to the satisfaction of your local school board/super. In any event, what is there to stop anyone from getting such trashy materials, and teaching them in addition to the ‘legitimate’ stuff, with a wink and a nod to Junior. (this deep-time stuff is the crap they make me teach you, but this here stuff is the real stuff. Just make sure you know what to put on them thar tests, OK? *wink* *wink*)

      1. Hey, thanks for looking it up! Oh, those links are awful. Wow. I knew (and was disappointed by) the fact that Massachusetts uses textbooks which edit out certain aspects of evolution. We have the good ol’ Regan Republicans here. It’ pretty dismal.

        Wink, wink. Right. I’m sure the people making those decisions are buddy churchgoers with everyone else, and they want to keep Jesus (more so, God) in the schools.

  19. I would hope that teachers, despite all they have to lose, would stand up and teach evolution the right way. Here is how to deal with ID: my cell biology teacher in college (who was Christian and wore a CROSS, by the way) was asked about ID by a student. She responded: that is a quesiton about religion. Since this is a science class, we are not going to discuss Intelligent Design.

    1. Alternatively, one can quote Victor Stenger and say that at best it’s “bad science” or quote Philip Kitcher and call it “discarded or dead science”. Either way, it doesn’t have a place in a class teaching current science.

        1. This point has been discussed by various writers, and it’s a subtle one. You might want to look at a book that was mentioned in a thread last year and which discusses the concepts of provisory v intrinsic methodological naturalism. I found the discussion to be most interesting, and it could be argued that it provides a more philosophically rigorous position from which to dismiss ID (I think we’re all agreed that it should be dismissed). Here’s a link and you then click on the direct link to the pdf.


          1. @Llwddythlw, (good lord that handle is hard to spell……Welsh?) thank you for that wonderful PDF.

            I agree with the author that we must address pseudoscience, and support efforts to address that kind of thing.

            My only disagreement is this: I do not think intelligent design is any kind of science, not even pseudoscience. At least with something like herbs for cancer or something more fun like the Loch Ness Monster, there is a way to test in a wholly scientific manner. Photographs are a perfectly good way to document animal sightings and fake ones can sometimes be debunked.

            The claim for ID? There is no way whatsoever to use any type of science there.

              1. It does go into the issue in a lot of detail, and I’m afraid I can’t remember the details. You will enjoy the book.

                Philip Kitcher argues the same point from a different angle in Living with Darwin, another excellent book which I can thoroughly recommend.

  20. “including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

    Ironically, this would mean that a school teacher could give a detailed lecture on how evolution undermines the case for God, and assign as homework reading anything written by an evolutionary biologist. “Ok class, be sure to finish reading The God Delusion this weekend, and don’t forget to keep up with Pharyngula and Professor Coyne’s website.”

    Of course, the author of this piece of legislation assumes that it would only be used by good Christian teachers to warn students about those heathen Darwinists, but then that’s the usual blind spot of the religious right — they never contemplate how the power they want to give the state in religious matters could be abused if it was in the hands of people whose views they hate. (Except, of course, when they’re foaming at the mouth about sharia law.)

    1. Yes. I had the same thought.

      Ostensibly, the proviso is meant to “reveal” that many proponents of evolution are also atheists. Gasp!

      Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point. The ToE does remove the lion’s share of the necessity for a god hypothesis. And we want to explain this.

      1. This from HuffPo:

        Republican State Rep. Jerry Bergevin told the Concord Monitor last week that his bill will teach evolution as a still tentative theory based on what he said is the political impact of the concept on society. Bergevin, author of one of two anti-evolution bills pending in the New Hampshire Legislature, linked the “worldview” of evolution to the rise of the Nazi Party, among other evils.

        “I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don’t respect human rights,” he said.

        “As a general court we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it… Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That’s evidence right there,” he said.


        1. Yes. That’s what I meant.

          Quoting myself:
          “…many proponents of evolution are atheists. Gasp!” (Where “gasp!” = any of the specious and mendacious causal connections theists assert between atheism and murderous totalitarianism.)

  21. Hi students, welcome to biology 101.

    Now how did life come from non-life?

    Well Goddidit.

    Now why is there such diversity of life on this planet including humans?

    Well Goddidit.

    Now let us pray.

    Erm.. What are they going to do for the rest of the lesson let alone the rest of the school/college term?

    1. Yes, since I live in the UK and have zero experience of the teaching of “creation “science””, I have often wondered about that. The adherents (or should that be apostles) of these views cannot embark on even step 1 of a scientific endeavour: the establishing of a testable hypothesis.

