Pharyngula

Brunswick school board may be OK…for now

The Brunswick school district in North Carolina was hurtling towards a lot of pain…and it’s all thanks to the intransigent arrogance of the ignorant. There are some signs that they’re going to see the light of reason, but there are holdouts, and as is usual in these cases, it’s a few uninformed individuals possessing only a furious conviction and the certitude of religion who are causing the problems. Joel Fanti seems to be one of the instigators of this stupidity, and he’s surprised that so many have been opposing him.

“It just amazes me some of those responses, how venomous they have been,” said Fanti, who sparked the debate by proposing at the board’s Sept. 16 meeting that the teaching of creationism share classroom time with evolution. “I don’t even know what their definition of religion is. I can argue their views on evolution are a religion, too, because it can’t be proven.”

The Rev. Brad Ferguson, Fanti’s pastor at New Beginnings Community Church in Shallotte, said he supports Fanti’s views.

“There is some scientific evidence supporting creationism,” the Southern Baptist minister said. “Kids should be presented both sides. … You can’t isolate disciplines. Science and faith – they go together.”

Fanti is clueless. Then everything is a religion: I can’t prove right this instant that my cats are at my house, but because I saw them there this morning and closed the door so they can’t get out, they almost certainly are…and if I saw one prowling around outside my office window, I’d quickly revise my opinion. But to Fanti’s mind, my expert, empirical, well-supported ideas about my cats ought to be considered a religion, obviously. Similarly, I’ve got some expert, empirical, well-supported ideas about evolution that I can back up with evidence — it is not a view held in the same way as a religion.

Ferguson is equally inane. There is no scientific evidence for creationism — go ahead, show me some. If he really believed that kids should see “both” sides of an issue, no matter how weak or fringy or patently absurd they are, then I hope his Baptist church sunday school is being taught by a cadre of Muslims, Scientologists, and Wiccans.

Science and faith are in opposition. Somehow, his faith is supporting the idea that the earth is 6000 years old, against all the scientific evidence that it is 4.5 billion years old — I think that renders his claim inoperative.

But here’s the good news. These two nitwits seem to be losing, and the school board is backing down, despite the sympathies of a few. And of course, the new strategem is to throw around the Discovery Institute’s favorite empty slogan, “strengths and weaknesses”. What weaknesses? Let’s hear specifics. If they’re willing to teach the strengths, how come they don’t seem to understand them?

After reading e-mails by people disgruntled about the idea of teaching creationism, hearing about the state’s point of view and consulting with attorney Kathleen Tanner, Babson said she thinks the board will not try to go against the law to teach creationism, although she would like to see it in the classroom one day.

Fanti said he learned about the court cases after addressing the board and now thinks the idea of teaching creationism as part of the curriculum will be crushed. But he plans to ask the school board to encourage “evolutionists” in the schools to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their theory.

“Instead of making it a religious issue, let’s make it a scientific issue,” said Fanti, who identifies himself as a chemical engineer.

A religious engineer…somehow, I am not surprised at all.

Comments

  1. #1 Jacques
    September 30, 2008

    I suppose we should all be applying for tax free status for our day to day religious activities.

  2. #2 The Petey
    September 30, 2008
    A religious engineer…somehow, I am not surprised at all.

    hey, not ALL us chemical engineers are whack jobs.

  3. #3 And-U-Say
    September 30, 2008

    Hey! I am a Chemical Engineer, don’t lump that moron in with me. Behe is a biologist and I don’t see you accounting his idiocy in with the field of biology.

    Engineers can very much BE scientists. We make our hypotheses, run our experiments, base conclusions on data, search for and reveal error, the whole thing. These stupid people are creationists in spite of being engineers, not because they are.

  4. #4 JoshS
    September 30, 2008

    There really does seem to be some odd correlation between people calling themselves engineers (of various stripes) and believing in creationism. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that would be – if anything, I’d think such an ordered mental approach would make them less likely to believe in this kind of irrationality.

    To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation?

  5. #5 AndrÚs Diplotti
    September 30, 2008

    You know, I’m starting to change my mind and think that creationism should be taught in science class after all. Personally, I have learned an awful lot about evolution reading rebuttals to the common creationist talking points. So, I say tell schoolchildren about creationist objections to evolution… and then show them why they’re wrong. I think it could be useful to expand concepts and cement them in their heads.

  6. #6 Donnie B.
    September 30, 2008

    Another outraged engineer here, PZ. Well, slightly outraged. Not as outraged as I am by, say, Fanti or Palin or… ghaaa, no time to list them all.

    Please knock off the snide remarks about engineers, though. Most of us are highly reality based people who understand the science behind our professions. Many of us also have a vivid interest in the sciences beyond our own specialties.

    And just in case that bulge in your cheek is indicative of a tongue, okay, I get it. I quit, but I get it.

  7. #7 Richard Harris
    September 30, 2008

    Yeah, don’t diss us engineers. I’ve met a few religious engineers, & I don’t know how they function, but they seem to be able to apply rational decision-making processes in engineering matters just as well as anyone. Why they believe in a magic god spirit man beats me.

  8. #8 chancelikely
    September 30, 2008

    There seems to be a disproportionate number of creationists from fields in engineering. Why? Is it that engineers tend to think in terms of design?

  9. #9 EB
    September 30, 2008

    Hey — I’m an atheist engineer. We do exist. (Great post otherwise)

  10. #10 Glenn
    September 30, 2008

    Science and faith are in opposition.

    I see it just slightly differently. I’m sure most of the readers here know of Harry Frankfurt’s great essay, On Bullshit. Frankfurt makes the point that, unlike a liar, who seeks to tell the opposite of the truth (and thus, like the truth-teller, at least is concerned with what the truth actually is), a bullshitter is completely unconcerned with whether his bullshit lines up with the truth or not. Bullshit is thus not really the “opposite” of the truth, it has a different character altogether.

    I see faith as the same thing: Whereas Science seeks to reach conclusions in accord with the available evidence, faith purports to reach conclusions without regard to the evidence.

    In other words, faith is bullshit.

  11. #11 Donnie B.
    September 30, 2008

    Posted by: JoshS | September 30, 2008 10:56 AM

    To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation?

    I would be very surprised to learn that the percentage of creationist engineers is higher than, or even as high as, that of the general population. How often have we heard of creationist teachers or pharmacists, for example?

    Having been brought up in an irrational mindset doesn’t necessarily make it impossible to partition that off when studying or practicing engineering, any more than it prevents one from flying an airplane or herding sheep.

  12. #12 S.Scott
    September 30, 2008

    I feel like I should be saying “I told you so”…

    “There is some scientific evidence supporting creationism,” the Southern Baptist minister said. “Kids should be presented both sides. … You can’t isolate disciplines. Science and faith – they go together.”

    It’s the Southern Baptists, the Bible churches, and the non-denominational churches that are THE most ignorant and intrusive. The real enemies of science.

    We need to give the catholics’s a break. As a rule – the sins of the upper management do not trickle down into the “masses”.;-)

    Bill Donohue’s ‘Catholic League’ is the exception to the rule of course.

    I am so absolutely frustrated with these people. Our kids in FL recently just dodged this bullet but I am convinced it will come around again in a couple of months.

  13. #13 IasonOuabache
    September 30, 2008

    I have this theory that (some but not all) engineers have a problem with thinking in terms of emergent systems. Too much vertical thinking, not enough lateral thinking.

    I’m probably wrong though.

  14. #14 Glen Davidson
    September 30, 2008

    It’s only a relatively few engineers, but they make a disproportionate amount of the noise. That can’t be ignored, really.

    My own opinion is that there is less difference between religion and science than a lot of scientists believe, simply because human thought processes are of a rather limited variety.

    Yet, while religion and science may have considerable similarities from the philosophical standpoint, the differences result in outcomes that are about as opposite as human outcomes can be. Hence opposition seems inevitable.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  15. #15 Richard Harris
    September 30, 2008

    Science and faith are in opposition.< \B>

    Of course they are. Science depends upon evidence; religion doesn’t need evidence, so it ignores, evades, distorts, & subverts evidence.

  16. #16 BobC
    September 30, 2008

    “It just amazes me some of those responses, how venomous they have been,” said Fanti

    The responses have not venomous enough. Fanti should be put in prison. His stupidity is not against the law, but his attacks against science education is treason.

  17. #17 chancelikely
    September 30, 2008

    IasonOuabache #13:

    [E]ngineers have a problem with thinking in terms of emergent systems. Too much vertical thinking, not enough lateral thinking.

