Pharyngula

Oh, actually, shaved apes would be an upgrade from Josh Brecheen, who is more like a shaved and bipedal member of the subgenus Asinus. He’s a new legislator who has announced his intention to introduce creationism into Oklahoma schools (or, as perhaps I should refer to them, “skools”) for a set of reasons he laid out in a notably ignorant column in the Durant Daily Democrat.

His column is amazing. The faculty of Southeastern Oklahoma State University are covering their eyes in shame right now, since apparently this creationist-cliche-spewing plagiarist and professional goober managed to successfully graduate from their institution. My students ought to be worried, too, because now I feel like I’ve got to tighten up my standards and start flunking more students out lest they come back and haunt me from positions of power. Seriously, it’s a remarkable work he’s posted: it’s largely cribbed from the creationist Lee Strobel, but at the same time, he’s managed to make standard creationist arguments worse. Here’s his whole column, with a little helpful annotation from me.

One of the bills I will file this year may be dismissed as inferior by “intellectuals” [It’s not a promising beginning when you’re discussing a scientific topic and immediately dismiss intellectuals] so I wanted to devote particular time in discussing it’s [sic] merits. It doesn’t address state waste, economic development, workers comp reform or lawsuit reform (although I have filed bills concerning each) [I dread learning about their quality, given the dreck espoused here] but it is nonetheless worthy of consideration. It is an attempt to bring parity [a familiar refrain, in which a fringe belief is undeservedly promoted to equal time with well-established science] to subject matter taught in our public schools, paid for by the taxpayers and driven by a religious ideology [says the guy who wants to promote a religious ideology] . I’m talking about the religion of evolution [eyes roll everywhere]. Yes, it is a religion [No, it isn’t]. The religion of evolution [Seriously. It isn’t. It’s a scientific theory that explains a large body of confirmable facts, and that provides a useful framework for new research. It has no resemblance to any faith of any kind.] requires as much faith as the belief in a loving God [God: no evidence, no math, no experiments, no observations. Evolution: evidence, math, experiments, observations. Case closed.], when all the facts are considered (mainly the statistical impossibility of key factors [Here comes the bad math]). Gasp! Someone reading this just fell out of their enlightened seat!!! [Only at the sight of three exclamation points…we’re all wondering if he typed this while wearing his underpants on his head] “It’s not a religion as it’s agreed upon by the entire scientific community,” some are saying at this very moment [No, we’re not, because its status as a science rather than a religion is determined by its properties, not some kind of consensus or vote]. Are you sure? Let’s explore the facts. [As if Brecheen has any.]

As a high school and university student forced to learn about evolution [If only someone had forced him to learn about logic and grammar!] I was never told there were credible scientists who harbor significant skepticism toward Darwinian Theory [Because there aren’t any, at least not in the sense Brecheen is talking about. There are critics of aspects of the theory and differences in emphasis, but no credible, knowledgeable scientist has any doubts about the overall fact of evolution]. I easily recall a full semester at SOSU where my English 1 professor forced us to write [What we professors call “teaching”, or dumber students call “forcing”] almost every paper over the “facts” of evolution. That professor had a deep appreciation for me [Oh, really?] by semester end due to our many respectful debates [In the classroom, professors tend to avoid expressing what they really think of some of the clowns in our student body. Don’t mistake professionalism for intellectual respect] as I chose to not be blindly led [Says the creationist]. I specifically remember asking how in 4,000 years of recorded history how we have yet to see the ongoing evidence of evolution [But we do! Bacterial resistance, new species, observations of changing frequencies of alleles, etc., etc., etc.] (i.e. a monkey jumping out of a tree and putting on a business suit [Jebus. What a maroon. No, evolution does not predict that monkeys will don business suits]).

Following a 2001 PBS television series, which stressed the “fact” of evolution, approximately 100 [100 fringe cranks out of a population of about a million scientists] physicists, anthropologists, biologists, zoologists, organic chemists, geologists, astrophysicists and other scientists [Don’t forget the dentists! Relatively few on the “Dissent from Darwinism” list were actually qualified biologists, and quite a few have since been very surprised to learn that they were included] organized a rebuttal. So much disagreement arose from this one sided TV depiction that this group produced a 151 page rebuttal stating how the program, “failed to present accurately and fairly the scientific problems with the Darwinian evolution”. These weren’t narrow minded fundamentalists, backwoods professors or rabid religious radicals [Actually, yeah, they were] ; these were respected world class scientists like Nobel nominee [Anyone can be nominated, and nominations are supposed to be secret; why this is always cited as a qualification is mysterious] Henry Schafer, the third most cited chemist [chemist, no expertise in biology] in the world and Fred Figworth [This is called a plagiarized error. Lee Strobel made this typo, and now it gets echoed in creationist rants everywhere. There is no Figworth at Yale; his name is Sigworth] , professor of cellular and molecular physiology at Yale Graduate School.

Ideologues teaching evolution as undisputed fact are not teaching truth [Yes, they are. Evolution is firmly established.]. Renowned [Fact not shown] scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored [Also laughed at] . That’s where we should have problems with state dollars only depicting one side of a multifaceted issue [Oklahoma: mountain state, archipelago, rain forest, or lunar mare? That’s a multifaceted issue, too. Shall we teach invented geography with equal time?]. Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings is incomplete and unacceptable [OK, if we’re to teach the complete story, we’ll rightfully have to invest 179.99 days in teaching the scientific evidence, which all supports evolution, and 3 minutes on creationism on the last day. Fair’s fair]. For years liberals have decried how they want to give students both sides of an argument so they can decide for themselves [Both sides doesn’t imply a body of evidence is equal to a body of myth and superstition], however when it comes to evolution vs. creation in the classroom, the rules somehow change [Wrong. We’re consistent: we want the scientific evidence taught. It’s not our fault the creationists haven’t provided any]. Their beliefs shift, may I say… evolve to suit their ideology.

