Pharyngula

Three teachers

This weekend, I read a couple of stories about people teaching about evolution. As you might expect, these generally aren’t articles that fill me with joy.

The first is an article from Jacksonville, Texas that explicitly compares two local junior colleges, both associated with religious groups.
Lon Morris junior college is affiliated with the Methodists, and the chair of the department is Linda Allen.

?I teach evolution. Science is looking for natural causes to natural phenomena, it isn?t in the business of looking for supernatural reasons for things occurring,? said Assistant Professor Linda Allen, chair of the Natural Science Department at Lon Morris College. ?To me science is one of the great themes of modern culture and religion is another. I think the two are equally important, but they are different, and since I teach biology and not theology ? I teach evolution as the cause of life.?

She makes several comments about the glory, majesty, and spirituality of the Bible, which just goes to show that lots of people gullibly accept the claims of their religion, even science professors, but her message is simple and plain: she teaches science in science courses. I can live with that. That’s the way it should be done, and aside from her patent religiosity, she sounds very sensible and competent.

The other college in the story, Jacksonville College, is affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, and is very different.

?I teach that the universe was created in six literal days. We believe that the Genesis account refers to literal 24-hour periods. You wouldn?t have the words morning and evening if it was referring to an indefinite time period,? said Professor Billy Wilbanks, chair of the Science Department at Jacksonville College. ?People accept either theory just by their beliefs and what they have been taught ? we really can?t prove either one.?

Wow. Chair of the Science Department. I have to make a note of that; it’s not likely to happen, but if any student tries to transfer to UMM with credits from Jacksonville College, no, I’m sorry, they won’t count towards a biology degree. That guy isn’t teaching science, he’s teaching primitive theology.

How big an idiot is Billy Wilbanks? He really should have known to shut up before he said this:

?There?s a lot of questions right now that I can?t answer. What holds the clouds up? If we throw a whole bucket of water in the air, the whole bucket is going to come right back down, but when it rains, all these little raindrops fall,? Wilbanks said. ?There are still many unanswered things out there. Cell differentiation in human reproduction is something we don?t understand. Back when we are just a small cluster of cells, how do some of our cells know to become blood, brains, muscles, bones or something else. We don?t have an answer for that.?

Uh, what? This guy teaches chemistry, too, and he doesn’t understand how water can exist in different phases? Does he think Jesus is levitating raindrops? The question about development is marginally better, but again, if he can’t explain the esoteric bits about the developmental pathways we do know, he shouldn’t be teaching biology. We do have good, if incomplete, answers for how cells become different cell types; they don’t “know” anything, but it is a process of cell:cell interaction, signaling, and signal transduction by mundane biochemical processes, no angels necessary.

Here’s the sad part, though: it comes down to the kids, and college is too late to correct fundamental deficits in their educations. We’re in the business of building on the foundation laid down by K-12 teachers and family and other sources of information. Come into college with a rickety framework, and you’re already far behind everyone else, you aren’t going to be able to support the more detailed information it’s our business to provide, and we’re going to suggest you follow some other career path where you might have some strength.

According to both Allen and Wilbanks, most of their students come to their classes as believers in creationism.

?Some of my kids understand all of the theories of creationism and are truly creationists, but most of my kids believe in the Bible and have never had their beliefs challenged, so they don?t really know what they believe,? Allen said. ?Many of my kids are dead-set against learning evolution. It bothers me that an 18-year-old can be so set in his thoughts and beliefs that he can?t take something new at least to examine it.?

How depressing. American culture is failing these kids to the point where we’re setting up fake institutions of higher learning like Jackson College, where clowns like Wilbanks can play to the ignorance of parents and kids.

Where do we place the blame? Where do we need to take action? (No, the answer is not to fault the existence of atheists in our society, so if that was your first thought, stop reading this page, go sit in a corner and read your Bible.) We don’t have to look far; the problem is perpetuated in the same way everywhere, including my little town here in Minnesota, but here’s a representative story from Florida, where an insurance agent offers a class in ‘origins’. The problem is religion. Religion encourages ignorant people to pretend they know science and to evangelize lies for their beliefs.

