Tennessee not doomed

By Phil Plait | April 9, 2010 12:30 pm

In Tennessee, Kurt Zimmerman, the father of a high school student wants the biology book banned.

Guess why.

Yeah, it dismissed Biblical creationism as a myth. So he took his case to the school board and complained, asking that the book be banned. Their response was actually very cool: they said no.

One reviewer’s first impression of creationism’s definition was similar to Zimmermann’s in that “the authors must be offensively biased against this Christian view of the world,” the reviewer wrote.

"Upon further investigation, however, I quickly realized there is more than one definition of the word ‘myth.’ In this case the word is used appropriately to describe a traditional or legendary story … with or without a natural explanation," the [school board] reviewer wrote.

Not the use of the phrase "offensively biased", indicating to me that the reviewer him or herself may be sympathetic to creationist claims. But they still came to the correct conclusion: the word myth just means an explanatory story.

I’m glad the board dismissed Mr. Zimmerman’s claims, and I’ll take whatever victory I can when it comes to stopping the forces of antireality. But still, it makes me flinch somewhat to hear this. Sure, we can’t teach creationism in public school because it would be a clear violation of the First Amendment. But I can hope that in the future, everyone will know that we won’t teach creationism because it’s wrong.

Tip o’ the fossil to SciBuff.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Politics, Religion, Science
MORE ABOUT: creationism

Comments (85)

  1. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Looks like 2010 is still proving to be a good year for science & skepticism! ;-) :-)

    Sounds promising – just like Simon Singh’s winning the right to appeal & a few other notable victories I recall reading about earlier this year.

    Would it be too optimistic to conclude that the Creationist ideology is getting routed and repulsed as it richly deserves and is finally, finally, finally starting to fade away into a historical “How could people have been that dumb to still think that by then” footnote?

  2. I’m fine with talk of Genesis in a biology class provided the curriculum acknowledges the lyrical and musical craftsmanship of Banks, Collins and Rutherford.

  3. TN high school student

    Huzzah! There is still hope!

  4. stabbington

    There’s no reason not to teach Biblical creation myths in schools, so long as the context is appropriate – a literature course, say. Ideally alongside the diverse other creation myths that various human cultures have produced.

    It’s entirely out of place in a science class.

  5. brad

    “I’m fine with talk of Genesis in a biology class provided the curriculum acknowledges the lyrical and musical craftsmanship of Banks, Collins and Rutherford.”

    That may be more damaging to kids then creationism.

  6. robert

    Just as an observation from someone across the pond, I wonder how successful people relly are in winning the argument against creationists when it comes to school textbooks etc. What seems to happen is that creationist language sneaks into the classroom, there is a lawsuit and it’s found to violate your first amendment.

    However, what seems to happen is everyone celebrates the *legal* victory and thinks they can effectively stop there. The ethical and rational arguments outside the courtroom for dismissing creationism appear to take second place, if they are properly dealt with at all. Consequently, rather than trying to change people’s minds and demonstrate the superiority of rational, science based approach the strategy looks as if it is ‘stop them legally and the rest will follow’.

    Given how this keeps happening again and again and again, I’m not convinced that strategy is working.

  7. ultraholland: Wouldn’t be Genesis without Gabriel though :)

    And… scene.

  8. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE
  9. Alex

    As a resident of the great state of Tennessee, I must say that we’re not all crazy down here, I promise.

  10. And for those that deny evolution, please keep the following in mind: http://factsnotfantasy.com/evolution.html (and check out the sub-menus on that page as well for more)

    * It’s just a theory.
    Yes, just like gravity is “just a theory”. Anti-evolution types tend to not understand what “theory” means in a scientific context. It means that the idea started out as an hypothesis, based on observation; that researchers made predictions based on the observations and the hypothesis; that they collected more data, tested those predictions and re-examined the original ideas, and that this process has been done over and over and over until the idea is supported by so much evidence that it is as close to fact as science can come. Further, like any theory in science, it can be falsified if some new data comes along showing it to be wrong. Contrast this with the “theory” (and I use the quotes on purpose, there) of Intelligent Design or Creationism. ID consists pretty much only of questioning evolution. It makes no predictions. It has no research testing any ideas. It cannot be falsified. The “evidence” provided of supposed irreducible complexity does not rule out evolution of the structures examined, nor does it show how such a structure may have been designed and created as is. In short, though evolution deniers claim that ID is a theory, it is not.

    * There are no transitional fossils.
    Every fossil, and indeed every living creature, is transitional between an older form and a newer (or yet to come) form. We have a pretty good collection of fossils that show a transition from older forms to newer forms, such as the transition of large land mammals to whales. Scientists using the Theory of Evolution have even predicted a transitional form and where to find it. This transitional fossil, tiktaalik, was found based on these predictions. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14952

    * Evolution denies god(s).
    Nothing in the Theory of Evolution denies the existence of god (or any other deity). At best, it merely contradicts a literal interpretation of either of the two biblical creation stories (and any of the countless other creation stories from other religions/cultures). All that the theory of evolution does is show how everything came to be the way it is without the need for god(s).

    * Evolution says that life just sprung out of nowhere.
    Not true. The Theory of Evolution says nothing about the origins of life. Rather, the theory examines how life changes over time and across environments after it already exists. There is a branch of science, however, that is examining the origins of life: abiogenesis. But, that is currently separate from the ToE and is still in its infancy, scientifically speaking.

    * Why not teach the controversy?
    That’s just the thing, there is no real controversy! The only controversy is that which has been manufactured by creationists and intelligent design proponents. Sure, there may be specific elements where one scientist may disagree with another scientist, but those are specific mechanisms and particulars of the theory, not the entire theory itself. By this same logic, one should teach the “stork” theory of human reproduction.

    * Evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics
    This statement not only highlights a poor understanding of evolution, but also of all physics. First of all, the earth itself is not a closed system. The sun provides a great deal of energy for order to be built from. Not only that, but given how the volume of the universe is increasing by an order of three dimensions, and entropy is generally a linear equation, the “room” for order is actually constantly increasing in the universe (which is really beyond the scope of this discussion). Suffice it to say that all in all, deniers of evolution consistently show a poor understanding of nearly all aspects of science.

    * What about the list of scientists that disagree with Evolution?
    This list is probably one of the most dishonest pieces of propaganda out there. It was put together by the “Discovery Institute” (an organization with no credentials and fewer scruples). The list of “scientists” generally are not scientists, and if they are, most are not in any way qualified to talk about biological evolution. Also, the initial statement as presented to some scientists was twisted as to project a meaning different from what the actual reputable scientists contend. Just because a certain aspect may be in question, the entire theory is in no danger of suddenly falling out of favour. This video may give you some insight into the nature of that list.

    * Do you honestly think that all this came about by chance?
    Again, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding and denial of basic chemistry, physics, and even biology. While there are certain “random” elements involved in evolution and pretty much every natural process, keep in mind that the “room” for order in the universe is increasing. Not only that, the majority of processes are not at all left to chance, but rather follow very natural and orderly constraints of the universe.

    * What about the “Irreducible Complexity” of the eye, blood, flagellum, etc.?
    Well, first of all, “irreducible complexity” is a non-sense term invented by creationists and intelligent design proponents. All it really says is that they can’t possibly understand a particularly complex mechanism, so therefore something else did it. The basic premise behind irreducible complexity is to take a well designed item, remove a part to break it, and proclaim that it’s broken… The problem is that it’s entirely backwards thinking, and doesn’t take into account how something was actually built up. Every single item of irreducible complexity has an answer, however creationists and intelligent design proponents will keep throwing out examples of complex systems until they hit upon one that their debate opponent may not have all the facts on. As soon as they find that one thing that someone may not know the answer to, they proclaim victory for their entire side, totally ignoring all the other instances where their argument was trounced.

