creationism

CARL SAGAN FOR REDNECKS

This came via infiniteregress on twitter who I concur with when he says…

“I’m not the biggest Family Guy fan, but this was inspired”

(There is something below the video as well)

This is not as frivolous as it might seem. There have been many allegations that certain nature documentaries have been altered to remove references to evolution and so on. A few years ago Martin Wisse pointed out that that Dutch Evangelical TV had been editing Attenborough programmes to remove all references to evolution. The links for 3 videos [in English] demonstrating the editing were HERE, HERE and HEREbut have since been removed.

THE BIG ONES – MY UNABASHED POST

Where are we? – A question that has been ever more accurately answered by a long stretch of people from Aristarchus of Samos to Edwin Hubble and many many before, between and after. Suffice to say we have a very good idea now.

Who are we and what are we? – I would posit that both of these have been satisfactorily answered by Darwin but not in the sense that many people who seek to misrepresent Darwin for right-wing political ends would suggest. Let us not forget that one of the reasons that Darwin got time to study  his science more was that he fell out with the ship’s captain (whom he was employed to talk to…he wasn’t employed to be ship’s naturalist) because the captain agreed with slavery and Darwin vehemently did not.

How are we and/or how should we be? – This one is the province of the philosophers ie all of us.

Why are we? – Probably unanswerable question.

When are we? – This has also been convincingly answered. Look it up yourself – you have the time.

And today we got a lot closer to another one…

Are we alone? – I know that this is not a definitive answer but the odds just changed considerably. It is possible that over time this will become one of the biggest stories in history. If it isn’t this one, there is a high possibility it will be another one… and soon.

Check it out. I am completely unashamed to say that the fact we are attaining such a level of understanding is one of the great things about being alive in this time. The tragedy, as it has been pointed out before, is that just as we are on the point of getting it we are also on the point of fucking our little corner of it up beyond repair.

Here is what won’t help…

THERE ARE NONE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO WILL NOT SEE

I always thought the title of this article was biblical in origin but it turns out it isn’t….my creation theory must have been wrong.

Speaking of that, if you want to take a literally fantastical tour through some of the most specious reasoning and bizarre horsesh*t you are ever likely to find then take a photo tour through the creationist museum.

I have added a photo below just to give a flavour of it. Believe me, it gets worse….

GIVE ME 5 MINUTES WITH DAWKINS

Give me 5 minutes with Richard Dawkins.

He did an interview recently on BBC. The 5 minute interview thing with the person who does it [don’t know his name and don’t care] was utterly banal.

Give me 5 minutes with him.

I guarantee you would have an interesting interview.

I actually like a lot of what he says. I am also an atheist.

However, I made a mistake, which we all do, because it is only human. I made a mistake by saying I liked what Sam Harris says.

I said that because I had only watched 2 hours of him. Further investigation uncovered some pleasant facts.

Sam Harris is alluring and many of the things he says are correct. But, Harris also quotes Alan Dershowitz and quoting Alan Dershowitz basically should exclude you from credibility.

I think Dawkins has a lot of things spot on about the history of evolution [genetic and human falsification]. And obviously although this is a reasonably popular website he is obviously hugely well-known and I am not.

But he hangs out with the wrong people. Basically apologists for mass murder [Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens].

But I want to challenge his supposed humanistic convictions.

He has made statements against Iraq etc but only in the paradigm of ‘it’s all religious madness’. I can see why he would bang that particular drum given the point he wants to prove but I don’t see any genuine humanistic convictions in that kind of behaviour.

I have written many articles condemning religion, easily found on this site.

Give me the five minutes with him.

I guarantee it wouldn’t be boring.

This is the second time I have asked him to have a word with me. I haven’t emailed him this one yet but he got the first one.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Like a lot of people, especially in Britain, I grew up watching David Attenborough programmes. I still watch them all the time as they are far and away the best of their kind and I can’t stand most other kinds of TV programme.