    Interesting. How would you test that?

  18. #18 BobC
    September 30, 2008

    “There is some scientific evidence supporting creationism,” the Southern Baptist minister said.

    Scientific evidence for magic? The word ‘Baptist’ means insane stupid asshole.

  19. #19 Lightnin
    September 30, 2008

    Engineers can very much BE scientists.

    Nonsense, all you do is get drunk and shout obscenities at the head of college.

    I am assuming that nothing changes once you leave university…

  20. #20 pjb
    September 30, 2008

    Engineers have a degree (possibly an advanced one) with the word “science” in it, but most often with absolutely no education in biology, and a cursory one in other scientific fields. I almost have an M.S. in mechanical engineering and haven’t taken a biology class since high school. Mix in some religious belief and you’ll have a guy who can wield an advanced degree in a technical field but who is actually as ignorant on the subject of evolution as your average creationist. The creationist engineer’s degree comes up as an appeal to their own authority.

  21. #21 Nick
    September 30, 2008

    I really don’t get these people. I’m not a history expert, so I wouldn’t think of challenging the school board on what they ought to be teaching in history class. Do these yokels really feel their amateur opinions on biology give them the right to tell actual biology teachers what they ought to be teaching? Or is the religious arrogance really that blinding?

  22. #22 SteveM
    September 30, 2008

    yet another engineer here who is quite perplexed by the seeming preponderance of creationists in our profession. What I have to hope is that there is some kind of selection bias going on here, we only hear about the engineers who are creationists and so a small minority ends up being identified as the norm. The other possibility is that engineering is “as far as one can go” in the sciences while maintaining a creationist belief. If you concentrate on just the math and technical aspects one may be able to ignore the wider implications.

    I comfort myself that these people aren’t true engineers? , they just have a job as an engineer. A true engineer? thinks about everything as an engineering problem and not just his particular field of engineering. And as for engineers having a tendency to look for design in everything, maybe so, but any good engineer would see just how lousy the designs found in nature are. Yes, there are amazing “machines” in nature but really, no one would have designed them that way, they must have evolved by a long “random” process. :-)

  23. #23 And-U-Say
    September 30, 2008

    “To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation? ”

    I would guess it has a lot to do with the process emplyed in their education. I will use Chemists vs Chemical Engineers, but I would guess it applies across the board.

    Initially, engineers get the same education as other science majors. Physics, math, chemistry… But as the student gets into their junior year, things change. The pure science student typically gets to continue on the course of evidence based learning. They get to keep running experiments, making observations, etc.

    But the engineer takes a subtly different path. Engineers tend to work on large problems. Large meaning not only difficult, but also large in physical scale. How do you teach an enginering student about distillation columns over 100 feet tall? Few, if any, schools have the money for that scale of “lab equipment”, so the engineering student does not get much of an opportunity to learn based on self generated data.

    NOTE: Some large universities do have some large scale equipment, but still, only one of each. This means that the student has only very limitted access to the equipment, reducing their exposure to self generated data.

    So, what to do? The university must fall on the technique of teaching, almost exclusively, theory. This means the student must learn from an athority figure, the professor. And there is no questioning the professor. And, the theory is correct.

    Secondly, the amount of information thrown at an engineer is profound. Engineering to the BS degree level is more difficult than any of the pure science disciplines. Yes… you biologists and chemists will whine to me that you had it hard, too. That’s true. But the engineer has it the toughest. I knew many students while in school who were in the other science disciplines, and the amount of school work we (as engineers) had to do was far greater. An engineer graduates with a BS when they should have a MS or even a PhD.

    Why is that important? It means that the engineer student is so busy trying to learn all that theory, that they don’t have the time to reflect on what they are actually learning, how it relates to the real world. They end up relying too much on the equations and not enough on what is really going on.

    As a veteran engineer, I see this all the time. 90% of engineers do not have a good grasp on the relationship between the theory they learn and the real world. And before long, it seems like they can’t learn it. This over reliance on theory makes them vulnerable to crack-pot theories from authority figures.

    And unfortunately, because they are so intelligent and well educated, they are brought forth by the creationist community to espouse the validity of their pet “theory”. And most engineers are not good enough (or, have the right mind set from their education) to see that the “theory” and the reality simply don’t match up.

  24. #24 True Bob
    September 30, 2008

    That’s it, Fanti is now out of The Engineer’s Club. Bastard idiot. There’s not enough venom in the world to spew at those who would degrade even the reputation of engineering.

  25. #25 wÒÓ†
    September 30, 2008
  26. #26 Nyx
    September 30, 2008

    I’m an electrical engineer, and I haven’t noticed a a disproportionate number of creationist engineers (the evidence is anecdotal, or course). There are a few that I work with.

    I will say that the majority of my coworkers are religious, however. I’m particularly loud about my atheism at work, so I’ve had a number of conversations about religion. I’ve always assumed that the religiosity of engineers was fairly proportional with the general population.

  27. #27 tim Rowledge
    September 30, 2008

    Oh for goodness sake, enough with the IDiotic crap about “those dumb engineers”. Yes, I’m sure there are people with a variety of engineering qualifications that are stupid. Yes, I’m sure there are plenty that think of themselves as religious. Guess what – there are probably a similar ratio in the medical field, the management pit, the acting world, the … etc etc. There appears to be an alarming number of people with apparently real science qualifications that hold to religion.

    There is *nothing* in any part of engineering teaching that would reasonably support any religious belief (except for the reality of Murphy and his heavenly host of Gremlins, of course) in ay way whatsoever. You’re just going to have to accept that there are a proportion of humans that will take *any* facts and find a way to make religidiocy out of them.

  28. #28 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    September 30, 2008

    Queue Randy Stimpson.

  29. #29 qbsmd
    September 30, 2008

    Posted by: JoshS

    There really does seem to be some odd correlation between people calling themselves engineers (of various stripes) and believing in creationism. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that would be – if anything, I’d think such an ordered mental approach would make them less likely to believe in this kind of irrationality.

    To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation?

    Engineers seem to be more conservative than people in other professional fields. That is probably the correlation with religious fanaticism. The question is why more engineers are conservative.

    It would be interesting to see whether atheist engineers are still politically more conservative than atheist biologists or physicists.

  30. #30 Glenn
    September 30, 2008

    With all due respect to the “pure scientists” in the crowd here who are trying to come up with explanations for why creationism is more prevalent among engineers, perhaps I could suggest you first investigate whether there’s actually any data to support that premise? Remembering, of course, that data is not the plural of anecdote? The spectacle of all these folks attempting to discern the “cause” of a phenomenon that may or may not exist is highly amusing.

    And in the interest of full disclosure, my background is chemical engineering (although I ditched it for the law years ago).

  31. #31 G.D.
    September 30, 2008

    Seems like I’m among those having all the fun here. Teaching Intro to Critical Thinking enables me to talk a lot about creationism – to illustrate how some people manage to cram all formal and informal fallacies of reasoning into one single “theory” (and in particular to illustrate why non-falsifiable theories are worthless because they are impotent to explain anything whatsoever (since they are consistent with anything)). You simply won’t find better examples of poor critical thinking skills than among creationists, woo-mongers and global warming deniers. Such a rich source of hilarious examples.

  32. #32 pjb
    September 30, 2008

    I wonder about the difference between engineering and science. My current line of thought is that the best engineering is science, or rather that engineering should follow scientific processes, but doesn’t necessarily need to in order to be effective or successful in many cases. Perhaps it is the absence of an “engineering process” as there is a scientific process. Logical thinking is not really stressed in engineering education (at least not in mine), is it any different in scientific fields?

  33. #33 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    September 30, 2008

    Glenn

    With all due respect to the “pure scientists” in the crowd here who are trying to come up with explanations for why creationism is more prevalent among engineers, perhaps I could suggest you first investigate whether there’s actually any data to support that premise?

    I think most are poking fun at engineers because we see so many creationist engineers who show up in these threads and other places.

    Yes anecdotes, but frequent ones and they make good targets.

  34. #34 SteveM
    September 30, 2008

    And unfortunately, because they are so intelligent and well educated, they are brought forth by the creationist community to espouse the validity of their pet “theory”. And most engineers are not good enough (or, have the right mind set from their education) to see that the “theory” and the reality simply don’t match up.