Chris Rushton may dress comically in a lab coat and silly glasses to teach a study class for teens, but his message is a serious one.

"People ask the questions ‘Where did I come from?’ and ‘Why am I here? and ‘Where am I going?’ " Rushton said. "The Bible answers those questions."

Last week, Rushton, 49, began a 13-week series called the Answers Academy Creation Study.

We routinely assess classes from transfer students to see if their credits count towards a degree in our biology program, and I just mentioned that Billy Wilbanks’ courses would not meet our standards. I wish it were possible to give out negative credits: incoming students who attended Answers Academy Creation Study should get about -5 biology credits that they need to make up with extra coursework to compensate for the misinformation that has been loaded into their brains.

"The first book I ever read was Ken Ham’s book called The Lie. Basically it addresses your Christian worldview and how that fits in with the creation account in Genesis."

That book is accurately titled if it refers to its contents.

Here’s an example of the kind of foolishness the lab-coat-wearing insurance agent is peddling.

There are two types of science, Rushton says.

"There’s observational science; that’s the type of science that we can test with our senses: smell, sight, taste, touch. But there’s also what’s called historical science or origin science. That is taking evidences or facts and then interpreting the past.

"When you look at origin science or historical science, we have the same facts, the same evidence, whether we’re creationists or evolutionists. What’s different is how we interpret the facts.

"So, we look to see how observational science applies to the information we find in the book of Genesis. If you look at it with an open mind, you’ll see that observational science confirms what’s in the book of Genesis and that evolutionary ideas are not confirmed by observational science."

NO! Every science has an observational component; if we aren’t building ideas on the basis of tested and measured observation, we aren’t doing science, we’re doing theology. Every science has an interpretation component, too. When your heart rate is measured by taking your pulse at the wrist or carotid, that’s basing an assessment on an interpretation, the circulation of blood driven by the action of the heart, one that hasn’t always been recognized. Heck, if your heart rate is measured by slicing open your chest and watching your heart directly, we’re still dealing with stuff that is open to interpretation (How accurate is your watch? Have you ever looked at the complicated, indirect events going on in phototransduction, and holy moly, visual perception is a whole ‘nother can of worms.) There is no difference with these ‘historical sciences’ — what’s removed from our arsenal of tools is the ability to manipulate the past experimentally, but it’s still all founded on solid observations. That geology reveals that the earth is old is as well established as the fact that your pulse is a measure of the rate your heart is beating.

‘Observational science’ is simply Rushton’s (or Ken Ham’s) obfuscatory terminology for evidence. The evidence does not support a literal interpretation of Genesis. It does support evolutionary biology.

Look back at that comment by Linda Allen about kids coming into the college classroom “dead-set against learning evolution”. Where does that come from? Look at Rushton, and Ken Ham, and the whole edifice of fundamentalist religion, and there’s your answer.

We have laws to help us cope with medical quackery—if nothing else, civil law gives us a way to seek redress after the damage has been done. We have federal and state institutions that enforce truth in advertising and try to smack down false claims. Unfortunately, when it comes to preserving the health of our children’s minds, we go the other way: we bend over backwards to give these frauds and child abusers extended privileges to miseducate, and we reward them with tax exemptions and social support. How many parents in those communities will get together and shout out in outrage at the bad educations Rushton and Wilbanks are delivering? There will be some grumbling at newspapers over the morning coffee, and that’s about it. How many will be complaining in church about Linda Allen? How many would complain bitterly to school administrators if the word “evolution” is mentioned in a high school classroom?

We’re in a highly asymmetrical situation, where all the force of censure and public condemnation is applied in our communities in one direction, to favor the lies of religion. Wake up, people. Stop being polite. Start publicly chewing out these dishonest frauds and don’t let them babble unopposed.

Comments

  1. #1 Stuart Coleman
    September 18, 2006

    I agree with you. We’ve been playing the polite game for far too long and it has gotten us almost nowhere. But it’s important to note that we have to still be civil while calling them dishonest frauds, that way when they resort to namecalling we’ll have the high ground.