    * What about the woodpecker’s tongue, the panda’s thumb, the whatever’s thingy, etc.?
    Again, this is all part and parcel of the “throw enough poo at your opponent, and eventually you’ll hit on something they don’t know” strategy. Most of the things that creationists and intelligent design proponents will throw out are horrid misunderstandings of the basic biological mechanisms at work, so not only are you debating evolution with them, but you need to correct them on how whatever strawman they have thrown out is wrong from the sense of basic biology, not only from an evolutionary standpoint.

  11. Martha

    If creationism is given equal time in science class then in biology class we should give equal time to the theory that storks deliver babies.

  12. I decided to comment on this because I am a graduate of the Tennessee school system, and I wanted to point out that this kind of decision is the norm here. I was out with my mother just an hour ago pointing out how I had just recently realized how awesome my K-12 education was. I graduated in a class of 800, and only 10 people that I started with didn’t finish (not counting people moving to other schools etc.) Thinking back I know for a fact that everyone I went to school with could tell you what the order of operations was or what an AU is. (or any other trivial science/math question) There were no dumb people. I had to have it pointed out to me that this is not normal. The northeast Tennessee school system is amazing, and everyone I grew up with had a PROPER education in the sciences. I know the kind of common knowledge people have about where I live. We don’t wear shoes. Indoor plumbing is something we are still waiting on. That it’s the crazy ‘Bible Belt’. It’s really not the case.

  13. Kevin K

    Phil doesn’t have the story exactly correct. The reviews he quoted were from the review that occurred before the book was adopted. The matter was discussed at last Monday’s Knox County School Board meeting. It was discussed for a couple hours but eventually tabled for 30 days. At next month’s metting, they still could ban the book form Knox County high schools. There are several sympathetic evangelical Christians on the school board, so the ban is unfortunately a real possibility. I think we really are doomed here in Knoxville.

    Story here.
    http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/apr/08/school-issues-put-off-for-now/

  14. Martha, I’m waiting for the phlogiston theory of combustion to show up in chemistry classes.

  15. Robert

    “Sure, we can’t teach creationism in public school because it would be a clear violation of the First Amendment.”

    Establishment Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”

    Given the basis of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, disestablishmentarianism, teaching creationism in public school wouldn’t be a “clear violation” in any way, shape, manner, nor form. The quoted statement would, however, be a clear example of a non sequitur.

    So, now, I’m certain that the liberals will be turning to the “seperation of church and state” myth. How a line from a letter from a President to a Baptist Church, the subject of which and intent of was the exact opposite of how the phrase is commonly used, became a legal doctrine is a perfect example of SCOTUS making up law from whole cloth.

    I’ve always wondered, perhaps someone can fill me in, why so-called “Skeptics” are always skeptical of everything except liberalism? The cognitive dissonance must be extremely painful…

  16. Jeff

    Larian wrote an excellent rebuttal.

    Plus, a stunning example of transitional fossil is a T. Rex cousin with feathers! showing transition from dinosaur to bird.

    There are 3 obvious reasons for “gaps” in the fossil record: (1) fossilization is a rare process, not a very high percent of creatures are fossilized, it takes particular conditions (2) take one of the mechanisms of evolution: genetic mutation. A small change in genetics makes a huge difference in morphology, so evolutionary theory wouldn’t expect a transitional animal in every gradation , in every case (3) they are finding new fossils all the time!!!! morons on the creationist side, these fossils are deeply buried and we can’t drill down to every one of them. Give scientists time, paleontology is a young science.

    Evolution, unlike creationism, IS science. It posits at least 8 mechanisms: genetic mutation, genetic engineering, genetic drift, and sexual reproduction, which give variability in the gene pool; and four mechanisms to select them out: Darwin’s natural selection (why else 15 varieties of finches in the Galapagos?) , artificial selection, group selection, and sexual selection. These 8 mechanisms make the hypotheses of evolution explanatory (of the fossil, DNA, and morphological evidence) ; testable, and predictive.

    The tenets of creationism do not pass the smell test of having the derivability, lawlikeness, and tentative requirements of scientific theory. Creation science, when it states things like a young earth 10,000 years old and a 5,000 year old flood, both contradicts itself (because if Noah had all the animals at the time on the ark, only 10,000, then why are a million species extant today???), and contradicts everything that is known from cosmology, astronomy, earth sciences, and radioactive dating which converge on the age of the solar system of 4.5 billion years. And intelligent design is just plain wrong from the getgo: it’s fundamental tenet is “irreducible complexity”; well, I have news for you ID people, nothing is irreducible, everything can be reduced to their atoms and subatomic particles.

  17. Anthony

    The thing you all need to understand is that creationism and evolution don’t have to be separate. If God choose to create life through evolution, then who is to say that is wrong? God works within natural laws which is why every miracle in the Bible can be explained with science. While some look at this as evidence there is no God, I look at it as evidence that God is constant and He does work within the natural scientific laws of the universe. To say there is no God because of evolution is like saying there is no Chevy because of Ford. You can actually have and believe in both of them. There doesn’t even have to be a debate about which came first, although that is really a more interesting discussion. If you are anti-christian or atheist or whatever you want to call yourselves, then just admit that your religion doesn’t allow for the creation of life by a single act of a supreme being. You would be much more likable if you would allow what I have said to sink in though. Aristotle once said that it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it. All I’m asking is that you entertain the idea that evolution may be how my God chose to create life.

    I’m not saying you are wrong that way and you can’t say I am wrong. I say that God works through natural laws and with those natural laws you can validate any of the Biblical or modern miracles. Remember, 100 years ago the iPod would have been looked upon as being magic. The difference between magic and technology is our understanding of the science. The same could be said about faith and science. It is all about our understanding.

    And just to comment about what Jeff said, you don’t seem to have a very firm grasp on the stories in the Bible. You have gotten your facts from somewhere other than that book, because it doesn’t give timelines. There actually is evidence of a global flood. There is actually genealogical evidence that links our DNA back to one person. And the purpose of the flood wasn’t to kill every living creature on earth. It was just to kill all the people. Noah could have easily gathered two of each of the species that would have been made extinct if he didn’t preserve them while the rest were able to survive elsewhere. Where does it say in the Bible that the entire earth was covered in water and no land was left exposed? You have no understanding whatsoever. Actually, that is the flaw with a lot of the comments. You don’t even understand what ‘creation’ really is. You are going off an English translation of the Bible and probably think that when it says the world was created in 7 days that it means 7 days like we know it now. It only means 7 phases. These phases weren’t all necessarily one after the other either.

    You all just don’t understand. You feel that to teach creation will mean there was no evolution, but by teaching evolution the way you are, you are teaching that there was no creation. Science can back up every event in the Bible, so I don’t know why you are so against it. It must be hard to have such a narrow view of the world. Open your eyes a little wider and consider that your views are not in opposition to creation.

  18. “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.”
    — Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)

  19. Greg in Austin

    Robert said,

    “Given the basis of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, disestablishmentarianism, teaching creationism in public school wouldn’t be a “clear violation” in any way, shape, manner, nor form. “

    I would strongly disagree. Public schools are run by the State. The State can, by law, force our children to attend school, whether its public, private or home-schooled. However, the State CANNOT force my child to believe any particular religion. That is the purpose of the Establishment Clause.

