Two more Peak excerpts

A great double-feature in The Peak this week. First almost two-thirds of a page was dedicated to letters defending evolution and rebutting Isaac Seo’s poor arguments for creationism. Give it a full read.

The following TXT MSGS were also submitted in response to my article last week:

Poor Ignorant Ian Bushfield

I’m a committed atheist and even I found the skeptic’s banner offensive and tacky.

I’m not totally sure if this one was pointed at me, but either way:

Go study world religions bro, christianity ain’t the only worldview with ideas about sin.

Next, I submitted the following piece defending The Peak against the upcoming GSS referendum to cut student funding to the paper. I enjoy that they listed me as an “Associate Staff Contributor” in the issue, but I’m not sure if that’s a typo or if the job requirements are merely having x number of articles published. Either way, I’ll take it.

Grads need The Peak
By Ian Bushfield

I like being published as much as the next person. Most people enjoy seeing their words in ink. Perhaps the only thing better than having your own words published is having someone else quote you or report news about your mundane life. And yet, these are the exact privileges that graduate students at SFU are now in the position to give up.

The relatively new Graduate Student Society is holding a referendum with their upcoming elections that asks their constituents if they would like to remove their per-semester funding for The Peak, and thereby lose, not only their voice at the campus level, but also any chance to promote their views to their community.

There are several reasons that some graduate students feel they should no longer support The Peak. The first is that it currently does not represent their views. Very rarely in the past year has the GSS been mentioned in the news, although this may have more to do with the lack of controversy or scandal surrounding the organization. Also, little press has been given to all the various forms of research that is being done on campus. Few graduate students publish comics or editorials, and even fewer write specifically on topics relating to graduates.

Naturally, much of the blame for this graduate neglect rests on the shoulders of graduate students themselves. It is not difficult to get an article published in The Peak. Much like those who find it to be too “right-wing” or poorly written, the best way to change the paper is to fire up your computer and send in an article. The big challenge that is facing every graduate student’s involvement in The Peak is very simple: time.

Almost every graduate student is strapped for time. Between work ing their thesis, TA-ships, courses, and other work they are committed to, finding the time to write an editorial, let alone research and write a full article, is almost inconceivable. In undergrad, it is possible to extend one’s degree from one to an infinite number of years, so as to spend a bit more time writing for a student newspaper; whereas in graduate school the pressure is on to finish one’s degree and get on with your life.

With so little time on their hands, it is somewhat ironic that some have suggested that graduate students could instead publish their own newsletter in place of funding The Peak. It makes little sense that if students are unable to commit the time to write for The Peak that they would instead write for a newsletter with a much smaller audience. Every paper needs a minimal readership to stay interesting and viable; The Peak has those numbers, and I highly doubt that graduate students would be able to achieve anything similar.

Many graduate students, regardless of the upcoming referendum, will continue to read The Peak week after week. Rather than essentially stealing the paper, the honourable thing for graduate students to do is to vote to continue supporting the independent voice on campus, so that we can continue to have our issues discussed and represented.

The Peak may not be the greatest newspaper ever written, but it remains a strong link between all the constituents of the greater Simon Fraser community. We should vote to keep it that way.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to submit a piece on humanist ethics, homeopathy and anti-vaxxers or something else for next week. Any preferences?

Update:

I almost forgot that SFU Skeptic member Chris Lonergan got a photo of our banner published in the Community Photos section, with the title “Conflicting perspectives.”

conflicting_perspectives

Update-2:

I just noticed that The Peak also reposted the above article on their “Since 1965” blog. This blog has lots of links challenging the GSS referendum.

UBC Okanagan Chemistry prof can’t do science

Apparently Ed Neeland at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna has started a “Creation Club” and has written a big-old-bag of crazy for the local newspaper.

First, he misunderstands philosophy of science in that falsifiability is not the only way we actually do science and much of our knowledge is learned inductively.

He then decides that evolution is the same as the Big Bang and abiogenisis, neither of which Charles Darwin or subsequent evolutionary biologists have written about since neither of which deal with evolution by natural selection. Furthermore, both are wildly supported by facts and data, including experiments that demonstrate the basis for life. He seems to think that since it’s unobservable in a single lifetime that therefore the Bible is more right.

Finally, he obsesses about information again, with no definition of what it is that he’s talking about or demonstration that he even understands how biological evolution work.

Somehow, UBC decided to give this man a PhD in Chemistry and then hired him as an Associate Professor. I think they need to refund his money.

At least almost all of the comments on his article are trying to actually teach him science.

Creationism at YVR

I’m heading from Vancouver to Calgary this weekend to spend the Thanksgiving Holiday with my fiancée’s family, and I thought it would be a little tongue-in-cheek if I wore my Royal Tyrrell Museum Evolve t-shirt (with the classic misguided evolution picture):

But I’m not even in Calgary yet and I’ve already been confronted over my t-shirt.