    This is a perfect example of what I meant by not a “true engineer”. To me engineering is the application of theory to reality. Engineers start from theory, but then have to “make it work” in the “real world”. Any engineer that is not checking his work against implementation is not an engineer.

    And I disagree with your use of “most” in that characterization. It is not that most engineers aren’t good enough to avoid creationism, it is that the engineers that accept creationism aren’t good enough engineers.

  35. #35 Glenn
    September 30, 2008

    Rev. Chimp:

    Oh sure, it’s all in good fun until someone gets their eye put out!

    OK, yeah, I understand. Hey, I’ve got no issue with going after the creationists, engineers or not. They deserve all of the ridicule one can muster.

  36. #36 Eamon Knight
    September 30, 2008

    Re Creationist Engineers: Look up “Salem Hypothesis”. The cause (indeed, whether it is even a real phenomenom — hard data seems to be lacking) has been sporadically debated on talk.origins since the early 90′s. FWIW, #23 above looks like a good guess to me.

  37. #37 True Bob
    September 30, 2008

    Engineering is the application of learned science. Thank an engineer for your AC, your PC, your clothes, your shoes, your medicines (that’s right – how ARE they produced?), your car(s), your crackberry, your food, your cell phone, your friggin #2 pencil, your stress ball…

  38. #38 ShadowWalkyr
    September 30, 2008

    If he really believed that kids should see “both” sides of an issue, no matter how weak or fringy or patently absurd they are, then I hope his Baptist church sunday school is being taught by a cadre of Muslims, Scientologists, and Wiccans.

    And atheists. Don’t forget the atheists.

  39. #39 Brad D
    September 30, 2008

    If you want to make any generalizations, make this one: Breadth of education is inversely proportional to the probability of being a fundamentalist nutjob.

    Depth of education: depends on the field.

    Personally, I have a BS in Chemistry, and took a bit of bio along the way, which led me to being the happy heretic I am today.

  40. #40 Janine ID AKA The Lone Drinker
    September 30, 2008

    Posted by: ShadowWalkyr | September 30, 2008

    If he really believed that kids should see “both” sides of an issue, no matter how weak or fringy or patently absurd they are, then I hope his Baptist church sunday school is being taught by a cadre of Muslims, Scientologists, and Wiccans.

    And atheists. Don’t forget the atheists.

    Speaking only for myself, I have no desire to enter a southern baptist church, even if I were to undermine the teachings of the church. Plenty of chances to do that away from that place.

  41. #41 Ompompanoosuc
    September 30, 2008

    Religious engineers! I’m an engineer, include me out.

    When asked to speculate on the reason for the (odd) correlation between engineering and religiosity, I say “show me the correlation”.

    That said, it might be true. One can know quite a bit about electronics without it conflicting with the other compartment of the psyche where the sky daddy resides. Not so with biology, am I right?

    Anti-Theist Electrical Engineer (ATEE)
    pompy

  42. #42 qbsmd
    September 30, 2008

    Posted by: IasonOuabache

    I have this theory that (some but not all) engineers have a problem with thinking in terms of emergent systems. Too much vertical thinking, not enough lateral thinking.

    I’m probably wrong though.

    There might be some truth to that. I had trouble with the idea of natural selection producing more complex results for a while. Eventually, I wrote a genetic algorithm to try to simulate evolutionary type processes and prove that it could make a complex designed-looking result. I started posting the code and results on my blog, mostly for the benefit of creationist engineers.

  43. #43 Me
    September 30, 2008

    @ #5, and to the post in general:

    I’ve made this point in the past. What creationists actually mean when they say “teach both sides” or “show strengths and weaknesses”, is that when you point out a weakness in evolution, or what appears to be one, you quickly insert something like “of course, creationism answers this easily with…” That’s the danger of having it even mentioned in a classroom.

    And also like I’ve said before, any halfway decent teacher *will* point out any seeming criticisms of any subject they teach. It’s a basic part of teaching. As a simple example, a good teacher wouldn’t say “the eye evolved”, they’d say “at first glance, it appears that the eye is too complex to have evolved, but when you take into account…”

    So the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution, the ones that actually exist rather than the ones creationists just come up with randomly to attack it with, are *already* taught. It’s basic teaching. What the creationists want is for the teacher to also add “…but god could’ve done it easily, which makes more sense” into the class.

  44. #44 Nyx
    September 30, 2008

    @29

    For your data collection purposes, I’m a liberal atheist engineer.

    I’ve always associated conservatism with engineering because of the large number of engineering jobs in the defense contracting business. Since conservative leaders tend to dump untold amounts of money into defense, it’s almost a job security thing.

    I avoided the defense industry like the plague, personally.

  45. #45 Nanahuatzin
    September 30, 2008

    Here.. i am another disgrunted enginner…

    To be religious or to be an engineer has nothing to do with being ignorant.

    A good engineer should have to had a very good background in sciences. I have math, chemistry, physics, thermodinamics, and a bit of biology.

    And today catholics, have no problems acepting evolution and big bang… somehow, it seem to be just a problem of certain christian sects.

    So even a religious engineer can acept evolution.

    Maybe the problem is not really a religuous one, but a real lack of adequate education.

  46. #46 Sven DiMilo
    September 30, 2008

    What weaknesses? Let’s hear specifics.
    Exactly. It’s a buzzword, nothing more. They got nothin’, but a lot of them are so ignorant that they don’t even know they got nothin’.

  47. #47 True Bob
    September 30, 2008

    I was sans religion long before becoming an engineer (elementary school, I saw no need for gods, it’s so friggin’ obvious).

    Early Anti-Theology Mechanical Engineer – EATME

    I’m sure it’s only a confirmation bias. The cretinists parade the most “qualified” of the deluded. I wish they’d use more lawyers, though.

  48. #48 Rick T
    September 30, 2008

    “What I have to hope is that there is some kind of selection bias going on here…”

    I would guess that the closer one gets to studying biology the less the belief in creationism. Kind of obvious. However, the reverse is also true. Since engineers are educated, but not in biology, then they would probably have a certain percentage who would believe in creationism but probably not as many as the general public. But if, as a creationist group, you wanted a spokesperson to present your case you would try to choose the most educated person to give weight to your point of view. They do not ask the plumber, electrician or arborist to speak for their cause because why would their views matter? But engineers are smart and educated so people assume that they would know what they are talking about.

  49. #49 vespera
    September 30, 2008

    Everyone is missing the most important part of this post — PZ is a cat person. I knew it! All the best people are.

  50. #50 Mold
    September 30, 2008

    An engineer of my acquaintance used to deride my union activities while we both toiled for the Commonwealth. They felt above the common herd that so deeply needed union representation. My problem was a KKKristianist supervisor. I did need a union rep..on a regular basis. Goodling and her ilk are not a surprise. The engineer told me to find Jesus. I introduced them to our security guard..:) Anywho, the Commonwealth mad engineers salaried, instead of hourly. This saved the budget millions of dollars as engineers tended to work long hours. Oh, one of the family was a ‘special needs’ child. Abortion was unthinkable so now the family needs 24/7 nursing care. Overtime used to cover it.

    I didn’t take any skill or training to figure out that at least once during your Commonwealth career that you would need a union rep. The Leg once refused to pay wages…until their lawyers found that each Leg member was personally liable for wages due.

  51. #51 Cranapple
    September 30, 2008

    I’m a mechanical engineer, and IMO “pjb” and “And-U-Say” pretty much caught the crux of it.

    For two years engineers take the same classes and labs as science majors. Those are unfortunately the labs where you spend pretty much 100% of your time trying to just learn how to use the equipment so you can “get the right answer”. The problem solving techniques that engineers learn after those first few years are no substitute for education in critical thinking and the scientific method. In fact, at a recent NH skeptics meeting, I was speaking to another engineer who had the “2nd Law of Thermodynamics” argument spouted at her by a MECHANICAL ENGINEER (you know, the ones who most commonly deal with applied thermodynamics).

    As to the question of why (anecdotally) engineers seem to pop up so often in creationist circles, it may have something to do with the fact that it is possible to get a PhD relating to science without having to ever learn the scientific method. Or it may just be that engineers are typically the non-scientists who are most interested in science and “proving” their beliefs.

  52. #52 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    September 30, 2008

    Everyone is missing the most important part of this post — PZ is a cat person. I knew it! All the best people are.

    Blasphemy

  53. #53 J Myers
    September 30, 2008

    To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation?

    Certainly: confirmation bias.