    I recently heard an argument that said that the only reason Christianity is still around is because people have been arguing that science and religion don’t overlap; that if we had insisted upon science being right and religion being wrong it would have died by now. It’s hard to say if it’s true, but it certainly sounds plausible.

  2. #2 JoeB
    September 18, 2006

    Ouch. I hear what you’re saying about a rickety science framework. At my Catholic high school, the teachers did a good job of giving us an intro to some genetic basics like DNA to RNA transcription, patterns of heredity in offspring, etc., but the overall topic of evolution was essentially left out of the class. We spent extra time on more biochemical study including things like active and passive transport across cell membranes. The teachers simply didn’t want to delve into evolution.

  3. #3 spencer
    September 18, 2006

    Goddamnit, I just *knew* that Florida article was going to come from my local newspaper.

  4. #4 spencer
    September 18, 2006

    I just read that article in the St Pete Times a little more closely, and I’ve decided that I am now outraged. What kind of a newspaper article has only one source? Not just one named source, but only one source, period?

    That’s a fucking press release, is what that is. It’s free advertising space for this disinformation class.

    I can’t believe the once-great St Petersburg Times has sunk to this.

  5. #5 Scott Hatfield
    September 18, 2006

    Just for the record, the distinction (however risible) between ‘operations science’ and ‘origins science’ was, to my knowledge, first proposed by OEC’s Charles Thaxton (one of the Panda authors) and Walter Bradley in ‘The Mystery of Life’s Origins’ (1984). Thaxton coupled that argument with an appeal for ‘metaphysical tolerance’ and a careful reading of it shows that was proposed, in part, to help legitimize the OEC position versus YEC by assisting readers in distinguishing between abiogenesis and evolution proper, as well as the ‘micro/macro’ distinction so beloved of creationists. A guy like Ken Ham would go along with the latter, but ultimately reject the former, in my opinion.

    Scott

  6. #6 frank schmidt
    September 18, 2006

    Just for the record, water in clouds is in the liquid phase, just in small droplets which don’t sink from gravity. Sort of like the mist from a “sonic” humidifier, which I guess you are searching for, since heating season in MN started, oh, yesterday.

    The distinction between historical and observational science is particularly specious. As George Coyne points out, because light has a finite speed, all observations refer to past events. It’s just that some are nearer to the observer than others (by a factor of 10exp30 or so).

  7. #7 Elliott
    September 18, 2006

    According to both Allen and Wilbanks, most of their students come to their classes as believers in creationism.

    “Some of my kids understand all of the theories of creationism and are truly creationists, but most of my kids believe in the Bible and have never had their beliefs challenged, so they don’t really know what they believe,” Allen said. “Many of my kids are dead-set against learning evolution. It bothers me that an 18-year-old can be so set in his thoughts and beliefs that he can’t take something new at least to examine it.”

    I’m not sure that this is as bothersome as it first seems.It takes maturity to deal with new ideas successfully: a confident sense of self assurance that is uncommon in most teenagers.

  8. #8 Jud
    September 18, 2006

    Jesus isn’t holding any water droplets above “Professor” Billy Wilbanks, because he is sure as Hell in a fog.

  9. #9 Clare
    September 18, 2006

    And it’s not just science that’s affected; I’ve had several conversations with college and grade school teachers recently of history. One tells me that his high school students refused to believe Bush’s admission in the last couple of weeks that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. What was their reason? “Liberal media.” In another case, students spent several weeks reading about middle east politics and history, and still insisted that “what’s the point of all this, we all know everyone there is crazy.” It’s intellectual laziness, getting passed off as high moral principle.

  10. #10 John Pieret
    September 18, 2006

    [I]f we had insisted upon science being right and religion being wrong it would have died by now.

    Unfortunately, given the history of the world, it is not at all certain which of the two that “it” would wind up refering to.