We must discuss the most recognizable icons of the evolution religion. Darwin sketched for The Origin of Species a visual [This one? Wrong. It’s not in the Origin, it’s in Darwin’s notes, which I doubt that Brecheen has read. It also looks nothing like what he describes] to explain his hypothesis that all living creatures evolved from a common ancestor. The tree of life scenario, engrained upon most of our memories [What he’s about to describe isn’t the tree of life, and I don’t know where he came up with it, but plucked from his ass seems a reasonable hypothesis], depicts gue transitioning into a hunched over monkey which then turns into a business suit [What’s with all the monkeys in business suits?].

Darwin himself knew the biggest problem with his visual (cornerstone concept of his hypothesis) was the fossil record itself. He acknowledged major groups of animals, he coined “divisions” (now called phyla) appear suddenly in the fossil record [Fair enough, Darwin does propose this as an issue, saying that there should have been long periods of time prior to the Cambrian, during which life swarmed in the seas. Of course, he’s since been shown to have been right.]. The whole basis for evolution is gradual differences and changes to be confirmed by modified fossils (phyla cross-over [What? Never heard of it]). Even Christians believe in biological change from species to species (adaption) over time. The taxonomic hierarchy which includes species, genus, family, order and class must be visualized [What?] for understanding separation from phyla and species classifications. As an OSU Animal Science graduate [I’m so sorry, OSU] I readily admit the adaption of animal species from interbreeding such as Santa Gertrudis cattle, a “weenie” dog or even a fruit fly. Even the difference among lions, tigers and cougars could be attributed to species adaption and interbreeding if one so decried [sic]. Additionally, human differences seen notable in ethnicity proves that change among species is real but this is NOT evolution [No, it is evolution. You don’t just get to define away obvious examples of changes over time as non-evolution] , its [sic] adaption. Changes with the classification of species is DRAMATICALLY different then changes among Phyla [Again, I say, what? I’ve been grading a lot of papers lately. I can tell when a student is trying to BS his way through a topic he doesn’t understand, and Brecheen is showing all the signs] . Phyla changes would be if an insect, with its skeleton located on the outside of soft tissue (arthropods), transformed into a mammal, with its skeleton at the core of soft tissue (chordates) [Ah, so that’s what he’s getting at. An insect must turn into a mammal for evolution to be true. Sorry, guy, such a phenomenon would demonstrate that evolution was wrong — biologists make no such prediction]. Phyla changes must be verified for Darwin’s common ancestor hypothesis to be accurate [Nope. This nonsense about “phyla changes” or “phyla cross-over” is simply stuff Brecheen has made up out of whole cloth (or stolen from one of his creationist source). Real biologists argue that mammals and insects evolved from a common ancestor in the pre-Cambrian, which would have been a generalized worm-like creature. Organisms do not suddenly leap across lines of descent; it’s like arguing that before you’ll believe I’m descended from my grandmother, I have to give birth to my cousin].

The rapid appearance of today’s known phylum-level differences, at about 540 million years ago, debunks the tree of life (common ancestor) scenario [No, it doesn’t.]. This biological big bang of fully developed [Nonsense. Cambrian organisms were precursors to modern forms, and the full range of extant forms was not present in the Cambrian—there were no bumblebees or birds, no squirrels or snakes.] animal phyla is called the Cambrian explosion. The Cambrian explosion’s phyla fossils and the phyla of today are basically one in [sic] the same [Nope. The Cambrian chordates, for instance, were represented only by small wormlike swimmers that were spineless and jawless and brainless; modern chordates are significantly more diverse. Mr Brecheen, for instance, possesses a jaw, although he may be lacking in some of the other key characters]. These phyla fossils of that era are fully developed [What does that even mean? Of course they were functional organisms], not in a transitional form [“Transition” refers to an intermediate between two forms. They were transitional between pre-Cambrian forms and modern chordates]. In fact we don’t have a transitional form fossil [Of course we do.] crossing phyla classification [Again with this bizarre “phyla crossing” nonsense. We expect no such thing] after hundreds of years of research looking at sediment beds spawning the ages. There are certainly plenty of good sedimentary rocks from before the Cambrian era to have preserved ancestors if there are any [Again, we do! We have fossils from the Vendian/Ediacaran; we have 600 million year old embryos; we have trace fossils and the small shelly fauna. Brecheen’s ignorance is not evidence of absence] . As for pre-Cambrian fossils being too tiny or soft for secured preservation there are microfossils of bacteria in rocks dating back beyond three billion years [As I just said, we’ve got ‘em. They’re worms and slugs and fans and weird quilted creatures] . Absolutely ZERO phyla evidence supporting Darwin’s hypothesis has been discovered after millions of fossil discoveries [Imagine Brecheen closing his eyes real tight right now, sticking his fingers in his ears, and going “lalalalala”. What exactly did he learn in that OSU Animal Science program? It sure wasn’t any basic biology]. Darwin’s cornerstone hypothesis where invertebrate’s transition into vertebrates is majorly lacking [No, it isn’t. The molecular evidence is robust. Brecheen just doesn’t understand it, or more likely, never saw it] and so is Darwin’s “theory”.

I will be introducing legislation this session to ensure our school children have all the facts [So, Oklahoma, you elected this idiot to office. Are you going to stand by and watch him poison your educational system with this garbage?].