  54. #54 And-U-Say
    September 30, 2008

    [quote]This is a perfect example of what I meant by not a “true engineer”. To me engineering is the application of theory to reality. Engineers start from theory, but then have to “make it work” in the “real world”. Any engineer that is not checking his work against implementation is not an engineer. [/quote]

    It may be that you misapprehend the point I was trying to make. In school, most engineers do not get taught nor see for themselves the complete relationship between the clean theory and the dirtier reality.

    When they get a job, there is almost certainly a set of design criteria and equations they are given to work on their first project. “Here, use these equations and tools to design one of these.” And they take the equations and they design it. And it works. And it works well. And they see that it works well. But that doesn’t mean that they understand the relationship between what they did and the real world.

    And as you imagine, its a sliding scale as well, its not a matter of either/or. Perhaps I was too harch on my fellow engineers. Let’s just say I am not happy with where on the sliding scale I find most of my engineering co-workers.

    [quote]And I disagree with your use of “most” in that characterization. It is not that most engineers aren’t good enough to avoid creationism, it is that the engineers that accept creationism aren’t good enough engineers.[/quote]
    I didn’t word my case that well. I like your wording a whole lot better.

  55. #55 Benjamin Geiger
    September 30, 2008

    Atheist computer “engineer” here. (I have a degree in Computer Engineering, from the USF College of Engineering, but I don’t consider Comp Eng an engineering discipline. That’s why I declined the invitation to join the Order of the Engineer.)

  56. #56 S.Scott
    September 30, 2008

    ” Everyone is missing the most important part of this post — PZ is a cat person. I knew it! All the best people are.”
    :-) Soooo True !!!!! :-)

  57. #57 JBlilie
    September 30, 2008

    I am pained to hear of another religulous engineer. They do seem all too common, in spite of our training to be data-driven and problem-solving. (Invoking magic is incapable of solving a real problem.) But we aren’t all religious!

  58. #58 mercator
    September 30, 2008

    Another atheist engineer checking in. Sure, there are a lot of religious engineers, but I don’t think there are many of them that could be described as creationist nutjobs.

    On the other hand, I have noted a significant number of MDs that seem to lean this way.

  59. #59 Cranapple
    September 30, 2008

    For the recording purposes, I am also a liberal atheist as well as being a mechanical engineer.

    It was just a few short years ago (all through engineering training I might add) that I was a conservative Fundagelical YEC. My engineering training gave me no tools to undermine my batshit crazy ideas. In fact, it was the modern physics course that I took my senior year that made the first chink in the chains of idiocy that I had wrapped my head in. The professor gave us a homework assignment to calculate the age of a rock sample based on given pre-recorded Rb-Sr abundancies. It was pretty much a choice between becoming a nutjob who believed that all scientists have a conspiracy to fudge the data, or the earth was older than 6000 years.

  60. #60 Nanahuatzin
    September 30, 2008

    JoshS @29
    The question is why more engineers are conservative.

    A.C clarke, once commented that enginners need to look more conservative, since they are ussually in administrative positions, so they need to look more like “common” people..

    But in think a good engineer should be a nerd. Even if he need not to look like one.

    On the other hand, a bad enginner (who ignores anyhting not related to his own field) may be as ignorant as any common people.

  61. #61 SteadyEddy
    September 30, 2008

    I think we engineers get too much of a bad rap. I’m an atheist environmental engineer with an earth science teaching degree. My co-operating teacher was a former working biologist. He “mentored” me during my student teaching episode and also taught biology and evolution. He was a very religious person (reminded me of the Flanders family on the Simpsons)- I often wanted to ask him how he settled science and religion in his mind. But that was before Pharyngula and my solidified disbelief in all things religious. If I run into him again, I’ll pose it to him. Don’t lump all engineers as creationists.

  62. #62 tim Rowledge
    September 30, 2008

    I’m a mechanical engineer, and IMO “pjb” and “And-U-Say” pretty much caught the crux of it.
    For two years engineers take the same classes and labs as science majors. Those are unfortunately the labs where you spend pretty much 100% of your time trying to just learn how to use the equipment so you can “get the right answer”.

    That may the the murrican way but it was a touch different at Imperial. We got almost as much maths as the people on a maths degree. Plus almost as much economics and business stuff as people on an MBA. Plus physics for stress analysis and mechanics, plus thermodynamics, plus at least one language, plus philosophy of science, plus various environmental science stuff plus, plus, plus. Oh yes, plus a good helping of practical learning about the scientific method since it comes in pretty handy when you’re involved in inventing new technologies or debugging problems with existing ones. Anyone that can get through an engineering course without a good understanding of the scientific method really wasn’t paying much attention.

  63. #63 uncle frogy
    September 30, 2008

    I second the suggestion that if we really want to know why engineers are “more irrational” than some other group, study of the facts should be done to see what percent of all professions and or disciplines are pro or anti evolution vs creationism, states of religious belief.
    I would guess that what we are seeing is the result of the noted ability to mentally compartmentalize thinking and the selective use of creationist engineers as spokesmen as a political strategy instead of loony undereducated preachers!

  64. #64 Holbach
    September 30, 2008

    Did everyone read Fanti’s statement closely? “I don’t even know what their definition of religion is. I can argue their views on evolution are a religion, too, because it can’t be proven.”

    This clown is living in a world removed from reality, and is prone to making up crap that his religion infested mind twists around to suit his dementia. Religion has to be defined in a manner of ways, and he considers evolution a religion because it has a sane following? This moron should seek a new position at the Deranged Institute in Seattle. His kind is going to slowly strangle rational teaching and thought if he reamins in a critical area.

  65. #65 Jared
    September 30, 2008

    The winner of funniest statement of the day goes to:
    “There is some scientific evidence supporting creationism,”
    Upon reading said quotation, I fell from my chair, hitting my head on my desk on the way down, still laughing uncontrollably. It frightens me how ignorant and arrogant some individuals are…

  66. #66 Evolving Squid
    September 30, 2008

    I can’t prove right this instant that my cats are at my house, but because I saw them there this morning and closed the door so they can’t get out, they almost certainly are…

    Ah, the Myers’s Cat paradox.

    Technically, the cats are in an undefined state, neither in nor out of your house until you look at your house – the wave function collapses leaving the cats in a defined state. Of course it may be difficult to know either the velocity or position of your cats exactly.

    In theory, your cats could tunnel out of your sealed house, although the probability is very low. Feline tunneling has not been subject to a lot of research due to the larger availability of research dollars for itty-bitty particles.

  67. #67 AlanWCan
    September 30, 2008

    You can’t isolate disciplines. Science and faith – they go together.”

    So, they’ll be open to devoting time on Sundays for explorations of geology, biology, and physics in their churches then? We can organise courses in evolutionary biology from the pulpit can we?
    Hmmmmm….thought not.

  68. #68 Cranapple
    September 30, 2008

    Quoting Tim Rowledge: “That may the the murrican way but it was a touch different at Imperial. We got almost as much…”

    You seem to have missed the point. The math/physics/economics/ad nauseum education that all engineers recieve is sadly lacking in teaching about skepticism and the scientific method. I am heartened to hear that your education was not lacking in these areas, but in America that seems to be the case much more often.

    This is not to say that someone from this educational background (including myself) would be unable to see through fraudulent technical claims, but to tell the difference between science and psuedoscience in totally unrelated fields (medicine for example) takes more purposeful education in the scientific method. Being able to apply that same skepticism to one’s own brainwashing is another level more difficult entirely.

    Thanks for the insinuation that I wasn’t paying much attention, that was a nice finishing touch.

  69. #69 Farren
    September 30, 2008

    Americans call some professions “engineer” that we South Africans would call “technician” so I’m not sure I have all of the connotations right, but…

    I don’t think creationists predominate in engineering, just that, as stated, academically credentialed creationists are more likely to have engineering qualifications than other scientific qualifications.

    Most of the engineers I’ve known are more willing to proceed with a rough-and-ready understanding of why things work the way they do, based on experience, rather than a technically correct understanding and more willing to treat colloquial, trade and scientific meanings of words as equally valid, depending on the context, than other people with other academic credentials.