Attenborough is a very well-loved figure in Britain. The strange thing is that he has recently been becoming controversial.

Originally, many of the climate change activists were angry that Attenborough wasn’t saying much about the problem.

Then he made a documentary called ‘The Truth about Climate Change’ of which this is an excerpt with some commentary…

I also noticed a great post or two at Wis[s]e Words where he shows that Dutch Evangelical TV had been editing his programmes to remove all references to evolution. The links for 3 videos [in English] demonstrating the editing are HERE, HERE and HERE

Also…

In January 2009, Sir David revealed that he had received hate mail from viewers for not crediting God in his nature programmes.

The most recent documentary , ‘Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life’ might not have helped him in those circles.

However his most recent pronouncement may be causing outrage from the very same people as he has started to talk about human overpopulation.

He has become the patron of the ‘Optimum Population Trust’ which is a group that accuses both governments and greens of having a taboo on the subject of human population.

As the BBC article says…

In a statement issued by the Optimum Population Trust he is quoted as saying: “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more.”

The Trust, which was founded in 1991, campaigns for the UK population to decrease voluntarily by not less than 0.25% a year.

It has launched a “Stop at Two” online pledge to encourage couples to limit their family’s size.

Overpopulation is the elephant in the room.

So more power to David – even if I suspect he would find my ideas a little to the left of his.

THE UNPROFESSIONAL INTERVIEWS COME HOME – Part 1 EDWARD CURRENT

I have waited an appropriate amount of time and therefore just want to make the first couple of  interviews I did available on this site too.

So it is copy and paste time as I bring you …Edward Current.

Inspired by something that was said in a review of my book at Nepal about THIS interview with a Maoist Guerilla, I decided to conduct a series of interviews with people whose work I respect.

Subsequently a couple of writer/journalists, one comedian and one musician have answered already and there is more to come.

The questions will be an odd mix as the line I was inspired by in the review was that I asked “the one question that a truly professional journalist would never have asked.” Therefore for the most part I will try to ask questions that wouldn’t normally be asked. Some of them will be serious, others not so.

The first in the series is Edward Current.

Edward Current is probably the funniest thing I have seen on the internet. I found one of his videos with a random search and then sat and watched all of them in one sitting, and I obviously now check frequently for the latest ones.

With the number of people that have seen his videos now into the millions it appears I am not the only person who is doing this.

The videos parody some of the thinking of the religious right and takes the ideas to their ‘logical’ conclusion.

Not only are they hilarious but the reaction to the videos is almost equally funny as many people seem to be outraged by them because they don’t realise he is joking. Even better, many of those who do realise he is joking are outraged too.

So I decided to email him and see if he would be the first in my series ‘The Unprofessional Interviews’.

Thankfully he said yes and here is what he had to say for himself…

What was the ‘genesis’ of the character you play in most of your videos?

A few years ago, Huffingtonpost.com started a competition called the Contagious Festival, in which readers were invited to make videos and other Web presentations that would hopefully catch on and go viral. There were two cash awards each month — one for the video with the most viewers, and another selected by Arianna Huffington and a panel of judges. I won twice — first for a cartoon called “The Democrats Get Balls,” in which I depicted Barack Obama being elected the next U.S. President — that was in March 2006. You can Google it; it’s still on the site.

The second was for “The Atheist Delusion.” I had just finished reading Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation” and thought I’d explore that area. On a message-board discussion somewhere, I saw a creationist calling a normal person “deluded” and concluding the comment with “checkmate!” The irony was so maddening to me, I worked it into the video.

After the Contagious Festival was discontinued, I put “The Atheist Delusion” on YouTube, where I had posted a couple of music videos. People liked my comedy a lot better, though. So I made a few more, using the same character, and started to build an audience. Now I’m kind of stuck with the character, but it looks like I kind of have a niche. And “checkmate!” has become my catch phrase.

Along with your videos the comments are quite funny too. From outraged Christians to outraged atheists a lot of people don’t seem to get it. Why do so many people take what you are doing at face value?