  22. At least part of Bill 748 is easy enough. Evolution is already taught as a theory. Of course, that the writers of this bill don’t know what “theory” means does not mean that it isn’t, in fact, being taught as a highly supported, highly predictive explanation of facts regarding the origin and development of life.

  23. I could support NH 1148 (note 748 typo).

    It just needs to be made fair and balanced; by teaching the controversy.

    That is, creationism must also be examined in the same light. Creationism must be compared to evolution to determine if it meets the standards of a scientific theory as well as evolution does.

    Once it is established that creationism is a mere hypothesis without any evidence whatsoever, the teacher should move on to examining the political and ideological viewpoints of prominent proponents of the failed hypothesis. Their attitude toward atheism should also be exposed.

    What? It’s unconstitutional to teach criticism of religion in public science classes? Bill 1148 is already unconstitutional, because it requires teaching about atheism, a religious subject.

    1. Are you quoting someone? If not, I must tell you that Creationism is not a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a testable statement with some amount of evidence. There is no controversy because intelligent design has zero evidence and is a religion.

      1. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for observable phenomena. To put it forward as a scientific hypothesis, it must be testable.

        Creationism is a hypothesis. It was tested. It’s now a failed hypothesis yes, but still a hypothesis.

        Lamarckism is a hypothesis. It sought to explain the fact of inherited change known as evolution. It failed, but that doesn’t mean it is no longer a hypothesis, just a failed hypothesis, at least as far as an explanation for the overall diversity of species.

        1. “Creationism must be compared to evolution to determine if it meets the standards of a scientific theory as well as evolution does.”

          “It was tested. It’s now a failed hypothesis…”

          Your second point answers your first.

          Evolution is an established scientific theory, not a failed hypothesis. It’s a similar story in physics for the phlogiston and caloric theories v. modern thermodynamics.

        2. Whaaaa? Creationism was tested? If that were true, there would be documentation of it somewhere. I doubt you will furnish me with an actual scientific journal, but I’d love to see even some wackjob web page that explains just how Creationsim was “tested”.

          Please point me to where you read this.

          1. Well, I’d say Darwin himself tested creationism, and showed that a better explanation is possible.

            Darwin started out with great respect for the writings of Paley, the foremost scientific defender of creationism at the time, and ended up demolishing that whole design argument. The Origin of Species is a refutation of the idea that species diversity is a product of special creation.

            1. creationism cannot be tested. Christians believe that God is “everywhere”. There is no way to test something that is omniscient.

              Showing causality of one phenomenon does not disprove something that cannot be teseted. If there were an alternate explaination to the theory of evolution, it would need to be tested. Creationism, again, was never tested. Unless you have evidence to the contrary.

              1. There is a sense in which Creationism can be tested. If you assume all life forms were created at one time in unchanging ‘kinds’, you can use that as a premise to make certain predictions about the fossil record.

                When you compare these predictions with the fossil record, Creationism fails this test dramatically, and is clearly disproved by factual observation.

                ID on the other hand makes no claims that are obviously falsifiable, and avoids those parts of Genesis style creation that can easily be dismissed with evidence.

                In order to turn ID into a scientific hypothesis, one that makes predictions that can be tested, I think they would have to find a precise and rigorous way to define irreducible complexity. Until that is done, and it’s not clear how it could be, any claims of irreducible complexity amount to nothing more than hand waving and failure of imagination.

                Even designed items can appear to exhibit irreducible complexity when they actually don’t. An iPhone, for example. What use is a touch screen without a processor and memory? And vice versa? And what use is a wireless transmitter without data and algorithms, and what use is an internet protocol without a wireless communications infrastructure? I’m sure I could go on to list hundreds of components of the iPhone that have no seeming purpose without participating in the complete assemblage known as a smart phone.

                It’s not until you can find artifacts such as the telegraph, the radio, the television, the telephone, the typewriter, the calculator, the computer, the walkie-talkie and the intercom, the movie, the musical instrument, the book, the pocket organizer, the pager, the card catalog, the filing cabinet, the post office and the mailbox, that you can clearly see that the iPhone is not irreducibly complex. This thinking one-to-many in reverse, or many-to-one forward is hard to do, and seemingly impossible to generalize, which makes the concept of irreducible complexity very problematic and vague.

                What we do know about things that are designed is that the various species or ‘kinds’ can be radically dissimilar, and that all the components of a designed object have a definable purpose and exhibit an efficiency that in some logical way approaches optimal.

                Refrigerators, sofas, automobiles, houses, screwdrivers, and basketball courts don’t have any core commonalities, the way evolved organisms do. A designer is radically free to start from scratch with each new ‘kind’.