    By way of an example, I had an engineer with a keen interest in cars tell me the other day that you can’t get shocked by holding both contacts of a car battery because its DC. This sounded wrong so I checked with another more theoretically-minded friend with a background in electronics and he said you can get shocked by DC current (and in fact its potentially more dangerous), but a car battery isn’t powerful enough. When I went back to the first engineer, I articulated this to him and he simply latched onto the admission that a car battery wouldn’t really shock you, while giving every appearance of missing the point that his _reason_ for that being so was in fact wrong. No matter how many times I tried to separate the two issues he simply didn’t get it. In fact he simply clouded the issue by launching off into a long debate about what “shocked” meant, where he compounded the wrong with lots more wrong. I got the impression that he would absorb the fact that DC can, in fact shock you as soon as it was of practical importance to him, but not until then.

    I’ve had similar experiences with engineers (many of my friends are engineers) frequently. And I can easily see how that rough-and-ready, practical attitude to descriptions and problems makes engineers uniquely susceptible to creationist claims when contrasted with, say, biologists or theoretical physicists. For many of the people I know with an engineering mindset, the modern synthesis will remain largely uninteresting speculation about our past not worthy of too much mental energy until such time as they have an application which requires the use of genetic algorithms or neural network logic.

    Disclaimer: I say this as a non-academic, since I work as an analyst and programmer (and am entirely self-taught).

  70. #70 Nyx
    September 30, 2008

    @36 Wow! I pretty much dismissed this whole thread until I read your post. The Salem Hypothesis is pretty interesting. Maybe there is something to this whole argument.

    To the other offended engineers: The hypothesis states that educated creationists are disproportionately engineers, but it’s important to note that it says nothing about the likelihood of engineers being creationists.

  71. #71 Flex
    September 30, 2008

    I imagine that if you compare the graduation rates of all types of engineers with all types of science majors (physics, biology, etc.) you would find there are 4-5 times more engineers graduating than science majors.

    So I suspect it’s a population issue. There are a lot of engineers out there, so even if engineers are less likely than the rest of the population to hold creationist beliefs it’s still relatively easy to find one who does as a spokesman.

    In our office of about 50 engineers there are about 6 atheists and only 1 creationist.

    My $0.02 as an atheist electrical engineer.

  72. #72 penn
    September 30, 2008

    I think you hear about more creationist engineers because they are arrogant and think their engineering credentials will get them intellectual credit with the general public. Creationist pastors or bus drivers or secretaries don’t use their occupation to back up their claims. I also think there is some “science envy” in some of us engineers that shows up as arguments like “I could do science, but I wanted to do something practical.”

  73. #73 H.H.
    September 30, 2008

    $100 that if asked what this “scientific evidence supporting creationism” might be, Ferguson brings up fossilized human footprints and dino tracks in the same stone. Anyone want to take that bet? Anyone?

  74. #74 charley
    September 30, 2008

    “To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation?”

    Yea! An invitation to speculate! I am an engineer and I agree with PJB #20 that these engineers are emboldened by their scientific-sounding degree, so they spew more. Their education is weak, however, not only in biology, but other faith-breakers like geology and astronomy. They learn that science works, but not that it governs everything. As a result, compartmentalizing science to non-religious areas like technology and medicine is easy.

    Between the weak natural science training and lack of culturally broadening courses like history, literature and philosophy, it’s possible to graduate without having your childhood religion challenged.

  75. #75 LaTomate
    September 30, 2008

    Ooh, hitting on us engineers… well, at least you didn’t take one of us, pierce him/her through the heart and dump him/her in the trash with coffee ground, a page from the quran and a page from the god delusion…
    :)

  76. #76 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    The posts above reveal one very important fact:
    Engineer ? humor, sense of.

  77. #77 Nicole TWN
    September 30, 2008

    O Ghod, not ANOTHER creationist engineer. Brethren and sistren, let us drum him out of the fellowship of engineers! Let us take his slide rule and snap it in half!

    As to why: my guess is that we are so used to designing and building things that we are more easily seduced by the idea that design is required.

    Most of my study buddies were rational; only one or two were overtly religious, and even they were, y’know, SANE.

  78. #78 SplendidMonkey
    September 30, 2008

    +1 atheist engineer. The other kind scare me, I don’t want them praying over any bridge design I might drive over.

  79. #79 Glen Davidson
    September 30, 2008

    and he said you can get shocked by DC current (and in fact its potentially more dangerous), but a car battery isn’t powerful enough.

    It’s that it isn’t high enough voltage, at least not with dry skin.

    The battery is certainly powerful enough. Try the electricity from the coil, it’ll shock you well enough. But there the voltage has been stepped up.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  80. #80 QrazyQat
    September 30, 2008

    Yes indeed, it’s amazing how “venomous” people can get when you announce that you want to cost your local school board millions of dollars in legal fees in a losing cause.

  81. #81 Farren
    September 30, 2008

    Thanks, Glen. I did an electronics course way back in the 80′s but am almost wilfully uninterested in all things electrical, and am keenly aware that I’m likely to mangle something every time the words “current”, “voltage” and “power” come out of my mouth. The only part that stuck was the part of most interest to me – to wit – logic – IWO the gate arrangements for flip-flops and other circuits.

    I’m pretty sure the guy that advised me got the terminology right though – and I’m fairly certain I did for the short duration that it was relevant to the discussion I was having at the time.

  82. #82 SiMPel MYnd
    September 30, 2008

    Late to the thread, but I have to throw in my measure of outrage as well…

    I’m an electrical engineer and, amongst the others I work with daily, I don’t see any large bias for or against creationist lunacy. Yes, there are some of those around; otherwise good engineers who have that ability that I will never understand to turn the rational parts of their brain off when the magic sky fairy is discussed. But there’s no more of them then any typical slice of the population.

    Engineering is just applied science–a bridge between pure science and research, and the products of them that everyone uses. And I agree with previous posts–to be a good engineer, you should be rooted in good science and logical, critical thinking.

    But once you specialize in a particular type of engineering, your coursework gets narrowly focused to that discipline and you lose the broad science view. So, electrical engineers are all focused on physics of solid state devices, transmission lines, circuit desig, etc. Mechanical engineers are focused on forces, loads, material properties, mechanical design, etc. As a another previous post said–there’s not a lot that is taught that brings them back to their roots in science. I come by mine naturally.

  83. #83 Misterpost
    September 30, 2008

    Another win for the Dunning-Kruger Effect
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

    Works for:
    teenagers with learner’s permits
    school board members
    creation scientists
    gay pastors

  84. #84 Marc Abian
    September 30, 2008

    Cats suck. For example.

    Catwoman. Like I could understand the increased agility, and even the faster reactions, but she beat people up and kicked down doors. WIth what exactly? Her catlike strength? Also what sucked about this film is that she got her superpowers from a cat, but instead of having a rational science based explanation like getting bitten by a radioactive cat which causes her DNA to mutate, they come up with this completely implausible “magic cats breathes on her dead body and she comes back to life” nonsense. What do they take me for?

    Lassie. I wasn’t even sure if this was a film when I started writing this paragraph, but it turns out, that yeah it is. What’s more, a The New York Times film cricket said “this ‘Lassie’ exhibits a repertory of facial expressions that would put Jim Carrey to shame” and given the fact that his role the Cable Guy didn’t knock him off his pedestal, that’s a big deal

  85. #85 PZ Myers
    September 30, 2008

    Don’t take it wrong. It’s an asymmetric correlation.

    Take a random engineer plucked out of the population at large, and he’s no more likely to be a creationist than a random mathematician or physicist (maybe a bit more likely than a random biologist, but not by much).

    Take a random creationist who claims to have scientific authority, and you’ll more often than not find that he is an engineer of some sort. It may be because engineering steers creationist minds in a particular direction, or it may just be because there are more engineers than scientists.

    It’s not a slight against engineers. It’s that creation ‘scientists’ are most likely to be from a field far from biology.

  86. #86 SiMPel MYnd
    September 30, 2008

    Oh, yeah… And cats suck. As do little yippy dogs.

    If you’re going to have a dog, make it something big like a Saint Bernard, German Shepherd, or the like. And, if you’re going to have a cat, start with a panther-size or larger. Something we atheists can share our babies with when we eat.

  87. #87 Mari
    September 30, 2008

    Might it not be a problem of self-reporting rather than engineering being flooded (apparently) with religious nutjobs?

    I mean, isn’t it likely that only certain groups of people would find it beneficial to inform us of their education/job as an appeal to authority? Engineers might be disproportionally cast as creationists because an engineer might think their degree/job lends authority to their argument, whereas other professions might not see the same benefit.

    And cat people are the best!

