Apparently, I’m infamous. From yesterday’s Ames Tribune (below the fold):

Challenging the gang of three

The Evolution Academic Freedom Act HF 183 introduced Feb. 3 by Rod Roberts (R-Carroll) has come under attack by the infamous gang of three, namely Hector Avalos, of Iowa State University; and James W. Demostes and Tara C. Smith, of the University of Iowa.

HF 183 states that college and high school teachers often suffer discrimination or punishment for questioning evolution. The gang of three, who are godless atheists, want to push their agenda on the teachers and students at our schools and universities.

Robert Crowther Jr., of the Discovery Institute, said, we simply want educators to be free to teach the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific theories involved in evolution.

We asked Avalos if the Big Bang theory would give way to some other theory in the future, and he said there’s no doubt about it. This is hard to believe.

We hire atheists to teach our children things that are outright lies, and these atheists dare to call it science.

Imagine if you can an explosion so big that it created the entire universe. Ask the gang of three where the material came from that caused the explosion. They don’t know.

Ask them why the earth is in the exact right orbit to sustain life and where did life come from. They don’t know.

Since the gang of three has no answer as to how life began, then what gives them the right to prevent other people from expressing their opinion?

Ask a Bible-believing Christian how the universe began. He will say in the beginning God created the heaven and earth. Here is a challenge for the gang of three. Let them write a letter to the editor and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the universe and all life evolved out of nothing.

Sam and Darlene Erickson

McCallsburg

First, the “gang of three” aren’t all “godless atheists,” not that our religious beliefs (or lack thereof) should make a difference. (And couldn’t they come up with a better name?)

Second, the only “agenda” here is the teaching of good science.

Third, the Avalos quote is pulled out of thin air.

Fourth, again with the atheists–plenty of religious individuals accept science (I’m sure the Ericksons have been introduced to the Clergy Letter Project as this is not the first time this issue has come up; too bad they didn’t attend our symposium a few years back held at Wartburg, a Lutheran college here in Iowa.

Fifth, more fallacies. Big bang =/= biological evolution. Abiogenesis =/= biological evolution. Of course, you see these thrown in all the time by creationists trying to “disprove” evolution, because evolution is much more straightforward to observe and document than the creation of the universe or the beginning of life.

Finally, of course, no one is trying to “prevent other people from expressing their opinion.” However, there is a time and a place for certain opinions, especially those involving religious belief. The Ericksons are certainly free to express their opinions in their home, in their church, in their newspaper–but they are not free to try to present their religious opinions in schools as science. This should not be a difficult concept to understand, but unfortunately some groups of people still believe that the rules are for everyone else but them.

Comments

  1. #1 MikeMa
    March 25, 2009

    Tara,
    Famous indeed!

    The Erikson’s certainty is one of those flags heralding non-scientific training or understanding. Most scientists hem and haw because rarely is anything 100% certain in science.

    That said, evolution is a concept so thoroughly tested and studied that referring to it as unproved or theoretical in the non-scientific sense is ludicrous.

  2. #2 Dennis
    March 25, 2009

    I assume all you godless atheists are faculty members at your university’s Department of Redundancy Department, no?

  3. #3 D
    March 25, 2009

    Isn’t godless atheist redundant? Is there a godfull atheist or a godless Theist?

    Like the Pope (or at least the previous one)I go to church and believe in evolution. In fact, I think a priest first proposed the big bang. I believe that they qualify as Bible believing Christians.

    D

  4. #4 Wes
    March 25, 2009

    Imagine if you can an explosion so big that it created the entire universe. Ask the gang of three where the material came from that caused the explosion. They don’t know.

    Ask them why the earth is in the exact right orbit to sustain life and where did life come from. They don’t know.

    It would be hard to find a better example to show how an inability to formulate one’s questions critically and intelligently blinds one to the answer from the outset.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ericksons have had it explained to them a dozen times that the Big Bang is not an “explosion”, and that if the Earth weren’t in “the exact right orbit to sustain life” there just wouldn’t be any life on Earth (just like there isn’t any life on Venus or Mercury). Neither requires any kind of supernatural explanation.

    Of course scientists don’t have answers to questions which are misinformed to begin with. It’s like asking, “What’s the square root of banana?” The lack of an answer to that question reveals more about the questioner than it does about anyone else.