    Not to mention that whole Religion-is-not-Science thing.

    “I’ve always wondered, perhaps someone can fill me in, why so-called “Skeptics” are always skeptical of everything except liberalism?”

    Generalize much? Skepticism does not rely on liberalism nor conservatism.

    8)

  20. Evil Merodach

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of “myth” is:

    1.a. A purely fictitious narrative usually involving supernatural persons, actions, or events, and embodying some popular idea concerning natural or historical phenomena.
    1.b. in generalized use. Also, an untrue or popular tale, a rumour (colloq.).
    2.A fictitious or imaginary person or object.

    Sorry but the OED has no definition for “myth” where it “just means an explanatory story.”

  21. SLC

    Re robert @ #6

    Changing the minds of creationists is an exercise in futility. Their minds are made up, the facts are irrelevant. See Kurt Wise, PhD from Harvard in paleontology with Stephen Jay Gould as faculty adviser, on why no amount of evidence, no mater how abundant, how overwhelming, how powerful would cause him to disbelieve in the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

    Re robert @ #16

    Mr. robert is seriously in error. The notion of separation of church and state is clearly implied in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. In addition, the treaty that was signed with the Barbary Pirates states explicitly that the United States is in no way a Christian Nation.

    Further, the most important of the founding fathers were not believing Christians. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin in particular did not accept such concepts as the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, or the Trinity. They may best be described as non-Christian theists.

  22. Crudely Wrott

    Yet another welcome example of people being rational. It’s always extra good when the sound reasoning is displayed by a person in a position of authority and trust. My gratitude to the board not only for their reasoning but for their literacy and the time and effort they expended to obtain it.

    Imagine, their whole decision rested on the definition of a single word, “myth.” Look for the issue to be raised again using some other term like “nice try” or “wrong.”

  23. Crudely Wrott

    Oh, I forgot to thank Larian LeQuella at #11 for the excellent primer.

    Thank you very much.

    Consider it bookmarked.

  24. Gary Ansorge

    20. Evil Merodach;

    “Sorry but the OED has no definition for “myth” where it “just means an explanatory story.””

    MAybe but one should check out Joe Campbells analyses of myths as “the stories we tell ourselves to make some sense of our existence”. Joe was considered by many, myself included, as the most knowledgeable student of mythology on the planet. He studied and tried to understand the underlying motivations of myth tellers in nearly every culture, past and present. HE considered myths to be “explanatory stories” and I accept that point of view.

    GAry 7

  25. cmflyer

    For the first time in 20 years of teaching science, I had a student (15 y.o.) today who began by thinking logically about the geologic timeline by placing some human-related events close to the present, but then actually started to move everything to the other end. When I asked, he said ’cause we know everything was created together.” When I tried to get him back on the scientific track and off the religious, he told me he had lots of books he could bring to prove his point. I told him no books, only arguments. We’ll see what happens Monday, but his brain has been so scattered by the Christian Life Center that I doubt he’ll remember. Anyone want to start a “Real Life Center?”

  26. Old Geezer

    If we are to introduce a non-scientific “explanation” for the origin of man into a science class, why do we need to import one from across the ocean and in the distant desert? Since we are all good red-blooded Americans, we should teach the theory that man came out of the ground on the wings of a crow as was the belief of the natives who were Americans before us. C’mon guys! Teach the home grown controversy!

  27. 1.a. A purely fictitious narrative usually involving supernatural persons, actions, or events, and embodying some popular idea concerning natural or historical phenomena.

    That would describe the book of Genesis quite well, would it not? Whether a Christian derives some meaning from the text, or not, it is quite clear that it is a “fictitious narrative” in the sense that on a plain reading, nothing described in it is historically accurate. Anything else that you take from it is likely value-laden and subjective, but what it isn’t is scientific. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t right and wrong ways to interpret the text, only that it doesn’t reach the level of objective.

    And this is part of the problem in that you are not even supposed to tell someone that what they believe is just flat out false. At some point we need to be able to move past that and people need to accept that they are entitled to their own beliefs, but not to their own facts, or their own erroneous version of history, or their own science of biology, etc. We can argue about what the evidence really suggests, but once you completely ignore it and instead appeal to “deeply held beliefs”, there’s really nowhere else for the conversation to go.

    Robert (16) – My understanding is that, whether you like it or not, it is the interpretation of the courts through the years that acts as precedent, not your own special interpretation with which we could all argue.

    You have every right to work to change that, but as it is, precedent is quite clearly not in your favor.

    And by the way, I’m not even an American, but it appears that I know more about the way in which your country works than you do, which is scary.

  28. @Anthony (#18),

    Well, the problem with the initial premise of your post is that the entire universe behaves EXACTLY as one would expect of a universe that has precisely ZERO god(s).

    And there are numerous factual statements made in your precious bible that are directly provable as false. I urge you to check out http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/ with intellectual honesty. Just because science has the audacity to admit, “I don’t know.” to a question doesn’t mean that MAGIC is the answer.

    As to your assertions…

    There is actually NO evidence to a global flood. if there is, please provide some from a source other than someone who presupposes the existence of a flood as their answer.

    Wrong on the DNA. It shows that there are small groups of humans (back at 70,000 years ago) where we lost a great deal of our genetic diversity. Mitocondrial Eve is a simplification of the way genetics works within a population of organisms. You misunderstand the entire concept…

    Your entire post is “apologetics” which humerously enough only religion seems to need. You don’t hear people describe themselves as scientific apologists. No apologies needed when dealing in facts.

  29. idlemind

    Well, my New Oxford American Dictionary has as its first definition of myth: “1. a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” It says nothing about fictitiousness or lack of truth. Perhaps they use the word differently over the pond…

  30. Don Gisselbeck

    There is one advantage (for some of us) in growing up believing the literal interpretation of the biblical creation accounts. We end up having a better idea than most people of why they can’t be true. On a separate note, Stephen Jay Gould enjoyed singing Haydn’s Creation.

  31. Childermass

    The vast majority of English speakers do not use the definition of myth used by anthropologists and other social scientist that does not just the truth of the story. I dare say that next to no high school students are aware of how the word myth as it is used by anthropologists. I assume that the biology book in question does not explain that anthropologists use the word myth in a way differently than how it is normally used in everyday English.

    The author of the textbook used incredibly bad judgment. The basic point about evolution being established science supported by voluminous evidence and a central theme of biology can be made in a clear way without resorting to such unnecessarily incendiary language. I don’t think that a biology textbook should really be addressing the religious aspects at all beyond a brief mention that most though not all denominations have made their peace with evolution. Whether or not those denominations are right to make peace with evolution is not a topic for a biology textbook.

  32. Kaeli

    Count me among the properly educated Tennesseeans! Like Chris, I too am a Northeast Tennessee native, and I can vouch for the fact that we are not quite as backwards as we’re made out to be, much to the shagrin of evangelical neighbors and chronically oppressed masses alike.

  33. Daniel J. Andrews

    Don G (31). In full agreement!

    SLC said,

    Changing the minds of creationists is an exercise in futility. Their minds are made up, the facts are irrelevant. See Kurt Wise, PhD from Harvard in paleontology with Stephen Jay Gould as faculty adviser, on why no amount of evidence, no mater how abundant, how overwhelming, how powerful would cause him to disbelieve in the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis.

    Not true, SLC. Evidence changed my mind. It took over 10 years, but it happened. The evidence is overwhelming and I once I learned it I had to make a choice between what I’d grown up believing and the evidence.