  88. #88 tfintx
    September 30, 2008

    Let’s assume that Ferguson is honest. If “Kids should be presented both sides”, I’m sure he would be willing to open his pulpit one Sunday morning to a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of Genesis 1 & 2. Maybe we could even generalize and talk about the strengths and weaknesses in his sermons or Baptist dogma.

  89. #89 tsg
    September 30, 2008

    Re Creationist Engineers: Look up “Salem Hypothesis”. The cause (indeed, whether it is even a real phenomenom — hard data seems to be lacking) has been sporadically debated on talk.origins since the early 90′s. FWIW, #23 above looks like a good guess to me.

    Salem Hypothesis

    To be more clear, the Salem Hypothesis says that a creationist with an advanced degree is more likely to be an engineer rather than from any other discipline, not that engineers are more likely to be creationists. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know.

    I can think of a couple of reasons why it might be, or at least seem that way. Engineering may attract creationists for the simple reason that it doesn’t challenge their beliefs quite as much as other scientific disciplines. There is also a tendency for some people who are very knowledgeable in one area to believe that makes them knowledgeable in all areas (ask any tech support person about dealing with doctors), and, because of that, they tend to be the most outspoken about their beliefs. Creationists also have a strong tendency to point out people with science degrees that believe in creationism in an attempt to lend credence to the belief.

    So, yeah, there might be a correlation or it may just be a case of a vocal minority causing confirmation bias.

  90. #90 ConsciousMachine
    September 30, 2008

    For the record, I am a politically independent (with liberal leanings) Spinozan Deist, Structural Engineer, though I generally identify myself as atheist since the former is difficult and time consuming to explain to religious fundies.

    After reading many posts that have made much of a so-called “disproportionate” correlation between creationism and the engineering sciences I offer a few observations.

    I suspect that the “disproportionate” number of creationist engineers is really just a “proportionate” number with respect to the population. We tend to see this as “disproportionate” since there is, I think, an expectation that somebody trained in the sciences (however rigorously or non-rigorously) should have all the tools necessary to see through the bullshit that religion offers. Especially that particularly smelly strain of religion that claims a literal 6000 yr creation and does all that it can to undermine the pillars of our rational basis for understanding in order to maintain a place for itself on the playing field.

    It’s only a relatively few engineers, but they make a disproportionate amount of the noise. That can’t be ignored, really. – Posted by: Glen Davidson

    Anecdotally, I don’t think this is true in either case. I think that it is relatively more engineers that you would think (I am constantly amazed as I discover more and more creationists in my field) and that they are generally quiet about it. It may be relatively few that are actually vocal about their beliefs but I think that there are quite a few out there who hold (and vote) creationist ideas.

    I comfort myself that these people aren’t true engineers? – Posted by: SteveM

    Hmm… I’m not sure how you separate someone who “only has a job as an engineer” from a true engineer?. Engineers are the people who take the discoveries that the sciences have made and use them to build the infrastructure that makes our societies work. Simple as that. I don’t think that there is anything special about the way a true engineer? sees the world. In fact, if your argument holds that “A true engineer? thinks about everything as an engineering problem” that may be evidence for why engineers are more susceptible to creationist ideas than a (good?) scientist is, because engineering problems require engineers, not mindless (non)random processes.

  91. #91 Flex
    September 30, 2008

    Oh, no offense taken PZ.

    Unlike Orac who jokes about having to wear a paper bag over his head whenever an MD spouts creationist nonsense, most engineers recognize that this phenomenon exists.

    And most of us do have a sense of humor about it.

    Otherwise, we would be wearing paper bags over our heads in shame every day. ;)

  92. #92 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    Ooh, hitting on us engineers… well, at least you didn’t take one of us, pierce him/her through the heart and dump him/her in the trash with coffee ground, a page from the quran and a page from the god delusion…

    No… but your Mathematical Methods of Physics manual is fair game.

  93. #93 skepdude
    September 30, 2008

    Teach the controversy huh? I always wondered if they really think there is a controversy, why don’t they preach it during Sunday Mass? Wouldn’t it be great to give equal time to Science’s word just like they do the lord’s word?

    Wouldn’t it be great if they said something like : “Well here is what’s great about the Bible, now let’s go on to its weaknesses” (which start on page 1, sentence 1, word 1!)Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be willing to do that. Typical religious theistards!

  94. #94 stevogvsu
    September 30, 2008

    I imagine we would see a sharp decrease in the number of these scenarios that come up if the school district was allowed to recoup legal costs from the individuals responsible for pushing unconstitutional material in to their classrooms.

  95. #95 Paul Burnett
    September 30, 2008

    Another win for the Dunning-Kruger Effect” – Misterpost, #83

    There’s four gradations from incompetence to competence:

    1. You’re incompetent – so incompetent, you don’t know you’re incompetent (most creationists who discuss science)

    2. You’re incompetent, but beginning to realize how little you know.

    3. You’re beginning to be competent, but have doubts about being fully competent.

    4. You’re competent, and know you’re competent. (PZ, f’rinstance.)

    …or something like that.

  96. #96 Meloniesch
    September 30, 2008

    Glenn at #30 “Remembering, of course, that data is not the plural of anecdote?”

    How’s this for a new word: anecdata. This is data constructed of anecdotes.

  97. #97 Tom (the UK one)
    September 30, 2008

    Hey! I used to be a software engineer!

    Sorry, wrong forum.

  98. #98 E.V.
    September 30, 2008
  99. #99 Kingasaurus
    September 30, 2008

    Didn’t Ur-creationist Henry Morris become a hydraulic engineer specifically for the purpose of studying the dynamics of Noah’s flood?

    It’s pretty obvious that he knew at the outset that anything he learned in his engineering discipline wouldn’t be a threat to his pre-existing fundy beliefs.

  100. #100 tsg
    September 30, 2008

    I imagine we would see a sharp decrease in the number of these scenarios that come up if the school district was allowed to recoup legal costs from the individuals responsible for pushing unconstitutional material in to their classrooms.

    I always thought we should have the same kind of penalty for any legislator that proposed a law that turned out to be unconstitutional.

  101. #101 True Bob
    September 30, 2008

    Yep, I love the cachet that comes with an engineering degree. You should see the envy when the maitre d’ announces “Table for six, Engineer Jones”!

  102. #102 tim Rowledge
    September 30, 2008

    You seem to have missed the point. The math/physics/economics/ad nauseum education that all engineers recieve is sadly lacking in teaching about skepticism and the scientific method. I am heartened to hear that your education was not lacking in these areas, but in America that seems to be the case much more often.

    I think you missed *my* point actually – which was that the engineering education I got most emphatically *did*include scientific method. I’ll go a little further and hypothesize that you can’t do much in the way of engineering without needing to use it. Its basic problem solving.

    Thanks for the insinuation that I wasn’t paying much attention, that was a nice finishing touch.

    But you just proved that you can pay attention, so we’ve both learned something today. This is good.

  103. #103 Monkey Deathcar
    September 30, 2008

    I am also and atheist, electronics engineer, although my degree was in engineering physics (some sort of bastardization of EE, ME, and physics which is really… awesome). Also I’m liberal and getting more and more liberal as time goes on. Even more I work in the defense industry building communications/navigation satellites. One more thing, I think this country spends too much on defense even if saying that isn’t in my best (personal) interest.

    I guess this make me weird, but I already knew that.

    Most young engineers I know don’t really care much about religion (many are mildly religious) and are liberal. I know one other engineer who is an “out” atheist.

    Older engineers tend to be much more conservative where I work and more religious. Some even call Obama, Osama, which is really… ugh.

  104. #104 Bee
    September 30, 2008

    I’m with vespera.

    Why have we seen no pictures of these cats? Are they not lol-worthy, as are all other known cats?

    Or is it because of the secret evil cat-octopus melding experiments PZed has been performing, and his cats are now eight-tentacled furry monsters that can change their fur-colour at will for camouflage, therefore are invisible to cameras?

  105. #105 natural cynic
    September 30, 2008

    Fanti said he learned about the court cases after addressing the board and now thinks the idea of teaching creationism as part of the curriculum will be crushed.

    Just learned about the court cases?? Now that’s prima facie evidence that Fanti is clueless. Dover was just so underreported. Certainly a case of opening your mouth before doing a little research and removing all doubt that you are a fool.

  106. #106 True Bob
    September 30, 2008

    Right, cats. Cats of Ulthar. Laugh at them, I dare you.

    And if that isn’t up your alley, try the Cat Vindaloo. Meeeeyow, that’s good cat!

