Pharyngula

So this past weekend, we had the Midwest Science of Origins conference here in Morris, Minnesota. At precisely the same time, about 190 miles north-north-east of us, in Bemidji, Minnesota, a team of lying clowns from the Institute for Creation Research were repeating the same bullshit that provoked our students to organize our conference. I hope the Bemidji State biology faculty were paying attention, and that their students are right now planning some remedial education for the community; I’d be happy to help if they want to contact me.

It was a seminar titled “Rebuilding the Foundation: Demolishing the Pillars of Evolution”, and it was held in Bemidji High School. How embarrassing for Bemidji. How typical of creationists, though.

The seminar, consisting of six hour-long presentations, was presented by the Institute of Creation Research out of Texas and led by John Morris and Nathaniel Jeanson.

This is just weird, but they’re always doing it, and I don’t get it. It was the same thing last year here in Morris; Terry Mortenson of AiG showed up and did these back-to-back lectures, while refusing to answer questions (he claimed to have a sore throat…which didn’t interfere with 7 hour long lectures).

I see we missed an opportunity. We should have just told Neil Shubin to come here and spend all day talking. Unfortunately, when you’re talking science, it’s actually hard work and you have to back up everything with evidence and demonstrate some rigor and care; when you’re a creationist, it’s easier because all you have to do is make stuff up non-stop.

You might be wondering who these two guys are.

Morris has a doctorate of geological engineering and has led 13 expeditions to Mt. Ararat in search of Noah’s ark. Jeanson has a Ph.D. in cell and development biology from Harvard Medical School.

First, when your most notable contribution to “science” is haring off to chase down myths, you ought to be laughed off the stage. Morris is a deluded charlatan.

And Jeanson…he’s an embarrassment to Harvard. I’ve described Jeanson’s competence before — he’s a guy with an undergraduate degree in bioinformatics, who lectures creationists on genomics, who knew nothing about how the chimpanzee genome sequence was acquired or how it compared to the human sequence.

Students generally are taught evolution theory in early high school, Cairns [Steve Cairns is the superintendent of schools!] said.

“But it is expressed as a fact,” Penni Cairns said. She said students raised on Creationism concepts can be confused and frustrated with evolution theory teachings because their beliefs are shot down by teachers following educational guidelines.

Yes, I’m sure that is frustrating to have your superstitions constantly shot down by reality.

“There are so many unexplained aspects of evolution, such as the missing links,” he said.

In Morris’ morning session, “The Fossil Record: A Problem for Evolution,” he showed images of fossils that mirrored the images of the animals that exist today: A 200-million-year-old crocodile is still a crocodile, a 300-million-year-old dragonfly is still a dragonfly, a 65-million-year-old bat is still a bat.

Cairns keeps trumpeting his ignorance in this article. Why is he superintendent of schools again?

Harun Yahya also makes this argument — it’s about the only thing he says over and over again. Let’s show a picture of a fossil and a contemporary organism to someone who wouldn’t know a femur from a cercal bristle, and they’ll happily say that they look exactly the same. Meanwhile, someone who actually knows some systematics and anatomy will look at the 200-million-year-old crocodile and immediately spot the differences that make it a unique species.

And yes, it certainly is true that there were dragonflies 300 million years ago, and there are dragonflies today; it’s a successful form. It doesn’t follow that organisms separated by a third of a billion years of time are indistinguishable from one another, or that we ought to be surprised about it. What matters is that we have change over time: there were no T. rexes in the Triassic, and there are no T. rexes today, but there were T. rexes in the Cretaceous. The existence of successful taxa that span that range of years does not negate the reality of change.

He also showed pictures of actual fossils that show, in his interpretation, how animals died catastrophic, sudden deaths. Fish died in sediment-filled waters; land-dwelling animals drowned. He showed pictures of dinosaurs fossilized with their heads arched backward and up, saying they were struggling to find air, but were drowning.

“Every dinosaur fossil is like that,” he said.

No, they’re not…but it’s true that a lot are. It is silly to claim that opisthotonus (the arched neck in those fossils) is always a consequence of drowning; there are multiple possible mechanisms behind it. But it’s even sillier to claim that all of the dinosaurs not only died of the same cause, but died in the same cataclysmic event over the course of one year. It’s like noting that some human skeletons show evidence of fatal cuts, bludgeoning, or gunshots, therefore they all died in the American Civil War, which was global and explains all violent deaths in all of history.

But of course, Henry Morris is an idiot.

He also argued against evolution by saying that there is no hard evidence that shows one creature evolving into another. If a fish did turn into an amphibian, there would be a “missing link” or transitional fossils proving such steps. Yet none exist.

At the very same time that Morris was making that stupid claim, Neil Shubin was pulling out a cast of Tiktaalik, a transitional form in the process of fish evolving into amphibians, and showing it to a room of 200 people in Morris.

“Yet none exist.” Lying dumbass.

But OK, world. Any students out there shopping for colleges right now? Are you looking at Bemidji State University vs. University of Minnesota Morris? I think the smart choice is crystal clear.

But then, I expect someone at the university will soon come roaring back with a strong response. I’m looking forward to it.


P.S. One other odd thing about that article. It keeps touting “Intelligent Design”, and Cairns is promoting the inclusion of Intelligent Design creationism in public schools. Yet the talks are by the ICR, a specifically young-earth-creationist organization that believes the earth is less than ten thousand years old and that all of geology can be explained by a global flood, patently religious claims that the Discovery Institute tries mightily to sweep under the carpet in their pretense of being a secular, scientific organization. Somebody has apparently looked at the claims of both and can’t tell the difference. Which is not surprising.

(Also on FtB)