  11. #11 Herb West
    September 18, 2006

    Rushton should have used the term Natural History to make his point because his distinction between “observational” science and “historical” science is both thoroughly unobjectionable and quite familiar. It’s very common to group together geology, astronomy, paleontology and other such sciences that are largely discovery driven and to separate them from physics, chemistry, and sciences that have significant experimental components.

  12. #12 AJ Milne
    September 18, 2006

    Hearing the phrase ‘what holds the clouds up?’ intoned by a (nominal) teacher of youth, I can’t help but picture some bad Hollywood version of a primitive tribesman, complete with colourful body paint, instructing the youngsters of his clan in the ways of the world:

    “So what holds the clouds up, Old Father?”

    “Sky Father, young one. Sky Father holds the clouds up. Sky Father, who also waters the trees of the forest, and has set the wildebeest here for us to eat.”

    “You are wise, Old Father.”

    “That’s why I’m faculty, young one.”

    … And reflecting a little more seriously: Dawkins is right. Religion is child abuse. Borrowing his question (and answering it), what chance have the children placed in these schools? None at all. It’s as though the moment the poor little buggers popped out of the womb, someone set out systematically to cripple their ability to reason.

  13. #13 Daniel Morgan
    September 18, 2006

    There’s a lot of questions right now that I can’t answer. What holds the clouds up?

    Oh. Sweet. Jesus Harry and O’Connor…

    This man, Billy Wilbanks, according to his archived faculty webpage (the server is down now for some reason) got both a B.S. and an M.S. in “Chemistry and Biology”, yet thinks that the physics of condensation, pressure, CCNs, supersaturation, Bergeron Findeisen…etc which explain precipitation and cloud formation are insufficient??????

    Does he think that Jesus holds the clouds aloft?

    Has he never read that atmospheric pressure is given as p = rho*G*h? He doesn’t understand that air is a fluid and partitions into different densities?

    This is beyond ridiculous. This man should be fired for stupidity.

  14. #14 George
    September 18, 2006

    From the Jacksonville College web site:

    “Chapel attendance is required for all scholarship students unless excused for valid reasons by the Dean of Students. If excused, the student may still be required to attend a study period during the time of chapel.”

    Their logo reads Jacksonville College of Jacksonville.

    It’s a small place, fortunately:

    Number of freshman applicants: 281
    Number of freshman applicants admitted: 106

    http://www.texasmentor.org/campustour/undergraduate/91/Jacksonville_College/Jacksonville_College3.html

  15. #15 Steve_C
    September 18, 2006

    Sounds alot like Jesus Camp.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co1_9lR9EpM

    This country is screwed.

  16. #16 Frumious B
    September 18, 2006

    We have laws to help us cope with medical quackery–if nothing else, civil law gives us a way to seek redress after the damage has been done. We have federal and state institutions that enforce truth in advertising and try to smack down false claims.

    Are you kidding me? 1) Those institutions you refere to are badly underfunded and can’t even start to prosecute every false claim 2) There’s no need to b/c alties find ways around making actual claims and sometimes go so far as to put legal disclaimers about how the product is not approved to treat any condition. Doesn’t make a bit of a dent in sales of woo. 3) Other institutions go around licensing quakery. Naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, all licensed woo-woos. That doesn’t protect us from them, it gives them the veneer of respectability.

  17. #17 William Hyde
    September 18, 2006

    As to clouds, he doesn’t even have to understand:

    “the physics of condensation, pressure, CCNs,
    supersaturation, Bergeron Findeisen”

    nice though that would be in an alleged science
    educator.

    All he has to do is understand that the terminal velocity
    of cloud droplets is very small and that clouds form in
    updrafts. He doesn’t even have to know why, just recall
    the facts.

    Willfull ignorance is the only explanation I can come
    up with. The first google result for “`cloud drops’ falling” contains an explanation.

    The last person I recall having trouble understanding
    why clouds don’t fall was T*d H*lden, who took the idea
    from Velikovsky.

  18. #18 Warren
    September 18, 2006

    We’re in a highly asymmetrical situation, where all the force of censure and public condemnation is applied in our communities in one direction, to favor the lies of religion. Wake up, people. Stop being polite. Start publicly chewing out these dishonest frauds and don’t let them babble unopposed.