    It was a gradual process with me resisting most of the way. The first bit of evidence was astronomical evidence–stars were being born (so Sky and Telescope told me). The universe wasn’t static and unchanging. I initially rejected the idea of star formation, but after a while figured since things on earth were being born all the time, then why not the stars.

    And that was the pattern. I learned something, rejected it, but then gave it some thought and had to accept it (either that or start believing that all researchers were intentionally or unintentionally distorting the truth). Evidence built upon evidence, and many of the logical conclusions that followed from the evidence provided yet more scaffolding for further evidence and logical trains of thought.

    It doesn’t even have to be evidence that directly attacks creationism, e.g. “creationism is wrong because…..”. It’s not like stellar nurseries are high on the list of evidence against creationism. Certainly the S&T article wasn’t using it that way. It was just a bit of “this is what we know and here’s why we know it. Isn’t this totally cool!”.

    I think the backdoor approaches as opposed to the confrontational hammer approaches are more effective. Phil’s blog is excellent for this backdoor approach…don’t underestimate the impact of the fact that Mars once had liquid water and a very different landscape may have on someone’s “unchanged since creation” worldview. Yes, sometimes a hammer is needed, but it probably won’t be the hammer at the gates that changes someone’s mind–it’ll be the gentle trickle of water slowly eroding an undefended sidewall (sorry for metaphor mangling).

    So please don’t fall into stereotypical thinking and painting all fundamentalists the same. Evidence can and has and will change some of their minds. It is not an exercise in futility. For me, it was not easy. But it happened.

    And it probably isn’t as rare as we may think it is. I’ve heard from many people who have similar stories to mine. For some it wasn’t a huge battle, for others it was much much harder, depending on where they started from and how much they had invested in their previous convictions. I emphasize again though…it is not an exercise in futility.

  34. Pi-needles

    @ ^ Daniel J. Andrews: I agree. Great post and glad to hear your story. :-)

    I don’t think trying to educate and inform people is ever totally futile although trying to argue with those whose minds are closed can be incredibly frustrating & painful sometimes. If nothing else, doing so helps us think more about our own argments and how to best put them & also on blogs like this can inform those others who may be undecided or wavering who are willing to listen & deter the worst fallacies put forward by the likes of the Discovery “Institute” & “Answers” In Genesis from taking hold.

    After all, what’s the alternative – surrender to ignorance and superstition? Never!

    @32. Childermass Says:

    I dare say that next to no high school students are aware of how the word myth as it is used by anthropologists. I assume that the biology book in question does not explain that anthropologists use the word myth in a way differently than how it is normally used in everyday English.

    Really? If that’s true which I’m not sure about maybe they should learn that that’s what “myth”really means?

    The author of the textbook used incredibly bad judgment. The basic point about evolution being established science supported by voluminous evidence and a central theme of biology can be made in a clear way without resorting to such unnecessarily incendiary language.

    Calling the biblical creation story “myth” = incendiary language??

    Dude I think that’s putting the factual truth quite mildly.

    Calling the Christian creation myth a pernicious, misogynistic, destructive tall tale that has been wrongly supported by numerous nasty fundamentalist liars for too long and that has caused enormous suffering and harm to all people. A false myth with nary a grain of truth in it that the world – especially the first world which knows much better – should have abandoned long ago; that contradicts common sense and can have holes easily poked in it by your average 5 year old child …

    Now *that* might be “unnecessarily incendiary language for you.” ;-)


    PS. It might also be a true summation of the situation too. ;-)

  35. Gary Ansorge

    34. Daniel J. Andrews

    “it’ll be the gentle trickle of water slowly eroding an undefended sidewall (sorry for metaphor mangling).”

    That’s rather a cool allusion. If the trickle represents evidence, then one should strive to advertise its presence(for evidence unseen is as bad as no evidence at all), to shout it to the stars. Rewriting history and burying evidence is always one tactic available to the ruling majority. Which is what I fear. A religious oligarchy would bring this country to its knees in less than a generation. I doubt we would ever recover.

    I want NO religion in my government and I’m not even an atheist. I’m just an old hippy agnostic.

    Peace, Y’All

    Gary 7

  36. Cory

    “Myth” is clearly a loaded term to use, even if it has a non-offensive meaning in academia. Why not just use “story”, after all?

  37. SLC

    Re Anthony @ # 18

    I’m not saying you are wrong that way and you can’t say I am wrong. I say that God works through natural laws and with those natural laws you can validate any of the Biblical or modern miracles.

    Really Mr. Anthony? OK, would Mr. Anthony care to explain as to how any natural law would enable Joshua to cause the Sun to stand still in the sky for a day? Let me just list the fallacies of this biblical claim

    1. It implies that the Sun revolves around the earth. Totally wrong.

    2. Even if one accepted that the biblical statement doesn’t really imply item 1 above, the notion of the Sun standing still violates all laws of physics as the consequences would be that the earth would immediately fall into the sun due to the removal of centrifugal forces.

    3. Further, there is not a jot or a tittle of evidence that such an event occurred from other civilizations contemporaneous with Joshua. Surely, they would have commented on such an occurrence.

  38. DrB

    @ #38

    Not to mention that #18 referred to Noah’s Ark and the evidence for a global flood forgetting to mention that there are numerous earlier stories relaying the same story (e.g. Gilgamesh for one) which clearly demonstrate (as with lots/most of the Biblical stories) that they were stolen from earlier cultures/religions and stated as reasons to fear god.

  39. Jeff

    Anthony: “And just to comment about what Jeff said, you don’t seem to have a very firm grasp on the stories in the Bible. You have gotten your facts from somewhere other than that book, because it doesn’t give timelines. There actually is evidence of a global flood. There is actually genealogical evidence that links our DNA back to one person. And the purpose of the flood wasn’t to kill every living creature on earth. It was just to kill all the people. Noah could have easily gathered two of each of the species that would have been made extinct if he didn’t preserve them while the rest were able to survive elsewhere. Where does it say in the Bible that the entire earth was covered in water and no land was left exposed? You have no understanding whatsoever”

    You’re a true believer Anthony, that is refreshing. But I taught college 30 yrs. and I do have an understanding of science. Creationism isn’t science, period. First of all, if god did create the universe, then he must have created the big bang. Ok, let’s say he did, how do you expect us to prove that scientifically? We can’t, which is the point, in that view, god becomes superfluous because whether he created the big bang or not, is beyond observation, and therefore beyond science.

    It would take me forever to reply to all your objections so I’ll give the short version. Ok, so the bible doesn’t give timelines, but a lot of thinkers on your side think the Bible implies a 10,000 yrs. old earth and 5,000 yrs. ago for flood. But putting that aside, let’s look at the logic of your claims. First of all, you must know there is no evidence in the science of geology for a worldwide flood, which is why you claim the flood was localized. But if it was localized, how did it kill off all humans? and why was an ark necessary? It wasn’t supposed to kill off animals? seems like you’re making this up to avoid the obvious problem that there are a million species today and Noah couldn’t bring nearly that many aboard. Which means of course that creationists’ acceptance of microevolution but not macroevolution is bunk. Those millions of species evolved. Don’t you know that bacteria are mutating all the time in people’s stomachs? What about Lake Victoria, with 300 species of chiclid fish in a 10,000 year old lake? doesn’t that seem like evolution to you? What about the close relationship of DNA between humans and chimps? And how do you explain extinction, like of the dinosaurs? And since all creatures have similar morphology, arms, legs, eyes, why would god have bothered?

