Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Evilutionists Thwarted by Nessie?

"We don't hold evolution sacred. We defend it because it is evidently true." - AronRa

Highly accurate artist's representation of the Loch Ness Monster

In January, I got good and riled up when a gang of legislators attempted to undercut education in my home state by allowing school corporations to make the teaching of science in science classrooms optional. That attempt was thankfully batted down for the time being, though American politics being what they are, it could certainly pop up again in a future legislative session.

Of course, the efforts of the national movement of well-heeled Young Earth Creationists have kept trucking along. I recently mocked Ken Ham's new billboard campaign, which uses bold and colorful cartoon depictions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals to lure families to his Creation Museum in Kentucky. Now we have reports of a textbook soon to be placed in the hands of American schoolchildren which - in an apparent effort to set a new world record for simultaneous facepalms - claims that the Loch Ness Monster falsifies evolution. As quoted in the Scotsman newspaper, the Biology 1099 textbook put out by Accelerated Christian Education* sez:
Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.
This from a supposed biology textbook. The writers of a real biology text would know that:
  1. Plesiosaurs, while being extinct Mesozoic animals, aren't dinosaurs. This might be splitting hairs if this wasn't supposed to be a fricking biology textbook.
  2. Eyewitness accounts and sonar "sightings" hardly make compelling scientific evidence.
  3. Birds are the living descendants of dinosaurs, which makes a heck of a lot more sense to be in a biology textbook than cryptozoology.
Creationists like to pretend that evolution is just one view among many - the threadbare "just a theory" trope. It's the equivalent of saying that adding two and two to get four is a mere matter of opinion, so our schools should have the academic freedom of teaching different ideas about math. Science classrooms must remain free of the anti-scientific agenda of creationism, in all of its forms.

But what to do when that science classroom is in a private religious school? This ACE textbook will be used to teach students who attend private schools thanks to funding from Louisiana's new school voucher program. Bruce Wilson wrote a terrific article on this issue at AlterNet:
This 2012-2013 school year, thanks to a bill pushed through by governor Bobby Jindal, thousands of students in Louisiana will receive state voucher money, transferred from public school funding, to attend private religious schools, some of which teach from a Christian curriculum that suggests the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution and states that the alleged creature, which has never been demonstrated to even exist, has been tracked by submarine and is probably a plesiosaur.
The children going to the schools which use this blatantly unscientific science textbook are having their miseducation paid for by money taken out of funds allotted for the public school system. This is a backdoor way to provide state funding for what is clearly a dogmatic religious education.

We need solid science education, free of the influence of any religion, desperately. I consider science to be a bridge between cultures, languages, and, yes, religions. A way to investigate the world and arrive at common ground on how it works. Young Earth Creationism is directly opposed to that goal, and unfortunately it isn't a view held by a vocal minority. It's nearly half of the US population.

Graph by Gallup

We've got so much work to do.

*For more on ACE, be sure to read Johnny Scaramanga's blog Leaving Fundamentalism.


  1. @David Orr

    "We've got so much work to do."

    Look on the bright side: The creationist % has decreased since 1982 while the w/out God % has increased & the w/God % has been more-or-less stable.

    1. The gains seem so fragile and so slow... I hope that the trends continue, but in coming decades I eant those lines to get a lot steeper.

  2. I've actually done a lot of research into the Loch Ness Monsters and other lake and sea monsters and come to the conclusion that at least some are probably real. Anyone interested should read Tim Dinsdale's books on the subject.

    Unfortunately, the fact that Nessie is being used for this Creationist idiocy doesn't help us folks who are trying to do good, scientific research on the subject. The thing that also kills me is that some creationists are also looking for living dinosaurs in Africa as proof that evolution is a lie. What they fail to comprehend is that, if they DID find a dinosaur (which I doubt they will; the reports seem to describe a large monitor lizard) it wouldn't prove that Earth was 6,000 years old, but instead simply show that there are non-avian dinosaurs alive today. Not that I think there are.

    The problem with these people is that they are idiots. And unfortunately half the country believes what they say. It's tragic.

    Best regards,
    Tyler Stone

    1. "The problem with these people is that they are idiots."

      Not necessarily: At least some of them could be crazy or just plain evil.

  3. But Dave...I'm forever reading articles written by lazy journalists that say that (real, extinct) plesiosaurs resembled Nessie...so it must be real, right? ;)

  4. I wish Donald R. Prothero followed this blog. His forthcoming book, "Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, will blow the alleged Scottish marine reptile out of the water permanently.

    1. You say that, but people are extremely good at sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting "LA LA LA CRYPTIDS". I mean, the whole Loch Ness Monster premise is very, very silly anyway, and there's no evidence for its existence at all.

    2. No actually, some cryptids DO have good evidence to back them up. Orang Pendek from Sumatra, for example, is known from footprints and some hairs which came back as an unknown species of primate. Even Loch Ness has a few sightings which cannot be explained; again, I would suggest reading any books by Tim Dinsdale or "The Monsters of Loch Ness" by Roy Mackal. They need not necessarily be plesiosaurs, they could be large eels or sturgeon.

      True, people who consider every bump in the night to be a cryptid are not doing good research. But then again, dismissing cryptid sightings as out of hand without any research is just as bad.

      My philosophy is that we should always research these sightings. If these are new animals, we should learn as much as we can about them and set up legal protection for them. If they're imaginary, then we should try to figure out what is happening psychologically that makes people think they're seeing a monster.

      Just my two cents.

      Best regards,
      Tyler Stone

    3. I only meant to refer to the Loch Ness Monster really.

    4. "His forthcoming book, "Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, will blow the alleged Scottish marine reptile out of the water permanently."

      To be fair, Sampson already has (See the following quote).

      Quoting Sampson ( http://www.amazon.com/Dinosaur-Odyssey-Fossil-Threads-Life/dp/0520269896/ref=la_B0028OI7XS_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341439158&sr=1-1 ): "This relationship between body size and range size explains why Loch Ness monsters, sasquatches, and yetis are so incredibly improbable. Obviously, a lone serpent (“Nessy”) is effectively a dead serpent, since it cannot reproduce. Yet even a family or group of serpents is doomed by low numbers. Survival over deep time minimally requires thousands of animals alive at any given moment. So, while the idea of a small, relict population of prehistoric serpents persisting for countless millennia in a remote Scottish loch makes for wonderful stories ( and attracts tourist dollars), it makes no sense from an ecoevolutionary perspective and underlines the myopic view of deep time still held by most of us. Die-hard believers might counter by invoking the lottery defense; that is, we just happen to be alive to witness (through occasional, fleeting glimpses caught on film only as dark, misshapen blurs) the very last descendant of a Mesozoic plesiosaur, today known as the Loch Ness monster. After all, some animal has to be last. Maybe, but the odds of this being the case, given the lack of representative fossils for the past 65 million years and the major faunal turnovers that have occurred in the marine realm since the dinosaur extinction, seem astronomically remote at best."

  5. My response when asked a question like that about "God" is to say "Which god? There are thousands".

    It always smacks of massive hubris to me, when monotheistic religious people deprecate other religions by referring to them as mythologies. I also have trouble understanding how they can be so sure that the religion that they have chosen is the "correct" one and that all the others are wrong, when that is exactly what all of the others think, too. They can't all be right.

    You'd think that the less educated that someone is, the more likely that they will believe rubbish would be a big clue but, of course, it's only the sufficiently educated people who can see that.

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  7. YEC's may be nearly half the US population, but theistic evolution is going to outpace them soon if those trends in the graph are accurate. Plus this is just the US, if you take a world sample TE's probably outnumber YEC's ten to one.


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