It’s “Poe’s Law” — you can’t make a parody of something that’s already ridiculous without people believing that it’s real. Plus, my technique is to take things that some Christians might actually say, but expose the ridiculousness of the statements merely by juxtaposing them or providing a certain context. So I’m not really exaggerating the other side’s claims all that much, at least on some of my videos. It’s more subtle than most satires.

Why do you think there has been such an extraordinary growth in Christian Fundamentalism in the USA?

I see it as a positive feedback loop. America has been getting dumber, less rigorous intellectually with a diminishing emphasis on critical thinking and debate. Meanwhile, as things get more decadent and socially liberal, those who are inclined against such trends want to push back harder. It’s all about people wanting simple, quick, easy answers to the biggest questions. Americans today want to be spoon-fed. They don’t want to bother thinking for themselves, so increasingly they just believe what they’re told — in church every Sunday. It’s the mentality of, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

What do you think is the scariest thing about these people?

Home-schooling and the loss of grounding in science. Even in public schools it’s scary. Science and technology are our future. Without that foundation in our young people, without getting young people excited about science and innovation, the U.S. cannot continue to be competitive as a nation on the world stage in this century.

What contacts with these people have you had?

I’ve had a few conversations online, but I’m lucky not to live in an area where the first thing people ask is, “What church do you go to?” Along the way, though, I’ve picked up an idea of how they think and the arguments they use, which is useful to me. And of course I acknowledge that not all Christians, even fundamentalists, believe the things my character says — but some do, so those are the ones I’m going after.

What do you think about Obama professing his Christianity time and again during the campaign? And if there was an element of pragmatism to him doing that, what does that say about political processes in America?

He’s a smart guy and I don’t know what really goes on in his head, but I see it as largely pragmatic. At least I hope so. He’s trying to be inclusive and bring people together. As much as I’d love for him to say, “Don’t bother praying for the economy,” that isn’t going to get us anywhere, really. Of course, I was thrilled that he mentioned nonbelievers in his inaugural speech. That was a huge leap forward for my people — to actually be recognized. I think the last time a president talked about nonbelievers was when George Bush Sr. asserted that they shouldn’t be considered U.S. citizens.

On “The Daily Show” recently, a guest was asked to order groups of people in terms of when a member would reach the White House — blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, atheists, gays, the disabled. He put atheist last. We have a long way to go.

Who do you find funny?

My favorite comedian is Bill Maher. I’ve seen almost every episode of “Politically Incorrect” or “Real Time” since the mid-1990s. I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour than watching his standup act. Stephen Colbert is another huge favorite; when I tape my videos I have to make a concerted effort not to copy his delivery. Demitiri Martin, who has a new show on Comedy Central, is hilarious. (“I don’t think diving is a real sport. It’s pretty much just showing off while you fall.”) Other favorites include Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Norm Macdonald, Chris Rock, David Cross, Louis C.K., and Dave Attell.

Have you ever played the character in public?

No. I don’t know if I could pull it off, because I don’t have any improv experience. My videos are heavily scripted. I do want to try my hand at standup comedy, but that won’t be in character.

You occasionally have special effects and quite sophisticated editing. Is it all self-financed?

I’ve been self-employed since 2003, and one of my gigs is video production and animation for a major phone company. If you’ve been to a concert and seen videos promoting music-related phone features on monitors along the concourse, I might have produced them. I’ve gotten pretty good at Adobe After Effects, which certainly comes in handy for Edward Current the comedian.

For running this website I have had a lot of hate mail including one person who seems to think that a flying squirrel will one day murder me. Given the nature of what you do, do you get some bizarre emails? Any funny ones?

I don’t know if this counts, but in a recent video I brought up alternative 9/11 conspiracy theories, and that got kind of interesting. There’s a little bit of paranoia there. I learned that the more moderate “Truthers” (the ones who merely believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by explosives) think that the more radical ones (those who believe the jets were fake and/or remote-controlled) are crazy. Who’d have thought? The moderate ones think the radical ones are “agents provocateur” who are hired by the conspiring agencies to make the whole movement look crazy. It’s crazy.