    Learn the principle of faunal succession: creatures in the fossil record succeed each other in a predictable pattern such that creatures increase in complexity as time goes on. In other word, dig deeper into older strata and you find simple creatures like trilobites, dig into higher younger strata and you find more complex creatures like mammals.

    Let me ask you this: do you believe in “render unto god what is god’s, but render unto Darwin what is Darwin’s” ? do you believe in leaving creationism out of science textbooks?

  40. Daffy

    How can this even be a debate? Have these people even read the Bible? Talking snakes, God blessing people who slaughter babies, loading 2 of all the animals on the planet into a wooden boat, offering one’s female relatives up to be raped by bandits…the thing is horrifying and ridiculous. The literal Word of God? No, it isn’t. Grow up.

  41. Gary Ansorge

    40. Daffy.

    The old testament isn’t really about Gods will. It IS about how to survive as a singular tribe in the midst of serious competition. As in “We’re special, because God said so, thus it’s alright for us to slaughter anyone who disagrees with us, because they’re just animals.”

    I say that, even knowing I wouldn’t be who/what I am, w/o that small amount of Jewish genetic heritage I have.

    Gary 7

  42. ani

    I’m not sure it shouldn’t be rewritten. Why was the word “creationism” even mentioned in a biology book? If it isn’t a scientific theory, what is it doing in a science book?

  43. Jeff

    Daffy, I’m afraid the sad truth is that debates have and will continue going on throughout human history. Smart people arise, morons try to tear them down, and that will never change. The great civilizations of Rome and Greece were overrun by barbarians, and then a Renaissance occured. These are cycles and it hasn’t stopped.

  44. Daffy

    Gary, I agree. The Bible is an interesting document (I even studied it in college, in fact). But as the literal Word of God it is ridiculous. Insane, even.

    Jeff, too true.

  45. Mirroreyes

    @25. Gary Ansorge

    I was and (to a lesser extent) still am fan of Campbell. Great stuff, he cracked interpretation of mythology wide open. It’s been very helpful in putting my mind in another persons shoes, and understanding why cultures/individuals behave as they do.

    There was always something that bothered me about his relativistic approach though … it was more than something to learn from. In a sense he “went native” and lost the eye of an observer.

    I remember some stories (which Joe told with great conviction and glee) about how happy members of a variety of cultures were to become human sacrifices. OK, sure. Now let’s take those same people and give them a good contemporary education and maybe they won’t feel so fond of their nature god on the way to the axe.

    He was also fond of using horrible Jungian or Freudian justifications to support his hypotheses, and I remember at least one talk where he used numerology in a positive light and along the way got some basics facts very wrong.

    I am curious: how would he react to these attempts to inject religion / creationism into science classes? It’s hard for me to think he would have a clear stance.

    Joe would probably say I’m missing the point, but overall I think he did exactly that.

    Brilliant guy, no doubt. But not a reliable source on Reality. For aesthetics and culture, sure – I still listen to his The Way Of Art and a few other lectures on occasion.

  46. GeorgeH

    Perhaps a simple word change would suffice. Rather than ‘myth’ use the word ‘belief’.

  47. “But I can hope that in the future, everyone will know that we won’t teach creationism because it’s wrong.”

    I’ve learned a lot of things that were wrong in my fifteen years (and counting) of formal education. For instance, I learned Bohr’s model of the atom. I learned pre-Copernican astronomy and the notion of a geocentric universe. I’ve learned about the Holocaust and the concept of eugenics. The point I’m trying to make here is that just because something isn’t wrong doesn’t mean it should never be taught in a classroom. Now, when it comes to the kind of teaching you’re talking about, then yeah, that’s no bueno. But to say it shouldn’t ever be taught again is a statement I, as a Christian agnostic, disagree with.

  48. The Bohr model is just that: a model, and has its uses. Pre-Copernican thinking has its uses as well. Eugenics was/is an actual movement and worth noting in a history class.

    But if you teach creationism as being an accurate theory/model of the Universe, then you are wrong. It’s that simple, and I stick by what I said.

  49. Don Gisselbeck

    Astronomy was probably the key wedge in my abandonment of fundamentalist Christianity. Its predictions are easily verifiable with no equipment so it serves as an easy entry into the great web of science.

  50. Ad Hominid

    @Daffy
    How can this even be a debate? Have these people even read the Bible?

    Now that is the 6400 year question my friend. I suspect the answer is “no” in most cases. I have a lot of experience with fundamentalists here in West Texas. My observation is that most of them either do not read the Bible except for select verses and short passages pointed out by their church or religious authorities, or they rely heavily on authority to interpret long passages. This is unfortunate because the fundy pastors, preachers, group leaders, and other authorities usually lack anything resembling a real education in theology or church history.
    One of the ironies of Christian fundamentalism is its claim to represent an alternative to the allegedly authoritarian structure of mainstream churches, while in fact practicing a rigid, if less heavily formal, authoritarianism of its own.

  51. Gary Ansorge

    52. Ad Hominid

    I actually can’t think of any religion that wasn’t based upon a top down, hierarchal, authoritarian structure.

    Such structures began with agriculture and 8500 years later, this is the result.

    MAybe we should go back to hunter gathering.

    Oh, wait, I forgot. 7 billion people.

    Never mind.

    I guess we’re stuck with this.

    GAry 7

  52. Evil Merodach

    @25. Gary, as Joseph Campbell himself said, “A one sentence definition of mythology? ‘Mythology’ is what we call someone else’s religion.”

  53. Michael Kingsford Gray

    Another “only in” story.
    Only in ‘Merka, oh and Turkey.

  54. Electro

    If the Hive Overmind, ever turfs you for speaking your mind, you and the Astronomer family can come live with me…(no dogs though)

  55. mike bukhart

    Teaching the Book of Genesis or any other book of the Bible belongs in religous class not science class besides not all Christans reject Evolution I am one who dose not reject Evoluiton as for the flood most Bibical sclors think the flood was only localized , how ever the Earths surface was covered with water shortly after it formed of course that was long before the age of humans ,wheather there is a God(or if you like supreme being)can’t be proven nor disproven by science and I think God is best left to the Church and not Science

  56. Daffy

    Ad Hominid,

    That has been my experience as well. It seems the more someone insists the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the less likely they are to have actually read the thing, except for in a cherry picking sort of way.

  57. Electro

    @mike burkhart….most paleo-climatologists are now of the opinion that global floods were likely,(and not localized) at the birth of civilization…..ice-dams breaking and that whole end of the ice-age thing.

    They give credibility to folklore stories that found their way into a book which was largely written hundreds of years after the events it depicts.

    Point, when the evidence is there, science backs up the bible.

  58. Gary Ansorge

    59. Electro

    This Wikipedia link;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deluge_(prehistoric)

    ,,,has numerous references to mega floods from collapsing ice dams(references in the article need clarification). Note that the last time the Mediterranean experienced such was 5 million years ago. There have however been several large floods since the beginning of human agriculturally based civilizations but prior to the development of written language, so stories of such were probably transmitted orally(and we know how deformed such stories can become).

    The story of Noah was probably an expansion of previous flood stories. Weather Noah actually existed or was just a convenient name to hang on an exciting story is questionable.

    Gary 7

  59. OtherRob

    @ Larian LeQuella, #29:

    Just because science has the audacity to admit, “I don’t know.” to a question doesn’t mean that MAGIC is the answer.