Walking through security the guard who waved me through the scanner said she liked my shirt, then the guy scanning my bags looked at me and asked where I got it.

I replied the Tyrrell Museum and then he asked if I “believed” it.

Now, the average creationist is annoying enough to deal with, but you tend not to want to argue with people with guns who have the ability to order full cavity searches on anyone randomly.

But he felt like continuing, blathering something about the comparative anatomy of human skin cells being more like cats then monkeys and that disproved evolution (wouldn’t that really just demonstrate we’re more related to cats then monkeys and not disprove anything?). He finally finished scanning my stuff, which I grabbed and walked off as he said that I could even “ask any doctor” or pre-med about what they study (I imagine comparative anatomy is done more on cats and smaller mammals because of numerous reasons which boil down to we value them less than the “higher” apes – including valuable reasons like growth rates, etc.)

I can’t find any references to his absurd claims on TalkOrgins.org, but that’s more likely that he’s mixing numerous stories and I wasn’t willing to sit around and be preached at by a security guard.

Beyond the annoyance of being preached at in one of the most awkward situations possible, I think we ought to have a few concerns here:

  1. A creationist is using his position to push his beliefs – atheists wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be allowed to mock people who walk through wearing crosses or other religious symbols. (Note I’m not calling evolution a religious position, but it’s not something we need to debate when you’re trying to determine if I’m a threat to air travel).
  2. Someone anti-science is running x-ray machines and granting access to airplanes – two of physics crowning achievements of the 20th century.
  3. If you like conspiracies, perhaps you could ask how many creationists are running airport security (and other government jobs) since Harper became prime minister? I doubt it’s higher than the general public.

Are you “sexually broken?”

Then Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s Crocoduck Ministry can help. And luckily, they are actually in Canada (I passed their storefront on Hastings St. today in Vancouver).

From their website:

Living Water is a community-based, Christ-centred discipleship program that deals specifically with relational and sexual brokenness

I’m pretty sure they’ve invented a pill for “sexual brokenness.”

There’s a few places you might know these guys from.

  • Kirk Cameron was on growing pains
  • The banana argument (banana ergo God)
  • The Crocoduck argument against evolution
  • crocoduck

  • Their upcoming ploy to give away free copies, at a University near you, of the Origin of Species, complete with an introduction [pdf] that blames the Holocaust on Darwin.

Conservative Creationism Continues

For those who jumped to Mr. Goodyear’s defence over his failed attempt at an explanation of evolution as though the man were Thomas Huxley reincarnated, here’s fellow Conservative MP James Lunney’s recent statement:

Mr. Speaker, recently we saw an attempt to ridicule the presumed beliefs of a member of this House and the belief of millions of Canadians in a creator. Certain individuals in the media and the scientific community have exposed their own arrogance and intolerance of beliefs contrary to their own. Any scientist who declares that the theory of evolution is a fact has already abandoned the foundations of science. For science establishes fact through the study of things observable and reproducible. Since origins can neither be reproduced nor observed, they remain the realm of hypothesis.

In science, it is perfectly acceptable to make assumptions when we do not have all the facts, but it is never acceptable to forget our assumptions. Given the modern evidence unavailable to Darwin, advanced models of plate techtonics, polonium radiohalos, polystratic fossils, I am prepared to believe that Darwin would be willing to re-examine his assumptions.

The evolutionists may disagree, but neither can produce Darwin as a witness to prove his point. The evolutionists may genuinely see his ancestor in a monkey, but many modern scientists interpret the same evidence in favour of creation and a creator.

Make NO mistake, the SoCon country Harper, Day and crew want to reach is one where the Earth is a little younger than conventional scientific wisdom might have you believe…

Now, can we get a real scientist into the Minister of Science position?

(h/t Pharyngula)