    But these people want their completely ignorant views, which are on full display in this letter, to be given equal time with real science in public school classrooms. It’s depressing.

  5. #5 Heraclides
    March 25, 2009

    Fifth, more fallacies. Big bang =/= biological evolution. Abiogenesis =/= biological evolution. Of course, you see these thrown in all the time by creationists trying to “disprove” evolution, because evolution is much more straightforward to observe and document than the creation of the universe or the beginning of life.

    Also, they are doing the “usual” conflating of “that” with “how”. That the Big Bang occurred vs. how it occurred. Ditto for abiogenesis and evolution. You can determine that something occurred even if you don’t know precisely how.

  6. #6 Jeff Knapp
    March 25, 2009

    Ooooh! Can I touch your hand now – now that you are so famous?

    I love how these creationists seem to want to demonize us “Evil, Atheist, Evolutionists – as if being an atheist is inherently a BAD thing to be. I guess I’ll go put on my dragon horns and dagger teeth now…

  7. #7 Jim Demastes
    March 25, 2009

    I wish they would get it right, it’s AGNOSTIC and Demastes with an “A”! I just hate being attacked inaccurately!

  8. #8 Sarah
    March 26, 2009

    I tried to contact you through aetiology at gmail dot com but it is not being recognized. I have a question for you – is there a better way to reach you? Thanks, Sarah

  9. #9 bug_girl
    March 26, 2009

    Wow. Just…wow.

  10. #10 TomJoe
    March 26, 2009

    D said: Like the Pope (or at least the previous one)I go to church and believe in evolution. In fact, I think a priest first proposed the big bang. I believe that they qualify as Bible believing Christians.

    Sadly, when dealing with Fundamentalists … that’s not always the case. When it’s convenient, sure … but more often than not, Catholics are idolaters and pagans … as well as alcoholic pedophiles.

  11. #11 Knurl
    March 26, 2009

    I found their misinformed racket to be a little disturbing – until I went the The Tribune and read the comments. They ended up with a pretty sound thrashing.

    My favorite (with original typos):

    “Actually, it’s a gang over over a thousand, but only if you cut the list down to scientists named Stave.

    http://ncseweb.org/taking-action/project-steve

    You’re moving in the right direction Tara. Please keep going.

  12. #12 Poodle Stomper
    March 27, 2009

    “The Gang of Three”. Hmm sounds like a B Western Movie.

    “Ask the gang of three where the material came from that caused the explosion. They don’t know.”

    Sheesh Tara! You mean you DON’T have a degree in quantum astro-big bang-physics (or whatever applies to this, I sure as hell don’t). This is yet another example of the oh-so familiar “we don’t understand, thus it cannot be” argument.

    I don’t care if people are religious (to each their own providing they don’t go around killing over it) but science belongs in the science classroom and religion belongs in theology classes. If the best arguments they can come up with are “we don’t know why the earth is in just the right orbit” then they have just achieved academic FAIL.

  13. #13 maryn
    March 27, 2009

    I’m sure it’s exasperating, and possibly even hurtful. But does it help to consider it a badge of honor?

  14. #14 Thoracantha
    March 27, 2009

    “Gang of three” doesn’t sound that intimidating, until you realize that it’s three times as powerful as the “Army of One.” Which should mean that you can easily beat up the army. If so, then why not nip the problem in the bud, and have a coup? I’m sure that a bunch of scientist that are 300% stronger than the US army would have no problem taking over Iowa. No anti-science legislation could pass through your iron-fist rule.

  15. #15 Ace of Sevens
    March 28, 2009

    I understand infamy looks good on your resume, especially if you go work for Blofeld or something. There’s a guy who woudl have use for an expert on epidemics.

  16. #16 Heraclides
    March 31, 2009

    [off-topic]

    Tara, this might be up your alley:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2009/03/nathan_wolfe_hunting_the_next.php

    “Nathan Wolfe: Hunting the next killer virus”

  17. #18 Mu
    April 2, 2009

    Well, the author lists the study in his linked “recent publication” list, unlike they made up the author too it’s at least published and not a prank.