    Yes. Religion should not garner “respect” by some grandfather status. “Well, those are your beliefs and you have the right to them…” Maybe so. But if someone spouting as fact something that obviously is not, that person needs to be told to shut up.

    There isn’t enough of that going on. Stupid people are not being shamed into silence. They aren’t ashamed of themselves at all. They wear their stupidity as a badge of honor, a mark of pride.

    The result being a college professor who is baffled by clouds.

    Hey. Wilbanks. You’re an idiot. Shut your mouth.

  19. #19 slpage
    September 18, 2006

    A bit off topic, but I introduced the skeletal system in my anatomy lab last week (college 200-level class) and I asked if men and women have the same number of ribs and more than half the class said no…

  20. #20 PZ Myers
    September 18, 2006

    Not off topic at all. That’s one of those nice indicator questions: anyone who believes men and women have different numbers of ribs has been misled by religion, because you sure don’t see that claim made in any science texts.

  21. #21 Jonathan Badger
    September 18, 2006

    Not off topic at all. That’s one of those nice indicator questions: anyone who believes men and women have different numbers of ribs has been misled by religion, because you sure don’t see that claim made in any science texts.

    But it’s a pretty weird claim if you think about it; Francis Crick had a funny anecdote to the effect that he was embarrassed to admit that for a long time he thought that men and women *did* have different numbers of ribs; not because he believed in Genesis of course, but because he assumed the myth was created to explain an observable fact, as most myths are.

  22. #22 wintermute
    September 18, 2006

    I never understood why the “women have one less rib than men” claim is so pervasive amonsgt Christians; even accepting that God literally made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, wouldn’t it have made more sense for Him to give her the same number of ribs as Adam had *after* the ribectomy, rather than before?

    And of course, even that assumes you accept that Lamarkian princinples that underlie the basic assumption…

  23. #23 Steve_C
    September 18, 2006

    Or why wouldn’t men have one less rib then women?
    And why aren’t apples forbidden for christian women to eat?
    Just sayin…

  24. #24 N.Wells
    September 18, 2006

    Next up: The miracle of bird flight: helium, rocket engines, or Jesus?

    The one saving grace, so to speak, is that bible colleges have always taught utter nonsense or worse, and the republic has survived anyway. Still, such news in this day and age is not encouraging.

  25. #25 dorkafork
    September 18, 2006

    Yeah blah blah science. The important thing is, do they let their students make eye babies?

  26. #26 TheBrummell
    September 18, 2006

    “When you look at origin science or historical science, we have the same facts, the same evidence, whether we’re creationists or evolutionists. What’s different is how we interpret the facts.

    Theoretically, a literate cretinist could find all the same observations that have been and are being used as the foundation of the Theory of Evolution (modern synthesis). However, in practice I suspect that most of the louder cretinists (ie, those that have an audience larger than immediate family) are completely unaware of vast blocks of biological territory.

    A large fraction of my B.Sc. in Biology was devoted to “survey” courses, wherein we were shown examples of the amazing diversity of living things (birds, vertebrates, fishes, insects, invertebrates, flowering plants, fungi, algae, etc). These courses were apparently necessary because I consistently meet people who are unaware of basic biological facts, like (real examples follow):

    Butterflies are insects

    Caterpillars are larvae of Lepidopterans, including both butterflies and moths

    Spiders are not insects

    Sea stars (Asteroidea) are not plants, or fish, but invertebrate animals

    Sea anenomes are not plants, they’re animals, too

    There are MANY insects, especially beetles

    The word “animal” refers to more than just cute, furry, non-human mammals

    And so on. The above are mostly just the result of being pathologically uninterested in non-human life forms with consequent ignorance. I suspect most cretinists would be surprised by most of the above assertions, as well.

    Clare said: It’s intellectual laziness, getting passed off as high moral principle.

    I agree completely.