    One of the things I most admire about science is that the answer isn’t just, “I don’t know.” The answer is actually, “I don’t know yet.” :)

  60. TheBlackCat

    @ Electro: No, global floods are not only unlikely, they are impossible. Ice dams breaking will not cause a global flood, they will cause a large flood, but at most it will still cover a very small geographic area relative to the size of the Earth. Compared to the size of the Earth the largest such flood is tiny. What is more, the reason we know about these floods is because they leave very clear traces in the surrounding landscape, traces that only occur in a handful of places in the world. The Bible specifically describes a flood that covered the entire Earth up to the highest mountain in a period of 40 days and night, and that the only survivors were one extended family of humans and 2 or 7 of all land animals (not freshwater aquatic animals or shallow-water marine animals, which would have all gone extinct). This did not happen, period. Trying to say that this is a reference to one of the numerous relatively large (but still very localized) floods is simply saying that the Bible is wrong on this. It is wrong on numerous other things as well.

  61. Sean H

    @Robert:

    “Establishment Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”
    Given the basis of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, disestablishmentarianism, teaching creationism in public school wouldn’t be a “clear violation” in any way, shape, manner, nor form. The quoted statement would, however, be a clear example of a non sequitur.”

    Teaching creationism would be an explicit endorsement unless you gave Hindu, Norse, Greek, and ancient Sumerian myths equal time as valid theories of both the creation of life and the creation of the universe. I’m relatively sure that you wouldn’t want that. Science class isn’t an anthropology class where the teaching of creation myths is acceptable. It isn’t a literature class where an overview of biblical stories may be useful to understanding some older works of poetry, plays, and prose. It’s a science class and science has to be proveable/disprovable. You can’t prove nor disprove the existence of an extra-natural being.

    “So, now, I’m certain that the liberals will be turning to the “seperation of church and state” myth. How a line from a letter from a President to a Baptist Church, the subject of which and intent of was the exact opposite of how the phrase is commonly used, became a legal doctrine is a perfect example of SCOTUS making up law from whole cloth.

    Please stop perpetuating that meme that’s going around. The first amendment does include a seperation of church and state. Our first seven presidents weren’t even organized christians, they were deists. George Washington wrote a letter to a synagogue in Rhode Island which actually vindicates that point. I sincerely doubt you’d want your children to be taught Deism in school, and I’d rather my children weren’t taught that man and dinosaur co-existed.

    “I’ve always wondered, perhaps someone can fill me in, why so-called “Skeptics” are always skeptical of everything except liberalism? The cognitive dissonance must be extremely painful…”

    Christopher Hitchens is a skeptic and rather diverse in his politics(against torture, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, against state religions, etc), Penn Jillete is a libertarian, and Randi is amazingly apolitical. As a Skeptic I turn up as a democrat because I follow the 7 out of 10 rule. I’m against the drug war(which is supported by both parties), I think gun control is an idiotic failed policy that should be tossed out in favor of controlling gun trafficking, and I support plenty of other things that aren’t accepted by the democratic party’s plank. If you lose the Christian Right and the Tea Partiers then I’d be more comfortable with the GOP as a whole.

    Stop projecting the fact that you equate being governed by rational thought with liberalism. Classical conservative came from the exact same roots from the Enlightenment.
    Creationism is bad science and can’t lead to any useful discoveries about our world, it can’t help with the creation of vaccines, and it won’t help combat cancer or AIDs.

    @Electro:

    The flood is a horrible example of the bible being backed up by fact. The Greeks, Egyptians, Norse, Hindus, and others all have flood stories. So it’s either a common anthropological touchstone, rising of water levels happened and the people who lived through it told stories about it, local floods happened in multiple areas and they told stories about it, or all of the above.
    -SH.

  62. Daffy

    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

    Treaty of Tripoli, 1797. Signed by John Adams and ratified unanimously by congress.

    Next question.

  63. Pi-needles

    ^ Daffy: Musselmen?

    Would they be ruled by a real strongman? ;-)

    Or just a King Prawn? ;-)

    (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

  64. Daffy

    Pi, apparently I should clam up! :)

  65. Jeff

    Sean “Creationism is bad science and can’t lead to any useful discoveries about our world, it can’t help with the creation of vaccines, and it won’t help combat cancer or AIDs”

    correct, and creationism is simply not science by any rigorous definition of science. Creationism does not satisfy 3 adequacy requirements for scientific theory: (a) derivability (b) lawlikeness (c) exclusion of irrelevant factors. When it states that god created the world exactly as it is today, this would describe the world no matter what its nature was; so no derivation is occuring, the world’s characteristics are just being STIPULATED. When it states that god created life in fixed and unchanging forms, this (a) totally contradicts the fossil record and transitional fossils like T. Rex with feathers, that have been found (b) and there are no “laws of god” stipulated like newton’s laws. And if people claim that god created the big bang and evolution, this is an irrelevant factor because god is superfluous (redundant) in this view.

    Creation science, and ID: similar problems.

    Creationism, creation science, and ID do not pass the smell test for scientific theory. They are NOT science and should never be included in science classes.

  66. adam

    I’m glad the board dismissed Mr. Zimmerman’s claims, and I’ll take whatever victory I can when it comes to stopping the forces of antireality.

    There goes your objectivity. First you make an attempt at diplomacy by fairly classifying the biblical story of the creation as “myth” in terms of it being an explanatory story, but then you say this. The bible may be entirely fictional, or it may be a mixture of allegorical symbolism and dashes of truth–the point is, you don’t know. So to categorize the bible’s creation story as “anti-reality” forces me to categorize you as biased and objectively NOT the fair “skeptic” you claim to be. Of course, you put yourself in that camp months ago with your inability to even attempt to see both sides of the climate change argument. So no big surprise here.

    Sure, we can’t teach creationism in public school because it would be a clear violation of the First Amendment.

    Uh, no? Teaching creationism would not by itself amount to a “clear violation” of the First Amendment. A school allowing a teacher to give an explanation of the bible’s creation story has nothing to do with Congress establishing a law with respect to religion. Creationism is not a religion. The bible’s creation story is not a religion. Just admit you’re prejudiced and threatened by the Christian Right and be done with it. Don’t hide behind the Bill of Rights. It’s trite and tired liberals honestly need some new tactics.

    For the record, I’m not remotely a creationist. But I’m also not condescendingly biased against those who are.

  67. Jeff

    adam : “Uh, no? Teaching creationism would not by itself amount to a “clear violation” of the First Amendment. A school allowing a teacher to give an explanation of the bible’s creation story has nothing to do with Congress establishing a law with respect to religion. Creationism is not a religion. The bible’s creation story is not a religion. Just admit you’re prejudiced and threatened by the Christian Right and be done with it. Don’t hide behind the Bill of Rights. It’s trite and tired liberals honestly need some new tactics”

    adam, please read my posts more carefully. My point is creationism is NOT science and never should be included within science classes or textbooks.

  68. adam

    If you lose the Christian Right and the Tea Partiers then I’d be more comfortable with the GOP as a whole.

    Oh, so you mean lose the main conservative base of the GOP? What you want is a Democratic Party Lite. Why is everyone so afraid of the Christian Right? Because some of them (read: the ones covered by media) are intolerant, bigoted and hateful? What about the ones giving millions of dollars to foreign aid? Or the ones who reach out to members of their community in programs that month after month acquire thousands of dollars for citizens, friends and neighbors in need? Thousands of Christian charities and programs established for the sole purpose of facilitating the giving nature of the believers? Or the ones who believe strongly in self-sufficiency? Personal accountability and responsibility? In autonomy from the federal government in dictating how their states and counties and communities are run? You are afraid of that Christian Right why, exactly? Because they believe certain lifestyles to be immoral? Or because they believe the true loser in the pro-life/pro-choice debate is the innocent, unwanted child? Or because they believe a child has the right to a male and female role model, a traditional nuclear family? Seems to me you don’t like a group of people who believe in different things than you. Sound at all familiar?