  18. #19 boomer0127
    April 2, 2009

    maybe I should get rid of all my LP’s before my kids find them…

  19. #20 Ann
    April 3, 2009

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Ann

    http://largepet.info

  20. #21 Mu
    April 3, 2009

    boomer, no need to get rid of LPs. The usual suspect in things related to PVC and health scares are the softeners. Which are usually NOT added to records, otherwise they would be floppies.

  21. #22 boomer0127
    April 3, 2009

    SOrry, I was trying to be funny. Now that you mention it, I thought it was the bisphenols that were the problem, and they were involved in the hard plastics (recycle #7)?

  22. #23 Fifi
    April 3, 2009

    Good to see “Christians” keeping an open mind and fighting the good fight while calling you names. Just once, cannot one of them have an intelligent debate???

  23. #24 Dave S.
    April 11, 2009

    Ask a Bible-believing Christian how the universe began. He will say in the beginning God created the heaven and earth.

    How? When? By what mechanism? And do show all the evidence, and make testable hypotheses.

    Surely ‘God-did-it’ is not the ENTIRE answer?

    Here is a challenge for the gang of three. Let them write a letter to the editor and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the universe and all life evolved out of nothing.

    Why should they do that since that is not the scientific model for either the universe or life?

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Let alone several.

  24. #25 Fred
    April 12, 2009

    Dr. Smith,

    I know this is off topic but after sending a couple of emails with no apparent success I will try this way.

    The website that you link to in your biographical information (Iowa Citizens for Science) has been very severely hacked by link spammers.

    If you go to that site with javascript turned off numerous links show up above the header graphic (at least in Firefox with NoScript).

    A look at the front page source code also shows a huge number of links that are hidden by a “display=none” style.

    This has contaminated the entire site as every page has this junk injected into it.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but whomever has access to the server (I’m hoping you know who that individual is) needs to pull that website offline and do some major upgrades and cleanup before putting it back online.

    Fred

  25. #26 Snout
    April 14, 2009

    Just for a bit of perspective, I went to a Christian secondary school in Australia in the 1970s. I never even heard of creatonism until well after I left school and encountered US “missionaries” trying to set us Aussie heathen straight at my university – the idea that the bible stories from Genesis should be read as scientific or historical accounts would have been utterly bizarre to the the people who taught history and science (and literature) in my school, even though many of them were deeply observant Christians.

    It’s very strange to come onto the net and realise that there is a bunch of folks in the world who have a completely different worldview, and apparently have no insight into the fact that such a worldview has no serious support outside of their own geographically and temporally isolated social networks. The US is a deeply weird place.

  26. #27 Jae Kim
    April 14, 2009

    I’m in the process of starting a social experiment via the web, and am in need of someone that can write really well. The details of the project is laid out on my website at http://www.accreation.org. I’m looking for someone that can edit the content in a more easily understandable format. Please visit the site, and contact me if you or someone you know might be interested in participating in the project. Thank you.

    PS. This is NOT a paid position; I’m looking for like minded individuals who are interested in making this prjoect become a success. Thank you.

  27. #28 Matt
    April 15, 2009

    My favorite line was

    “We hire atheists to teach our children things that are outright lies, and these atheists dare to call it science.”

    Its OK for them to peddle their interesting stories on Sunday, but, please, please keep it out of the classroom.

    Iowa could use more Godless Athiests like you.

  28. #29 ZZMike
    April 27, 2009

    Didn’t we settle all this in 1926 with the Scopes trial?

    It seems reasonable that if the theory of evolution explains observed facts, is falsifiable (see Popper) and doesn’t invoke the supernatural, then it should be taught in a science curriculum. And if the theory of intelligent design does invoke the supernatural, then it should be taught in the Religion department.

    “Is this an April fool’s prank?” No, it’s just the Scientific American. I remember when that used to be a great science magazine.

  29. #30 Joe
    April 27, 2009

    And couldn’t they come up with a better name?

    On the off chance you don’t recognize it, this is a reference to the Gang of Four in China:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_of_four

  30. #31 Stephen
    April 27, 2009

    I thought it was the Sherlock Holmes The Sign of Four.

    Seems a shame they weren’t smart enough to invent another conspirator. I’d volunteer, but i’m not famous.