Aside from that, I don’t get a lot of bizarre stuff. Typically it’s just: “I’ll pray for you,” “Why are you so hateful,” “You’ll find out about Hell someday.” Christians tend to be pretty polite, even if they’re angered. Atheists — the ones who don’t get the joke — can be extremely rude and abusive. I’ve gotten numerous (not serious) death threats from atheists, but maybe just one or two creepy messages from Christians. (“You *will* stop making your videos very soon, trust me.”)

Looking from outside it often seems like the USA is a loony bin. Is it?

No, it’s a bin with a diverse mixture of people. The loonies are only the ones you hear the loudest. Actually, I take that back. It’s kind of a loony bin.

What question would you ask yourself?

One question I ask myself sometimes is, what’s my motivation to make all these videos? Some people see me as obsessed — I have a fixation, I cannot let this topic go, why don’t I explore some other areas for comedy, clearly I secretly believe in God and am going through all of this effort to make myself feel better. Well, maybe, but I don’t think so. All my life as a musician I’ve been searching in vain for an audience. Suddenly I’ve found one — as a comedian. And I seem to have a “bit” that people enjoy. I tried a few political things before the election, but they weren’t received as well, so I went back to religion. Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy have made great careers out of being one character, so maybe it’s the way for me to go.

Eddie’s youtube videos are here and his Myspace is here.


INHERIT THE WIND

If you haven’t seen this film then it is definitely worth a look. I am not talking about the remake, which I haven’t seen but rather the original film from 1960.

It is a thinly disguised fiction of the John Scopes trial in Tenessee in 1925. Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution in public schools.

Spencer Tracy plays the lawyer defending him and is excellent in the role. The character of the journalist is based on H.L. Mencken and despite the melodrama it is a powerful film.

Oh, and the title of the film comes from the book of proverbs “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”

UNLANDED GENTRY

I do enjoy a good fantasy story sometimes.

Therefore, if I am a little bored, I occasionally watch creationist videos.

The main character in the video below, Robert V. Gentry, has been published many times in respectable journals.

Those journals of course, lost a fair amount of respect in many peoples eyes for actually publishing him.

Nevertheless, I am sure you will find these discredited claims amusing.

There were 651 comments on this video and I looked through quite a number of them. The usual amount of bile and nonsense is there.

What I really did find ‘awesome’ is that in the 200 hundred or so I read absolutely no one mentioned how much it seems like they are reading from idiot boards just to the cameraman’s left or right…later in the video the son at least  starts off with gusto, he seems to have memorised the first bit but doesn’t make it to the end.

Bizarrely, the video as posted on youtube is called “Evolution is false! Carl Sagan agrees” even though he is not mentioned at any point and had these things to say…

If we long for our planet to be important, there is something we can do about it. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.

A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.

What I’m saying is, if God wanted to send us a message, and ancient writings were the only way he could think of doing it, he could have done a better job.

You see, the religious people — most of them — really think this planet is an experiment. That’s what their beliefs come down to. Some god or other is always fixing and poking, messing around with tradesmen’s wives, giving tablets on mountains, commanding you to mutilate your children, telling people what words they can say and what words they can’t say, making people feel guilty about enjoying themselves, and like that. Why can’t the gods leave well enough alone? All this intervention speaks of incompetence. If God didn’t want Lot’s wife to look back, why didn’t he make her obedient, so she’d do what her husband told her? Or if he hadn’t made Lot such a shithead, maybe she would’ve listened to him more. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn’t he start the universe out in the first place so it would come out the way he wants? Why’s he constantly repairing and complaining? No, there’s one thing the Bible makes clear: The biblical God is a sloppy manufacturer. He’s not good at design, he’s not good at execution. He’d be out of business if there was any competition.

and most importantly…

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.