    As for the Tea Party, they break with the modern GOP on almost every major issue they stand for. You do realize that, right? And heaven forbid someone try to force Congress into checks on the constitutionality of their legislation instead of using the commerce clause to regulate and tax everything from good health to housing to transportation, etc. What bad people they must be, these vile teabaggers, standing up for the integrity of the Republic!

  69. adam

    adam, please read my posts more carefully. My point is creationism is NOT science and never should be included within science classes or textbooks.

    That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I take issue with Phil’s prejudice and bias against people who think and believe differently than he does, and his attempts to color and misconstrue their viewpoints by focusing on the fringe or on the viewpoints he doesn’t like, instead of the parts that warrant consideration.

    And again, appealing to the First Amendment every time a whiff of something spiritual wafts into smelling distance of a school is absurd and annoying. It’s meaningless. I’m tired of it.

  70. Gary Ansorge

    71. adam:

    “appealing to the First Amendment every time a whiff of something spiritual wafts into smelling distance of a school is absurd and annoying.”

    I don’t want your, or for that matter, ANYONES religion w/in smelling distance of MY kids. Religion gives corrupt individuals an excuse to corrupt innocents(pedophile priests) and assault anyone whose behavior is at odds with their teaching. My mother was catholic and lived in fear that “her” church would excommunicate her for her sins(she was married 7 times) and condemn her to hell.
    What a stupid, insensitive, asinine thing to do to loving people.

    Keep ALL religion out of publicly funded institutions of learning. I also believe churches, like porn shops, should be forbidden to build within 1000 meters of any school.

    To me, they’re pretty much the same.

    Gary 7

  71. Daffy

    Adam: “Don’t hide behind the Bill of Rights. It’s trite and tired liberals honestly need some new tactics”

    That may be the single most chilling comment I have ever read here. Seriously.

  72. Daffy

    Adam: “The bible may be entirely fictional, or it may be a mixture of allegorical symbolism and dashes of truth–the point is, you don’t know.’

    What do you mean “you don’t know?” I do. It’s largely fictional and occasionally historically accurate. Talking snakes are fictional, for example.

    Next question.

  73. adam

    @Gary Ansorge:

    I don’t want your, or for that matter, ANYONES religion w/in smelling distance of MY kids.

    Again, the point I’m making is that this is not a First Amendment issue. This is an issue of teaching children generally accepted scientific fact and theory. If Creationism has no legitimate scientific backing then it should not be taught in schools under anything resembling the guise of fact, or science. It’s not about religion. It’s totally disingenuous to make this about religion (and specifically target Christianity) when the implications are much wider than this petty and immature sniping at people whose moral code and authority disagrees with your own.

    Religion gives corrupt individuals an excuse to corrupt innocents(pedophile priests) and assault anyone whose behavior is at odds with their teaching. My mother was catholic and lived in fear that “her” church would excommunicate her for her sins(she was married 7 times) and condemn her to hell.
    What a stupid, insensitive, asinine thing to do to loving people.

    I’m sorry you feel that you must classify all religion as an excuse to corrupt innocent people, and all people who adhere to a religion as corrupters and evildoers based on your own unfortunate experiences. I may not agree with your broad strokes, but they are yours to make.

    Keep ALL religion out of publicly funded institutions of learning.

    Fair enough. I agree.

    I also believe churches, like porn shops, should be forbidden to build within 1000 meters of any school.
    To me, they’re pretty much the same.

    Yes, they’re the same thing. Nice catch. Very observant.

    @Daffy: That may be the single most chilling comment I have ever read here. Seriously.

    Hey, congratulations, you can misconstrue and take out of context as well as anyone else here. Great.

    What do you mean “you don’t know?” I do. It’s largely fictional and occasionally historically accurate. Talking snakes are fictional, for example.
    Next question.

    You don’t know what parts are symbolic and which parts are literal. Sure, there are parts that are clearly fictional or symbolic, like talking snakes, but there are places where the line is difficult or impossible to draw. Do you know where the line is drawn across the entirety of the Genesis story? For a fact? I was saying that Phil’s tossing of the entire biblical creation into the “antireality” bin is wrong. What part of that are you arguing against, exactly?

  74. Daffy

    Adam: “You don’t know what parts are symbolic and which parts are literal.”

    Talking snakes are fictional. The universe created in 6 days is fictional. God cloning Eve from Adam’s rib is fictional. A 6,000 year old earth is fictional. Noah putting 2 samples of every living creature on a wooden boat is fictional—not to mention the fictional, worldwide, all encompassing flood

    Honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out. Is Lot’s turning over his female family members to be raped in order to save himself fictional or historical? Well, given the misogynistic culture back then I can’t rule it out; probably that sort of thing was very commonplace.

    As I say, not that hard to figure out.

  75. adam

    Talking snakes are fictional. The universe created in 6 days is fictional. God cloning Eve from Adam’s rib is fictional. A 6,000 year old earth is fictional. Noah putting 2 samples of every living creature on a wooden boat is fictional—not to mention the fictional, worldwide, all encompassing flood
    Honestly, it’s not that hard to figure out. Is Lot’s turning over his female family members to be raped in order to save himself fictional or historical? Well, given the misogynistic culture back then I can’t rule it out; probably that sort of thing was very commonplace.
    As I say, not that hard to figure out.

    What you call fictional some may call symbolic. What is symbolic may contain truth in symbolism. Regardless, you’re picking out specific examples. I’m talking about the story as a whole. And if you want to expand the story further to Noah and beyond, an insistence on the bible’s tales being entirely fictional grows increasingly less rational.

    So you seem to be missing my point. I’m telling you that you can’t draw a clear line between all that could be “fictional” (as you say) and could be factual and claim the bible’s creation story is “antireality,” and you’re sitting here reinforcing my point while trying to argue against it. I don’t really understand.

  76. Gary Ansorge

    75. adam

    First I apologize for the porn store comment. That WAS over the top.

    Second;

    “It’s not about religion.”

    On the contrary, it IS about religion,,,ALL religion. Every religion is organized around dogma, which is touted as interpretation of the literal word of god, or goddess.

    It’s about institutionalizing a mystical experience of one person and impelling others to adhere to the institutions interpretation and that has nothing whatsoever to do with that one persons experience.

    I know this because I’ve been there and no, I won’t reveal diddly of what I experienced. If you want to know, figure it out for yourself, which is really what the mystical experience is about. It’s about you and YOUR interpretation, which is something you will never get from an organized religion.

    All the books written about gods are just noise. Every bible has the same failing. The people doing the writing are blind and wishful. They are just people with their own self interest to assuage. I personally would not trust any pope, preacher, mullah or fakir to provide me with spiritual insight. If they actually knew what was going on, they wouldn’t be preaching about it.

    Just my two bits.

    GAry 7

  77. Daffy

    Adam: “What you call fictional some may call symbolic. What is symbolic may contain truth in symbolism. Regardless, you’re picking out specific examples.”

    Of course I am picking out specific examples…you made the claim that one cannot pick out what is true or what is merely symbolic; I am showing how wrong that is. How would I do that without specific examples?