  27. #27 Ktesibios
    September 18, 2006

    Well, Aristotle believed that men and women had differing numbers of teeth. The funny thing is that he was married. How hard would it have been to say “Honey, could you open your mouth for a minute” and take a count?

    Of course, if that sample of one had had any extractions or had impacted wisdom teeth… hey, maybe that’s how he got it wrong in the first place!

    Aritotle also taught that the brain existed solely to cool the blood and had nothing to do with the process of thinking. This is true only of teachers in fundie schools and their students.*

    *With apologies to Will Cuppy

  28. #28 Joel Hernandez
    September 18, 2006

    “college is too late to correct fundamental deficits in their educations”

    For many of us former Christians who grew up with the church as the primary shaper of our then worldview, never was there an invitiation to stand up in church service or sunday school to challenge what was being taught or to request a thorough investigation of differing points of view. That time was deemed “critical” to strengthen the faith of the flock and shield our hearts and minds from “seductive philosophies”. If one were to raise a challenge, they would be directed to the pastor’s office for a private “discussion” over why one is “not at peace” with God’s teachings. We were taught to bring the battle to the “enemy”, challenging them on their own turf. After a few years in college, when it finally dawned on me how this indoctrination against really examining one’s own beliefs and those of Christianity affected my relationship to the wider world and my fellow human beings, I knew I had to drop all that baggage and learn to enjoy the freedom to explore, challenge, and exchange ideas with those considered “different” from myself. In college, I was able to stop being afraid of what might tear down my faith and embrace the mindset that I was taught to avoid.

    Keep up the good work.

  29. #29 QrazyQat
    September 18, 2006

    When I was 4 I thought that men and women ahd different color eyes — men brown and women blue. This was based on observation from a pretty good sized sample — for my age. It was true of every boy and girl, man and woman on our block.

    My mom popped my bubble by telling me it wasn’t the right answer, and after further research, I found she was right.

    Turns out there’s other ways to tell anyway.

  30. #30 Joel Hernandez
    September 18, 2006

    dorkafork:
    “Yeah blah blah science. The important thing is, do they let their students make eye babies?”

    And to think i once asprired to attend a school like that. Ugh!

  31. #31 obscurifer
    September 18, 2006

    I checked out the Jacksonville College web site to read the science curriculum. It seems pretty innocuous. The biology classes list classes that teach things like sn “emphasis on structure, function, diversity, classification, and ecology.”

    I see no mentions of goddidit. Of course, I may not have had the right lenses in my glasses or something.

  32. #32 obscurifer
    September 18, 2006

    I re-read my last comment. I’m not an apologist for Jacksonville College by any means. I’m merely remarking on the apparent lack of truth in advertising on the site, IMHO.

  33. #33 bernarda
    September 18, 2006

    Which god are they going to teach? Apparently we are in fact in a polytheist society.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-god17sep17,0,6224772.story?coll=la-opinion-leftrail

    According to this article in the LA Times, believers don’t believe the same thing.

    (thanks to gods4sucksers)

  34. #34 snarly
    September 18, 2006

    I think that the asymetrical aspect of this struggle is the key. Most religionists think of the wall of seperation between church and state as a selectively permeable membrane that allows religious ideas to flow into government but nothing to flow the other way. They love to frame their arguaments as a matter of fairness, but of course if we demanded equal time in their houses of “worship” they would shriek in horror. Image if every time a minister read from the Book of Genesis they would have to give equal time to a scientist to explain why it could not be literally true. Do you want to teach the bible in school? Maybe that would be OK if you also made them read Tom Paines Age of Reason, or some of Ingersoll’s critiques of the bible in sunday school. It’s not gonna happen because then they lose their monopoly on people’s minds.

  35. #35 Keith Douglas
    September 18, 2006

    Herb West: Except of course, even the most historical of historical sciences, namely historiography (“history”) itself, is open to experiment. For example, Thor Heyerdahl’s famed Kontiki. Morever, the other sciences are also historical in part in character. Take, for example, understanding nucleosynthesis in stars.

    slpage: Oy. Where, may I ask, was this? And who takes the class? Med school hopefuls and nursing students would be my guess …

  36. #36 Azkyroth
    September 18, 2006

    (No, the answer is not to fault the existence of atheists in our society, so if that was your first thought, stop reading this page, go sit in a corner and read your Bible.)

