Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Magic in Science Textbooks?

The vocal creationist minority in the Texas State Board of Education has again forced itself upon Texas schoolchildren by inviting six creationists to the final review of science textbooks submitted for adoption.  The TFN Insider published an article yesterday that provides the names and the credentials of the creationist/intelligent design proponents that they have identified at the review thus far.  Judging by the names that I recognize, it would appear that my state is headed to yet another push for rewriting science to fit the beliefs of local Christians.

Pathetic isn't a good enough word for what they're attempting to do.  Since these proponents of religious magic only know enough to understand that the scientific method is their worst enemy, they've decided instead to redefine science with politics.

Basic science is not up for philosophical or religious debate because anyone is more than welcome to try to prove these theories wrong.  If you think someone is wrong, don't argue against it - give it a go!  The Bible, on the other hand, is by its very nature a philosophical book that simply does not stand up to the extraordinary rigors of science.  You are more than welcome to believe what you want, but as far as modern science is concerned, the Bible is no different than a book on Hobbits, Elves, or Wizards.

Popularity of a particular idea also plays no role in the scientific method.  As a matter of  fact, popularity frequently leads to further study and sometimes leads to the idea being quickly and summarily debunked.  (See Cold Fusion.)

In this day and age, we should be ashamed as a species that there are those that are still trying to place inadequate answers and anecdotal nonsense into science textbooks.  You cannot simply dream-up a catchy phrase for an empty idea and expect that idea to stand next to theories that have been proven and reinforced for well over a hundred and fifty years.  And in case anyone didn't realize it: YES, as of July 31st, 2013, the Theory of Evolution has stood for 154 years (and counting).  NO, you're not the first group of religious people to try to use political manipulation/popularity instead of the scientific method to disprove Darwin.  YES, shame on you for trying again.

I frequently hear how atheists are just angry, or that we're aggressive, or that we should just keep to ourselves because religion isn't hurting anyone.  For some reason most people forget times like these, where the religious views of conservative politicians are being used to dictate what is and what is not science.  Religious leaders, and religious people for that matter, have so mastered the claim of personal persecution that they cannot recognize when they are victimizing their own populace.  Or perhaps they simply don't care.

The vast majority of the country will usually wave their hand at events like this, since they don't see the value in worrying about what's going on with Texas.  However, what these good people don't realize is that since Texas is so much larger than other states, and since Texas requires that the same books will be used for the entire state, and since science publishers will offer discounts to other states to get them to buy the science books the publisher's already paid to have printed, then the Texas State Board of Education can and often does dictate what material gets added or removed in various science books used by other smaller states.

Do you care now?

Friday, July 5, 2013

If God Really Wrote the Ten Commandments...

I had a thought the other day, what if the Bible had actually been written by a god - what would it look like?  More specifically, what if a god actually had handed down ten rules/commandments that we were all supposed to follow?  What would those rules say?  What would they look like?

Oh, and I'm hoping to get a little audience participation on this post, so anyone reading this is welcome to add/subtract from my list by commenting below.

First Disclaimer: For those skeptics out there, remember to skip the obvious objection that there is no god.  Also, think about what a hypothetical god would have likely written 3500+ years ago had it concluded that 1) its creation was starting to get out of hand and 2) these people's attention span was far too short for a list of fifty items and thus, it had to limit itself to a measly ten rules.  Also assume that people will still be able to break these rules - as holds true for the current ten biblical commandments - which means we'll have to assume a deistic god in the sense that this god can create a universe, it just cannot intervene.

Second Disclaimer: For the religiously inclined out there, remember that this is just an exercise and you do not need to post the original ten commandments.  We've read them.

My list is below.  Of course, a couple from the biblical list are included here for obvious reasons:
  1. Do NOT kill fellow human beings.
  2. Do NOT rape fellow human beings.
  3. Do NOT steal from fellow human beings.
  4. Do NOT commit another human being to slavery.
  5. Do NOT ignore the sick or the hungry; make certain to share what I provide for you.
  6. Do NOT discriminate against your fellow human beings; whether by sex, color, group, intelligence, or anything else. Embrace the differences I have created for you.
  7. Do NOT fear one another.
  8. Resolve disagreements with compromise.
  9. Educate yourselves so long as you live.
  10. Wash yourselves, especially your hands. (A simple recipe for soap as well as a simple recipe for antibiotics follows this list.)
There's my ten.  I look forward to seeing any ideas for a better list.  Let the editing begin!