    Just because something is symbolic of something else does NOT make it correct as science. Do I even need to say that? If they want to teach the Bible as literature (and include the subject of symbolism) I have no objections…in fact I took those classes. But it is NOT science; and, yes, I gave very specific examples of why it isn’t.

  78. From Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary – Myth: 1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.

    Well, I think that pretty much hits the creationism nail on the head without being at all disrespectful of Christianity.

    As for the fate of this textbook…Phil is wrong. The school board has merely tabled their decision for thirty days and plans further review. The book may still be banned, which would be a shame given that it has a 5 out of 5 rating on Amazon and seems to be highly thought of.

    As for those bashing Tea Party supporters you may want to pay a tad more attention to reality. The original Tea Party movement started as a response to government overspending which began in the Bush administration and continues unabated. It is not racist and actively opposes many of the issues the GOP has supported. Unfortunately, its success has attracted political leeches such as Sarah Palin just as the success of the Reform Party led to Pat Buchanan’s attempted political take over of that group. The Tea Party has, like any large organization a number of kooks and bad apples but this is not indicative of the whole organization and its members.

    Benjamin “Skeptic-Libertarian” Lecrone

  79. Niles

    Creationism isn’t a myth :(

    It’s a misinterpretation and a misappropriation of scripture. The Genesis narrative, now *that’s* a Myth! Myths are valuable! Myths are beautiful! Myths are one of the oldest ways humanity has to try to understand the broader world. Myths attempt to reconcile connections between natural phenomena and/or human agency that were not understandable.

    I love the Genesis narrative; it’s an important part of my faith tradition. But not because it’s a literal bit of fact, because it quite obviously isn’t. It was, like all Myth, an attempt to communicate something understood as true but which didn’t have an immanent, apparent cause. For Christians, the Genesis narrative is not meant to literally explain the origin of the universe, it’s meant to teach valuable parts of Christian understanding. A lot of modern theologians, especially those calling for Christian ecological stewardship, look to the Genesis narrative to provide a clear Biblical understanding of why nature is valuable and needs to be protected and sustained.

    Not that they replace scientific, social, and cultural reasons with religious ones. Instead, the Genesis narrative adds its vision to the whole and, for many Christians, brings the whole to a new level.

    I despise Creationism, but I absolutely love the Genesis creation narrative. Good times, good times.

  80. Brian Too

    12. Martha,

    Re: “If creationism is given equal time in science class then in biology class we should give equal time to the theory that storks deliver babies.”

    Might I humbly suggest that merely perpetuates the watering-down of the science curriculum? Better that evolution be taught in religion class. You know, so as to teach the “controversy” on how maybe God isn’t responsible for all those religions and miracles.

    Not that I expect this suggestion will get anywhere with the religious. Their priority is to get Christianity into the science classroom. So if they insist upon equal time, we must give it to them. But logically, if we give them religion time in science, we must in return insist upon science time in religion, no?

    Oh wait. It would be simpler (and less confusing to the poor students) to keep science and religion separate. Well that’s what I wanted in the first place!

  81. TheBlackCat

    That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I take issue with Phil’s prejudice and bias against people who think and believe differently than he does, and his attempts to color and misconstrue their viewpoints by focusing on the fringe or on the viewpoints he doesn’t like, instead of the parts that warrant consideration.

    People who claim the Genesis creation story is an accurate account of anything are wrong. Not just wrong, this opinion contradicts pretty much everything we know about the universe. Not one sentence of the story warrants any consideration, it was shown to be totally and completely garbage over a century ago.

    And again, appealing to the First Amendment every time a whiff of something spiritual wafts into smelling distance of a school is absurd and annoying. It’s meaningless. I’m tired of it.

    Good thing that isn’t what is happening (despite what religious opponents of the first amendment like to claim). But it is perfectly legitimate to invoke the first amendment when a particular religious group attempts to get their own beliefs established as the official beliefs supported by the government (which is what teaching creationism in public schools would be). In fact, preventing specific religious beliefs from being established as the official beliefs of the government is the whole point of the establishment clause.

    Again, the point I’m making is that this is not a First Amendment issue. This is an issue of teaching children generally accepted scientific fact and theory. If Creationism has no legitimate scientific backing then it should not be taught in schools under anything resembling the guise of fact, or science. It’s not about religion. It’s totally disingenuous to make this about religion (and specifically target Christianity) when the implications are much wider than this petty and immature sniping at people whose moral code and authority disagrees with your own.

    Of course it is about religion. The only people who want to teach creationism as fact are religious people, and they want it taught for religious reasons. How could that be taken as anything other than a religious issue?

    And yes, individual teachers teaching creationism in public school is most certainly a violation of the first amendment. As representatives of the government acting in their official capacity, what they teach has the weight of the government behind it. Therefore, teaching a specific religious ideology as fact is establishing that religion as the one backed by the government.

    Religion gives corrupt individuals an excuse to corrupt innocents(pedophile priests) and assault anyone whose behavior is at odds with their teaching.
    I’m sorry you feel that you must classify all religion as an excuse to corrupt innocent people, and all people who adhere to a religion as corrupters and evildoers based on your own unfortunate experiences. I may not agree with your broad strokes, but they are yours to make.

    WHAT!? This isn’t even remotely similar to what he said. Please stop putting words in peoples’ mouths.

    Hey, congratulations, you can misconstrue and take out of context as well as anyone else here. Great.

    Not as well as you, it would seem. And you didn’t actually point out how what he said was wrong, I interpret your statement the same way he did.

    You don’t know what parts are symbolic and which parts are literal. Sure, there are parts that are clearly fictional or symbolic, like talking snakes, but there are places where the line is difficult or impossible to draw.

    If we can’t tell what is true and what is not, then what good is it? Are the rules for getting into heaven meant to be real or symbolic? What about heaven itself? Was Jesus’s life just a symbolic tale? If you can’t tell what is real and what is symbolic, and if you can’t tell what the symbolism actually means, then you can’t draw any conclusions of any kind whatsoever. You might as well just be reading a blank book, nothing in the book has any relevance to anything.

    Do you know where the line is drawn across the entirety of the Genesis story? For a fact? I was saying that Phil’s tossing of the entire biblical creation into the “antireality” bin is wrong. What part of that are you arguing against, exactly?

    It is simple: everything in the biblical creation story (both of them) goes against pretty much everything we know about the universe. This includes everything through the flood and a bunch of stuff after that. It may be symbolism, but that doesn’t change content still contradicts the facts (although, strangely, treating it as symbolism only seemed to become popular once it was shown to be false in its content).

    What you call fictional some may call symbolic. What is symbolic may contain truth in symbolism.

    “Truth in symbolism” is still fiction in terms of the actual content.

    Regardless, you’re picking out specific examples. I’m talking about the story as a whole. And if you want to expand the story further to Noah and beyond, an insistence on the bible’s tales being entirely fictional grows increasingly less rational.

    Where did he claim that the “the bible’s tales being entirely fictional”? On the contrary, he repeatedly stated that some of the Bible’s stories were probably mostly true.

    So you seem to be missing my point. I’m telling you that you can’t draw a clear line between all that could be “fictional” (as you say) and could be factual and claim the bible’s creation story is “antireality,” and you’re sitting here reinforcing my point while trying to argue against it. I don’t really understand.

    He is claiming one specific story is antireality, not the whole thing. And that part is antireality when treated as an accurate account of real events (which it is by a huge number of Americans).

  82. Darth Robo

    I’m sorry, but did someone attempt to claim that Creationism wasn’t religion??

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