  107. #107 G Felis
    September 30, 2008

    Seems to me that a lot of the people dissing and defending engineers are either ignoring or are ignorant of the broader context. There is lots of well-established data about education and various sorts of religious beliefs, after all. Education is negatively correlated with religious beliefs in general and creationist beliefs in specific, and advanced degrees in scientific fields are even more negatively correlated, but there are still very significant differences between different disciplines in all the survey data about higher education and religious belief. PhD physicists are quite a bit more likely to retain religious beliefs of any sort (from vague deism to creationism) than PhD life scientists, and there’s a still higher proportion of believers among MDs than among PhD physicists.

    Why do these correlations exist? It strikes me as plausible that it’s mostly about how much evidence you are confronted with in ways that are direct and difficult to avoid or reject: Although some proportion of people can always manage to reject evidence in favor of their delusions (e.g. Michael Behe), the more evidence contrary to their delusions an individual confronts every day, the harder it is to maintain the delusion. And I think that the evidence itself and how much one is forced to confront it are somewhat independent factors. I haven’t seen data on engineering degrees in specific, but I think the data on PhDs and MDs provide clues.

    How the amount and type of evidence impacts religious belief can be seen in the differences between PhDs in different science disciplines. Physicists are simply confronted with less direct evidence against the existence of a benevolent sky-daddy than life scientists, who are confronted with the messy brutalities and intransigent idiocyncracies of living things every day. Physics also emphasizes theoretical unity and mathematical abstraction, broadly speaking, in contrast to the multiplicity of layers and complexity of nitty-gritty details involved in the biological sciences. Even within the life sciences, the more abstract and chemistry-focused life scientists (again, e.g. biochemist Michael Behe) show higher rates of belief than field biologists and evolutionary biologists and such.

    And then there’s the question of how much one is forced to confront the evidence one sees. Research science requires not just that a person be broadly familiar with the scientific method, but that the scientist actually DO SCIENCE – generate hypotheses, design experiments, etc. Working research scientists are quite used to the idea that the world will force them to change or simply drop some hypotheses (and, more rarely, even modify their theories). Generating hypotheses and looking for ways to test them is a fundamentally different sort of activity than applied science, and engages all the tools of careful critical thinking, rigorously and regularly. While the better applied scientists also make considerable use of the tools of critical thinking, the typical activities of the average applied scientist don’t involve or require serious philosophical skepticism, just the problem-solving skills of looking at the individual case at hand and finding the right method(s) to apply towards its solution. Those methods are generated and tested by research scientists – but neither applying those methods nor figuring out which method to apply requires the same kind of mind-changing confrontation with evidence as actually generating and testing the methods.

    Most engineers are applied scientists rather than researchers, and are far removed from the messy details of biology. While none of the surveys I’ve seen (or at least, none I remember seeing) included specific data on those with engineering degrees, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were more religious believers in general and creationists in specific amongst engineers than among PhD scientists – but still far fewer than amongst the general populous. I’d be interested to know how engineers compare to MDs, though. According to my theory of which factors are involved, there should be more religious believers & creationists among engineers than MDs; but I think that the personality traits that drive choice of and success in the very different professions might be confounding factors that could swamp the causes I’ve looked at here.

  108. #108 Biologist Kevin
    September 30, 2008

    Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldbloom in Jurasic Park) said it best: “God help us; we’re in the hands of engineers!”

    This has been great! Can we pick-on Doctors or Dentists tomorrow? How’bout starting with Creatioist-Dentists, Don McElroy from the Texas State Board of Education?

  109. #109 phantomreader42
    September 30, 2008

    JoshS @ #4:

    There really does seem to be some odd correlation between people calling themselves engineers (of various stripes) and believing in creationism. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that would be – if anything, I’d think such an ordered mental approach would make them less likely to believe in this kind of irrationality.

    To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation?

    I suspect creationists are just desperate to claim ANY sort of authority for their position. But most of them don’t have a rich cult leader to pay them to cheat their way to a phony bio degree like Jonathan Wells. And if you claim to have a PhD in biology, but demonstrate that you don’t know the first damn thing about biology, people will catch the lie. A creationist with, say, a BSEE can claim to be in a “sciencey” field, while glossing over the fact that their understanding of the relevant subject matter is exactly nil (unlike me, a BSEE who actually took some college-level biology, as well as physics and chem). It’s not that there are more creationist engineers, it’s that creationist engineers tend to brag more about being engineers, as if it had some relevance. They fundamentally don’t understand what the fuck they’re talking about, and think a BS in an unrelated field qualifies them to insist every biologist on the planet is wrong without the slightest speck of evidence. Playing up their engineering qualifications, or fabricating such qualifications, is just yet another way for creationists to hide from the fact that all the evidence is against them.

  110. #110 Charlie W
    September 30, 2008

    My brother is a Christianist and an Electrical engineer. I’ve found through our many arguments that his faith trumps his reason. Try to talk about evolutions, and its “to complex to happen by accident” or “Thats just a theory”. Try to explain the time scales and he just discounts the geological, radiological, and fossil evidence. the craziest reason he gives not to accept evolution is that it violates thermodynamics because it violates that laws of entropy. (may creationist don’t understand the difference between a closed and open system).
    Basicly my brother is a microprocessor design engineer, he depends on quantum mechanics and advanced chemistry in order to create his products, but he can divorce the science of his job from his everyday life. Religion can do really strange things to peoples heads.

  111. #111 Azkyroth
    September 30, 2008

    A religious engineer…somehow, I am not surprised at all.

    Bite your tongue. ;/

  112. #112 margish
    September 30, 2008

    It always amazes me how some people, highly trained in a discipline which depends on science, can compartmentalize their brains. Religion and early family brainwashing teaches them to put religion in a special box not affected by rationality. I come from a family with 5 engineers, 3 teachers, and a doctor. Each has received the religion in a special box teaching. Those who escaped this box were just as likely to be a scientist as not. Engineers, just say to anyone to challenges your rationality: Kenneth Miller, very eloquent evolutionist and Catholic! PS PZ I’m glad of your wisdom in your (or maybe your “trophy wife”) pet choice.

  113. #113 Rey Fox
    September 30, 2008

    “Queue Randy Stimpson.”

    I’d rather not stand in line with him, thank you very much.

    (Or did you mean “cue?)

  114. #114 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    September 30, 2008

    Humm.

    Yeah I meant cue.

    brain fart

    nothing new

  115. #115 El Herring
    September 30, 2008

    I must confess I have never been to America. Sure, I’ve heard about the place, seen it on TV (or at least what they tell me is America.) Most people on the Intertubes seem to come from there, and talk about it a lot. But I don’t have positive proof that there is such a place. So do I have to admit I have “faith” that America exists? Is my belief in America a religion? I suppose it must be. Although from some of the stories I’ve been hearing recently about the place, I’m starting to doubt my faith. Can such a ridiculous place really exist? It’s like a parody of a country sometimes. The Spinal Tap of nations. The World Power that goes all the way up to eleven!

    No, in all honesty, I truly and utterly believe that America exists. Honestly. I can’t prove it conclusively, but I really do believe it’s over there, across the water, out of sight but quite quite real.

    Just don’t expect me to take it seriously!

  116. #116 Kagehi
    September 30, 2008

    You know, I am getting sorely tired of the “science and religion can go hand in hand”.

    I watched a show last night on Discovery Channel, in some series on exposing less known things about historical events, etc., which discussed an examination of some of the freakier things the “core” of the Nazi leadership believed in. Among those things was belief that the wacko ideas of a Russian lady named Levonsky? (I think it was), who wrote something called The Secret Doctrine was talking about a “master race”, which was more evolved than everyone else. She seemed to *mean*, in her version, that they where more evolve as a civilization, since they had migrated and traveled around more. Still BS, and a fair amount of her book was.. borderline anti-Semetic, but it had nothing to do with “biological” evolution, until the core of the new socialist party in Germany got hold of it. The nature of the book? The “intersection of science and religion, via ancient mystical wisdom and occult practices.” Just replace that with “ancient Biblical wisdom and practices” and you would get the “modern” argument of the same BS.

    However, this was a bit later. Seems, if the information is accurate, they had already pulled a Scientology style lobotomy and based the “belief system”, which they where going to use to conquer the world with, on some science fiction book called “The Power of the Coming Race”, by Bulwer Lytton. Its like someone took Satanism and crammed the Jedi in the middle of it. Some underground race, with magic super powers, the children of which had enough of the “force” to destroy entire worlds, if they wanted to, is discovered by some fool explorer, etc., etc. The force was called Vril, and much of the core of the Nazi party actually thought it existed, trying to find “artifacts” that could lead them to harnessing it, searching Tibet and other places for the “entry” to the underground world, and performing things ranging from child sacrifice (lot of convenient orphans around from WWI to use), to sex magic, to try to gain it.