    I found this rather disturbing. These are the people who most need to read this. Not that it’s likely to do any good, but…

    These courses were apparently necessary because I consistently meet people who are unaware of basic biological facts, like (real examples follow):

    Heh. Speaking as the boy who explained to his 7th grade science teacher than humans were NOT the only animals with fully four-chambered hearts, and to his 8th grade science teacher that it was the sperm, not the egg, that carried the variable sex chromosome…

  37. #37 kemibe
    September 18, 2006

    “Some of my kids understand all of the theories of creationism and are truly creationists, but most of my kids believe in the Bible and have never had their beliefs challenged…”

    What is Allen saying here? That some of her students believe in Biblical creationism after weighing all of the available evidence while others believe in it blindly? Considering that kids in both groups are scientifically ignorant, I’m not sure why she makes this distinction — maybe she’s acknowledging that the first group is a lost cause while the second may be reachable.

  38. #38 Monimonika
    September 18, 2006

    On TalkOrigin.Org’s list of Creationist Claims, there’s one about Adam’s missing rib. In the rebuttal to the claim, a possible explanation was provided for why the story of the missing rib came to exist.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB381.html

    Basically, the “rib” in the original Hebrew may have actually been referring to the baculum, a bone used for stiffening the penis, that is found in the majority of male mammals but not in humans.

    And I think that that would make sense as a reason to come up with a story on why man is missing this bone that every other animal (that they know of) has. Baculum-envy?

    This reminds me of how in the more earlier versions of the story of Noah’s ark, there were supposed to be seven pairs of each of the “clean” animals on board the ark. I’m guessing that if the authors back then were to read the present version of the tale of Noah’s ark, they would shake their heads in disbelief on how stupid future people are to believe that one can rebuild an entire population of goats from just a single pair.

  39. #39 Michael Hopkins
    September 18, 2006

    Many years ago I wondered about if men and women had different number of ribs. I was actually hoping it was true and that Adam’s rib myth was an attempt to explain why men had less ribs then women. The reason was that I figured that if it was true in humans, it would almost certainly be true in the apes if not other mamamals. Now that would have been fun to pull on a creationist. But alas I found out that it was not true.

  40. #40 Keith Douglas
    September 19, 2006

    Monimonika: Isn’t it the other way around in the ark stories? That the later one adds the change to recognize the (so-called )Mosaic law, even though to so is basically an anachronism?

    (For those of you who haven’t noticed, there are two Noah’s ark stories sort of interleaved in the bible)

  41. #41 Monimonika
    September 19, 2006

    Keith,

    It’s the other way around? I’m currently not that interested in the history of the story of the ark, so I’m not going to do the research at this moment, but I will look it up further once my interest peaks again. Thank you for correcting me. 🙂

  42. #42 RavenT
    September 19, 2006

    Monimonika, thanks for the reference to the Gilbert article on baculum vs. rib via the archive. It is an interesting hypothesis. I wonder how much the authors of Genesis were interested in resolving that comparative anatomical discrepancy, though–they seemed to be big on drawing boundaries between us and the other animals, rather than on trying to figure out how we are similar. So, like so many other things, it is intriguing, but will probably remain an untested hypothesis.

    Much like Mr. Raven’s hypothesis that studying comparative anatomy ruins one for mature conversation. Like when he was trying to watch an old Quantum Leap rerun in peace, and I snorted tea onto him when the credits introduced the star, Scott Bakula.

  43. #43 Barry Leiba
    September 22, 2006

    Hm, trackbacks don’t seem to work here. I tried to set a trackback to this post: Qualifications for teaching

    Excerpt:

    Part of what PZ Myers says in Pharyngula about teachers and their qualifications prompts me to write about something related. Professor Myers is specifically looking at questionable qualifications to teach science. I want to look at the other side: questionable reasons for refusing to let someone teach.

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