                Designed objects don’t have seemingly useless vestigial components that fade away over generations. A designer takes out what is not needed in a single step.

                So there is enough rational basis for falsifying the claim of a designer, even without a rigorous mathematical definition for irreducible complexity.

                There is nothing but poetic swooning that argues in favor of design. Not that I have anything against poetic swooning, but of course it has no place in scientific argument.

        3. Mendelian inheritance explains inherited traits through chromosomes, evolution had additonal reinforcement through genetic and phylogenetic tests. Lamarckism is not relevant to this discussion since Mendelian genetics is the accepted standard now.

    2. I was thinking in a similar vein. There is a way to see this an an opportunity to crush the zombie.

      A well publicized curriculum guide that placed an honest discussion of atheism and religious belief side by side, together with an evidence based comparison of how well creationism and evolution predict observations in the fossil record could really help emphasize which ideas are superior.

      We should seriously teach the controversy, an exercise that should convincingly demonstrate that there is no controversy.

      1. Religious individuals would not be fair and balanced.

        Also, it would probably have the opposite effect of bolstering ID. Why? Because to even propose teaching ID side by side with evolution only adds scientific respectability to ID, which is precisely what they want. Dawkins has elaborated on this point before.

        1. This is true, but among those qualified to teach biology, what percentage have a motivation to push creationism over evolution? I hope not many.

          And what percentage would be motivated to seek out and employ a well designed on-line curriculum that provided a clear factual comparison? Many I hope.

          I don’t know how the percentages break down, but if a majority were using a well designed and well publicized on-line curriculum to put the “controversy” into proper scientific perspective, it could be a very effective way in the long run to make a substantial shift of awareness for the better.

          This is in spite of the fact that, yes, some children would still end up being intellectually punished by credulous morons.

          Since we obviously have reality on our side, playing the same game as the ID people should be an effective way to shame them publicly into silence. Explicitly airing the facts of both sides to children is the best way to deprive Discovery Institute of the oxygen it needs to spread its destruction. There is no way that science should fear this imaginary “controversy”, so meeting it head on might be the best way forward.

          Perhaps someone should found an Evolution Institute that lobbies hard to teach the controversy in churches and private religious schools. This would publicly unmask their fear of the honest and open dialog they claim to want.

          1. I hope you are right, but I think many religious biology teachers would disappoint you.

            You know as well as I do that you get nowhere arguing with an accommodationist, apologist, or creationist. Nevertheless, atheists should still dispute and refute the claptrap twaddle of every one of these willfully ignorant bastards. So, I agree with you in the general sense, but I’m afraid of giving them reputability in the classroom.

            1. Perhaps so. It would be good to see a survey of high school biology teachers on this topic.

              Any biology teacher worthy of the title should be able to give ID and Creationism something quite the opposite of reputability in any classroom discussion.

              1. The problem is that public schools face a large number of requirements that they have to meet while (despite right-wing talking points to the contrary) being very inadequately funded. Many times, especially in smaller school districts, school can’t afford to have someone who’s an expert on a particular subject teach nothing but that subject, in order to offer all the required classes teachers get drafted into teaching some classes that they’re not especially good at- at my high school the band teacher ended up teaching Spanish, for example, because the school couldn’t afford to have a dedicated language teacher anymore.

                Also, because hiring is done by local school boards, it’s pretty easy for boards with a high percentage of Creationist members to insure that only science teachers who are willing to at least pay lip service to their party line would get hired.

  24. In related news, Senator Saneman has introduced a Bill 666 in the legislature which requires “the Churches with the jurisdiction of the legislature to present original sin as just a theory, and to discuss alternative theories such as Karma and atheism.”

    “Original Sin teaches the children that they are damned to burn in brimstone fires just for their failure to believe in a ludicrous fairy tale just because a pair of fictional teenagers stole an apple”, Senator Saneman said. “I want to tell the children that they are here as a result of the a magnificent and unique natural process, perhaps the most complicated known to mankind”, he told this reporter.

    1. Or how to lose office without really trying. I have often wondered what would happen were a candidate for high office – or indeed any office – in the US to adopt the attitude of Tony Blair’s press officer (aka “spin doctor”) on being asked a question on his / her beliefs. When a journalist asked Blair about his religious beliefs Alistair Campbell stepped in very quickly with the riposte – “We don’t do God”.

  25. Not really surprising that the Talivangelicals are taking this tack; even less so that they are doing so at the state level.

    Personally, I think that the concept of free will offends them more than anything else, and drives much, if not all, of their agenda.

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