    I mean, this is insane. Mind, given that people fell for H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds”, and it wasn’t “uncommon” for people to take anything written down as fact back then, Sci-Fi being “very new”. And you could combine with that the fact that you where considered stupid if you didn’t attend some occult gathering at least once, where someone would pull “ectoplasm” out of their ass. So, its not entirely a surprise that some nut would actually think (as some nuts still do now) that some underground civilization existed, with magic powers. Oh, and to be clear, there is the implication that they “specifically” chose the left hand Swastika as a symbol of the “left hand path”, from old Roman gibberish. In other words these people where “intentionally” trying to be the 1940s version of the Sith, rather than Jedi. (Sorry, but the analogy is just too damn stupidly ironic…)

    If anything, this makes them even “less” atheist than some idiots already claim. Unfortunately, it also, somewhat, undermines the Hitler was Christian argument. :(

    Mind, this all presumes that the Discovery Channel wasn’t showing the equivalent of “Jesus’ Tomb” again, but.. lol

  117. #117 thegomezsymbol
    September 30, 2008

    Atheist Aerospace Engineer representin’

  118. #118 Santoki
    September 30, 2008

    Boo @ the religious engineer snap

    I’m an atheist engineer. We’re not uncommon. In fact most of the engineers I know are atheists because – get this – they’re logical, rational people.

    word to thegomezsymbol

  119. #119 James F
    September 30, 2008

    I’m more concerned about why so many wealthy financiers are creationists.

  120. #120 QrazyQat
    September 30, 2008

    “Another win for the Dunning-Kruger Effect” – Misterpost, #83

    There’s four gradations from incompetence to competence:

    1. You’re incompetent – so incompetent, you don’t know you’re incompetent (most creationists who discuss science)

    2. You’re incompetent, but beginning to realize how little you know.

    3. You’re beginning to be competent, but have doubts about being fully competent.

    4. You’re competent, and know you’re competent. (PZ, f’rinstance.)

    …or something like that.

    There’s another grade after that: you’re so smart and competent that you’re not sure you’re correct and will say so, but you’re sure enough to state your ideas. Examples are Charles Darwin and Carl Sagan.

  121. #121 Emmet Caulfield
    September 30, 2008

    +1 atheist engineer.

    +1 pissed-off at engineers being stereotyped a-fucking-gain.

  122. #122 Michael Johnston
    September 30, 2008

    Please do not e-mail that school board any more. It appears they may have a racially charged incident to deal with. I do not know the details yet but I will keep you informed. Imagine that…a racial incident in the God-fearing, bible thumping, creationist bible belt. Who wooda thunk!

  123. #123 bk
    September 30, 2008

    There IS creationism taught in schools. They’re called PRIVATE RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS. If parents don’t care enough to send their children to the schools that teach creationism, then how can they complain when their kids aren’t taught that? Also, they’re not all expensive. Most offer scholarships for students whose parents don’t have the money.

    My parents wanted me to have a religious education, so they sent me to a Catholic school. In fact, it was in the same town as the public school and only about 8 blocks away. There is no excuse for anyone to complain there that their kids aren’t learning creationism in the public school…you send them to the private school. Plus, most churches offer classes for kids. If one has a church that doesn’t offer that, then their church doesn’t really care enough either.

  124. #124 woodstein312
    September 30, 2008

    “There is some scientific evidence supporting creationism,” the Southern Baptist minister said. “Kids should be presented both sides. … You can’t isolate disciplines. Science and faith – they go together.”

    Wow… I mean, wow…The shear stupidity of that statement I could only attribute to theology. You had to go to Bible college to say something that stupid.

  125. #125 S.Scott
    September 30, 2008

    Ummm… remember how I was defending catholics back at comment #12?
    Well guess what? The pope has gone ahead and installed solar panels at the vatican.

    Every once in a while-they do something right. :-)

  126. #126 echidna
    September 30, 2008

    One more atheist electrical engineer checking in…

    And-U-Say @23 said it perfectly for me. One more thought: if a person is already religious, the electrical/chemical/mechanical/industrial engineering degree doesn’t have a lot of biology in it, and so there is little to challenge the creationist world view.

    However, I have never heard of a creationist geological engineer.

  127. #127 wingerx
    September 30, 2008

    Yet another atheist electrical engineer standing up to be counted…

    A lot of very good points have been posted. The only thing I have to add is that I cringe when I read one identifies oneself as a ‘creationist ‘x”.

    Whatever ‘x’ is, I’m more than likely going to be at a loss… Teacher, lawyer, engineer, doctor – to me, the can only slightly modify my sense of incredulity at the ‘creationist’ identity.

    Still, it does seem like a cheap shot to single out engineers for an affliction that strikes 80% (or more!) of US citizens.

  128. #128 greyhairedgeek
    September 30, 2008

    @Kagehi | September 30, 2008 3:48 PM
    It seemed obvious to me that the Vril Society was a religion, albeit not of the usual type. It seemed (from the Discovery Channel program, which is all I know about it) to embody the hallmarks of a religion, such as:

  129. pathological certainty (i. e. faith)
  130. arcane ritual
  131. ‘secret’ knowledge
  132. proprietary benefits for the insiders
  133. authoritarian rule
  134. xenophobic ideas and practices (“if you’re not one of us, you’re ? nothing”)

    It was definitely not xian, but most religions aren’t xian anyway. Methinks this puts paid to the “Hitler was an atheist” claim, if there’s any validity to the program’s presentation.

  • #129 PYRETTE
    September 30, 2008

    MORE fundy engineers? Get the fuck out of my discipline! SHOOO! Get out! No, take your bible with you, i don’t want you sneaking back in later!

    We don’t like your kind ’round ‘ere.

  • #130 Daddy Stegosaurus
    September 30, 2008

    As an Mechanical engineer in the Bible belt, I can tell you we are crawling with devoutly Christian engineers. As far as how many are creationist, out of the several hundred i work with, I know of two. I would speculate that there are at least that many more in hiding.

    Engineers tend to think they are better educated than they are and over-value their own opinions.

  • #131 Kagehi
    September 30, 2008

    It was definitely not xian, but most religions aren’t xian anyway. Methinks this puts paid to the “Hitler was an atheist” claim, if there’s any validity to the program’s presentation.

    Oh, yeah. It definitely kills any argument about atheist Nazis. It does however undermine the usual argument that he was some sort of Christian. *Was* in the very past tense may be more accurate than “still was when leader of the party”. Then again, people manage to shoehorn a lot of idiot BS onto existing religions, as a means to justify believing it. Though, do to the “intentional” choice of taking the dark path, this seems far less likely.

  • #132 anon. science teacher
    October 1, 2008

    After much thought on the matter, I have decided that if my state (OK) or district ever tells me to “teach both sides” then rather refuse, I will.

    I will show all evidence including that which contridicts the young earth/flood story. (of course, I will be repeatedly stating that I feel bad about attacking their beliefs, but the state REQUIRES that I tell them all the evidence supporting and refuting ID Theory)

  • #133 Gavin McBride
    October 1, 2008

    I hope my emails had some effect. I mailed the chairwoman asking her to withdraw her comment, i mailed her vice asking him to be ready to step up and call for her resignation if she should proceed.

    However the best part was I mailed ALL the science teachers listed in ALL the schools under this board and got a wonderful response from about 40% of them all saying they had complained to the board and were ready to stand up and call for their resignation also if anything proceeded.

    Its no wonder they are now backing down. Their own people and staff have turned on them. Fair play to them!

  • #134 Thomas
    October 1, 2008

    Pot shots at engineers from … a biologist? I might remind you of the glass house you’re in, what with Craig Venter, and Sephen Jay Gould’s late-life religious meltdown that contrasted so starkly with Carl Sagan’s rationality through the end of his life.

  • #135 llewelly
    October 1, 2008

    There really does seem to be some odd correlation between people calling themselves engineers (of various stripes) and believing in creationism. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that would be – if anything, I’d think such an ordered mental approach would make them less likely to believe in this kind of irrationality.
    To the rational, scientific engineers here – can you speculate on what accounts for this correlation?

    Confirmation bias.

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