I made it through Expelled…

So I made it through Campus Adventist’s screening of Expelled and the ensuing discussion (moderated by their non-student adviser, more on her later). First my thoughts: Most of what’s already been said about the movie by the reviewers is true. However, I will say that I didn’t find it boring, yet it wasn’t more than I expected. The only surprise I got was that they tied Planned Parenthood (and therefore abortion and contraceptives) to the eugenics movement, because giving condoms to poor people is clearly not an effort to help, but an effort to prevent them from having any children ever. They also added euthanasia to the evils of Darwinism-inspired eugenics arguments. I will say this: It is a dangerous movie. Not dangerous like it exposes some secret conspiracy, but dangerous like loose change or Zeitgeist is. It’s dangerous in that it gives a little information (i.e. not the whole story) and a lot of gusto. Remember the saying: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?” While to the uninformed who may watch this movie, it is horribly deceptive, dishonest, and worst of all, likely effective. But let’s get back to the hosts of this event. Campus Advent. While their group seems fairly fresh to campus, they seem to have big plans for next year, including many speakers (some creationists?) and perhaps a screening of Jesus Camp (which I like). What always worries me with groups like these is the external influence. Campus for Christ has a paid staff member (non-student) in most cities overseeing their local campus group(s), and now so does Campus Advent (there may be others I’m unaware of like Campus Pro-Life and Campus Alpha that are similar). While I can understand and appreciate the difficulties of keeping a student group going, it doesn’t seem quite right to me that a group like this should be started from the outside and pushed into campus. Nevertheless, there was definitely an interesting discussion that occurred after the screening. There were about 30 people total in the audience (maybe a few more by the end) with around 1/3 being atheists I knew (and Dr. Lamoureux the “evolutionary creationist”), and when it came to moderated question-period, we ended up getting most of the points in. I realized quite quickly though that everything we said went right past the moderator, and everyone ended up speaking past each other. My favourite quotes from her include:

  • Trying to call science a religion (setting up an equal time argument almost)
  • Mentioning she doesn’t fully support evolution because of the bacterial flagellum
  • How, when I asked what questions the ID proponents in Expelled weren’t allowed to ask, the only response I got was either abiogenesis (which is being studied, but apparently not fast enough) or the fact that high school teachers in the USA are being fired for discussing alternate definitions of a scientific theory, since apparently that is up for debate.  While I did actually ask she was implying that in high schools science students didn’t learn about the word theory, she more meant that teachers couldn’t get wishy-washy about theories.
  • When Dr. Lamoureux was preaching the good word of evolution, she cut in and said “what about the Cambrian Explosion?” And Denis just shot back “What about it!?” and then explained how the “explosion” was 10 million years long and is not that unusual. She sort of backtracked part way through once she realised what she’d unleashed.
  • Finally, how she continually dodged the fact ID people have no evidence in favour of pushing forward the argument of Expelled that there is a “wall” preventing exploration of ID ideas (which again, no one presented anything about).

My only response after this engagement was merely “so many creationists…so many creationists…” It looks like Alberta and its University have a few more challenges ahead of it.

Ignorant movie night at the UofA!

p_00035

“I love this film” – Ben Stein (also the star)

That’s right, on Thursday, April 2, Campus Advent (the 7th Day Adventists) are showcasing Ben Stein’s Expelled at the University of Alberta.

Yep, a church who’s claim to fame is that Saturday is more holy than Sunday is showcasing a movie that equates Dawin with Hitler.

I’ll be there, hopefully with a summary of the Expelled Exposed website on a handy pamphlet for all who are interested.

I’m not buying it Gary

Gary Goodyear wouldn’t comment on evolution this morning, and he’s now added that it’s “irrelevant” to his role as Minister of State Science and Technology.

That’s right, the minister of science thinks scientific facts are irrelevant to his job.

His quotes in the first article to the Globe and Mail:

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate”…

“Obviously, I have a background that supports the fact I have read the science on muscle physiology and neural chemistry,” said the minister, who took chemistry and physics courses as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo.

“I do believe that just because you can’t see it under a microscope doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It could mean we don’t have a powerful enough microscope yet. So I’m not fussy on this business that we already know everything. … I think we need to recognize that we don’t know.”

Asked to clarify if he was talking about the role of a creator, Mr. Goodyear said that the interview was getting off topic.

So evolution necessarily entails a religious question for him? The only people who agree with that statement have interesting ideas about the age of the Earth.

Further, who’s claiming to know everything already? Not the scientists, or else they’d be out of work. There are some who claim to have the ultimate truth though…

But this is clearly the liberal press attacking a True ChristianTM, let’s see how he cleared this all up a little later on CTV’s Power Play (in the midst of continually dodging to try to plug Harper’s science plan):

Jane Taber: So you do believe in evolution. You believe in the theory of evolution. Let’s just get this off the table right now.

Gary Goodyear: We are evolving, every year, every decade. That’s a fact. Whether it’s to the intensity of the sun, whether it’s to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it’s running shoes or high heels, of course, we are evolving to our environment. But that’s not relevant. And that’s why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong…

Wait, say what?

Does he think the theory of evolution is used to explain why people change shoes when it’s hot or cold out? I agree that isn’t relevant to your job – but knowing what the theory of evolution and modern science actually says is completely relevant to the Minister of Science.

There are many creationists in Harper’s theocon caucus, and I think it’s high time to expose the anti-science bias that exists within the governing party of this country.

This isn’t a matter of religion, it’s a matter of public policy being based on evidence and reason.