My favorite atheist, P.Z. Myers, gets very upset over many, many things. A while ago, he got really flustered over the fact that Obama appointed Francis S. Collins to head the National Institutes of Health. You see, Collins is a vocal Christian. Myers can’t stand it when a scientist of faith is (a) significantly more knowledgeable and accomplished than he is and (b) is promoted to a very high-profile position. It destroys his whole “If you believe in religion you are an idiot” argument. Here is what he said when Obama’s appointment of Francis S. Collins became official:
We can also trust him to drape Jesus over every major announcement, use the office as a platform for promoting religiosity, and otherwise taint the whole business with embarrassingly inane nonsense…just as he did with the human genome press conference. Isn’t it about time our government promoted secular values that work over these antique and ineffective superstitions that just make their proponents look goofy? 1
This is a common theme throughout the “new atheist” movement – Christians believe in superstition. Well, like most things the new atheists say, such nonsense is demonstrated wrong by the data.
My grandparents lived in the wonderful little town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. My family would visit them nearly every summer, and I loved it. It was right near the beach, and the seafood was amazing! I remember the first time I saw this kind of device there:
(Photo licensed through www.clipart.com)
I asked my parents what it was, and they told me it was a lobster trap. I was skeptical. After all, it was just a wooden cage with some netting, and the netting had a big hole in it. I asked my parents how it could trap anything. After all, if something could crawl in the hole, it could crawl right back out again, right? My parents told me that lobsters were too stupid to do that. They would crawl in the hole to get the bait inside, but they would not know enough to back out of the hole, and since they couldn’t turn around in the small enclosure, they would end up being trapped. I remained skeptical, but I asked lots of people in that small New England town, and they all gave me the same story my parents gave me. After all, it was “well known.”
Of course, science has a way of telling us that lots of “well known” things are 100% incorrect!
So who is right? Was Darwin a racist? Did his theory promote racism? Was Darwin an abolitionist who attempted to show that all men are part of the same, happy family? The short answer is that Darwin was a racist, but neither he nor his theory promoted racism. In the same way, neither he nor his theory fought against racism. The long answer, of course, is much more interesting.
Unfortunately, the shoddy theology of most young-earth creationists doesn’t stop with the insistence that the days in Genesis must be 24-hour days. Another unfortunate claim most make is that there was no animal death before the Fall. Like the insistence that the days in Genesis 1 are 24-hour days, this claim is based on an incredibly inept view of Scripture.
Argo is the name given to an array of over 3,000 buoys that have been installed throughout the word’s oceans. It is a tribute to how countries can work together toward a common goal, as it is the result of a collaboration among more than 50 scientific institutions in 26 different countries. Of course, as is typical, while the United States is only one of those 26 countries, it contributes over half of the money necessary to fund this ambitious project. As you can see from the image below, the buoys do a good job of covering the majority of earth’s oceans 1:
Argo Buoy System
What do these buoys do? Well, periodically, they dive 3,000 feet into the ocean and, as they rise back up, they measure things about the ocean water, like salt content, pressure, and…oh yeah…temperature. They’ve been measuring these things since 2003, and the scientific community really wanted to start seeing how these measured quantities have changed over the years. Now that they have seen the results, many scientists are shutting their eyes, covering their ears, and yelling as loudly as they can, because the data go squarely against the concept of “Global Warming.”
He’s a music man and he sells clarinets to the kids in the town with the big trombones and the rat-a-tat drums, big barass bass, big brass bass, and the piccolo, the piccolo with uniforms, too with a shiny gold braid on the coat and a big red stripe runnin . . .
If you don’t know what that is, it’s a line from the Broadway Musical called The Music Man. Why am I posting this? Because I was just cast as Harold Hill in our local community theater’s production of this classic Broadway Hit.
When Darwin was around, evolution was science. Darwin made observations, formed a hypothesis, made predictions, and then compared those predictions to the data. In his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, he showed the data that compared favorably to his predictions, and he argued why the data that did not compare favorably to his predictions should not be taken too seriously. Overall, it was an excellent work of science.
The problem is that as time has gone on, more and more data have been shown to be squarely against the predictions of the evolutionary hypothesis. For example, Darwin himself said that if his view was correct, there should be all sorts of vestigial organs (organs that serve no useful purpose) in nature. He reasoned that as variations occurred in organisms, some useful organs would eventually stop becoming useful – their functions would be “overwritten” by new biological structures that made the creature more fit to survive. However, the now useless organs would not necessarily go away. It would take a long time for natural selection to get rid of them, so at any given time, vestigial organs should be around in a variety of creatures. In fact, Darwin compared vestigial organs to the silent letters in a word. Silent letters don’t necessarily serve a function in the word, but they can give you a hint about the word’s origin. In the same way, he reasoned, vestigial organs don’t serve a useful purpose in an organism, but they can give hints to the organism’s origin1.
Recently, my favorite atheist (P.Z. Myers) went to the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum with about 300 fellow atheists. It was an event organized by the Secular Student Alliance. He wanted to go there to make fun of the exhibits and provide fodder for his blog.
The Creation Museum, of course, was happy to have them. They helped the SSA arrange the whole thing and had a tent outside for them, etc. In fact, the SSA’s organizer for the event, Lyz Lydell, said:
Now, I was absolutely blown away by how accommodating and friendly the Creation Museum staff were. They knew we were coming; they knew exactly who we were. And there had been a little bit of tension about the purpose of our visit before we went. But after we got there, the staff were just phenomenally polite and kind and helpful, and the security guards were very polite and helpful to us. We were expecting more tension, so to have everything so polite and so smooth was absolutely great.1
Imagine my surprise, then, when I read P.Z. Myer’s accounts of the visit.
Alkali metals (like sodium) really like to give up their last electron. That way, they have a very stable electron configuration. Well…one way these metals can give up their electron is to react with water:
2Na + 2H2O –> 2NaOH + H2
In NaOH, the sodium is in its ionic form, Na+. Thus, it has lost its last electron and is now quite stable. Note that hydrogen gas is a product. Well, hydrogen is an explosive gas, and this reaction produces a lot of heat. So when sodium and water react…
Note that this was done in a drainage pond with the owner’s full permission. There were no fish in the water, and the byproduct, NaOH, is actually good for the soil in this area, as the soil is acidic. Thus, this is an environmentally friendly shenanigan.
It turns out that of all alkali metals, sodium is the SECOND LEAST reactive. Lithium is the least reactive. The other alkali metals, in order of reactivity, are potassium, rubidium, cesium, and francium.
My elementary science series and my chemistry course were voted #1 by the readers of Practical Homeschooling magazine. This is the second year in a row for my chemistry course, and the third year in a row for my elementary series. You can learn more about the courses by clicking on the blue ribbon.