Grant Rants

I get feedback: Creationist logic edition

- July 23rd, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

So apparently my column on the nature of science reporting has some creationists all tied up into knots.
The thrust of my piece was new BBC guidelines for its reporters that insists when reporting science that journalists actually report, you know, science. Creationists do not like this idea much because they want their particular origin myth to be factually true. It’s a line of reasoning that says if their version of the creation myth isn’t true, then nothing in the Bible is true, and their entire universe will collapse.

Of course, creationism isn’t science, has no scientific evidence, creationists produce no research and have discovered nothing. Which isn’t surprising, since religion isn’t science.

Doesn’t stop some of them from trying to claim it is. Take Herman Hunter of Niagara Falls, for  instance, who writes:

Grant Rant July 14 “Science reporting should be based on science.” Grant rants as if evolutionary scientists have answers to where life began. He claims that invoking a supernatural act by a creator who is beyond our time/space universe is unscientific. But the naturalistic view of the origin of the universe has to explain how nothing became everything by itself. This view violates the known laws of science. The humanistic, material energy, chance world view, intolerantly uses every form of force at its disposal to make its world view the exclusive one taught. It is rather naive to think that nothing gave rise to something, that non-living matter gave rise to life. What was the first cause that caused everything else? Where did matter and energy come from? Where did intelligence originate? Are we to think of the universe as a massive perpetual-motion apparatus with some sort of impersonal “intelligence” of its own? Or is there a intelligent designer who created everything from nothing and set it all in motion? Evolution is really a fairy tale for grown-ups.

This is a common creationist line of thinking. They like to think it is logic. It is more like a highly selective constipated thought process. And it’s one that can be easily broken down thusly:

1) “He claims that invoking a supernatural act by a creator who is beyond our time/space universe is unscientific. But the naturalistic view of the origin of the universe has to explain how nothing became everything by itself. This view violates the known laws of science.

This is all kinds of wrong. First off, the theory of evolution by natural selection describes how life forms on Earth change and adapt over time and how new species arise. It does not, in any way shape or form, discuss the origin of the universe. That is described in the big bang theory and related fields of science. These are entirely different scientific theories, describing different things, from different fields of study. Their only point of contact is that they do not invoke a god, which can be said for every single scientific theory. Because it’s science, not religion.

So Herman, you cannot say something violates the “known laws of science,” if you don’t know what science is.

2) The humanistic, material energy, chance world view, intolerantly uses every form of force at its disposal to make its world view the exclusive one taught.

Well, if you are talking about what is taught in a science class room, then yes. You see, in a science class you teach, you know, SCIENCE. Not religion. You can preach your origin myth all you want in your churches and temples. This is the great hypocrisy of the creationist. They want to preach in religion in science classes and have the Bible included as a science book. But you don’t see scientists knocking at the doors of Sunday school classes insisting on “equal” time for the germ theory of disease or evolution do you?

The creationist and like minded people appear to me to need a “them” to feel like they are under assault. Refusing to allow religious dogma into the science class or the lab is not religious persecution. It’s just good science.

Oh and by the way, while change plays a role in evolution in the form of mutation, evolution by natural selection is not a chance process. It is, in fact, a non random process. If it wasn’t, it won’t work.

3)  It is rather naive to think that nothing gave rise to something, that non-living matter gave rise to life. What was the first cause that caused everything else? Where did matter and energy come from? Where did intelligence originate? Are we to think of the universe as a massive perpetual-motion apparatus with some sort of impersonal “intelligence” of its own? Or is there a intelligent designer who created everything from nothing and set it all in motion? Evolution is really a fairy tale for grown-ups.

And here is where the creationist babble gaff completely falls apart.
See the creationist likes to think they have a checkmate argument by saying “Well, how did the universe arise from nothing? That makes no sense. It had to be god.” Then when you say “Ok, and where did god come from?” they  say  “oh, well, ah, you see god always existed…or created himself…or something. Doesn’t matter.”

See, as Carl Sagan pointed out, if you want to postulate that the universe has a creator and that creator was never itself created, you really have explained nothing. You might as well skip a step and say the universe created itself. It makes as much sense.

What science ACTUALLY says is rather different from what Herman, and indeed most creationists will tell you science says. When it comes to the absolute origin point of our universe, science as three words: “We don’t know.”

There is nothing wrong with not knowing. It means we have more to learn. Big Bang cosmology has brought us very far in terms of understanding the origin of our universe. But there is still more to know and discover. And scientists are working toward better answers all the time. What scientists don’t do is fill in our ignorance with whatever fair story happens to appeal to them. Herman, on the other hand, is throwing up his hands and saying in effect “magic man did it,” and then claiming that is science.

The brilliance of science is that it works through evidence, observation, experiment, and constantly attempting to prove its own conclusions wrong. And it does not hide from it’s own ignorance.

Sorry, Herman, but you can’t make an effective argument if you don’t know what which you are trying criticize. Go back to school, son.

50 Shades of Terrible.

- July 21st, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

So, it is almost upon us. A pox potentially worse than Glee. A horror worse than any zombie movie or robot take over melodrama.

A 50 Shades of Grey movie is about to be released.
I have read some of these terrible books. When they became big hits, I tried to read them out of curiosity. When I encountered was a something that was so terrible it should come with a surgeon general’s warning.  “Warning: This book is more terrible than terrible,” it would read.

The 50 Shades books were terrible. And by terrible, I mean, they were enough to rupture your brain, causing whatever intelligence you have to leak out into the atmosphere.

By terrible, I mean you will find better writing on a grocery list penned by a spastic seal writing on a soggy napkin in crayon.

By terrible, I mean having to listen to the Hamster Dance on repeat for 48 hours while having to eat mouldy cheeseburgers from MacDonalds is a preferable fate than having to read them.

By terrible, I mean by comparison, the movie Showgirls (maybe the worst movie of all time)  will look like Citizen Kane by comparison to a 50 Shades Movie.

By terrible, I mean that being hung upside in a vat of leaches whilst a hungry badger gnaws upon your toes is a better fate than having to read a single paragraph of those books.

So now, someone decided: “Hey, remember that terrible series of books that, for reasons not even Stephen Hawking can understand, were super popular and women everywhere were devouring like some sort of evil, ink stained crack? Lets make a terrible movie out of them just to bring the end of the world closer.”

ugh. May Odin have mercy upon our souls.

Ps. Just how terrible is 50 Shades of Terrible? More terrible than this:

I get feedback: I work for Satan edition

- July 21st, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

Earlier this month I wrote in my regular Grant Rant column that Pope Frank, for all his positive attributes, is doing the world a massive disservice with his bather about the Devil, about how he can cast out demons and allowing the Vatican to officially recognize a global exorcist organization. As has always happened the “exorcised” are the mentally ill who end up being, if you will excuse the phrase, demonized, abused and mistreated when what they need is medical attention.

You can read that column here: http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2014/07/07/leave-ghost-busting-to-the-dark-ages

By way of a reply one Joe Hvilivitzky of Niagara Falls wrote a letter to the editor which you can read here: http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2014/07/14/letters-to-the-editor-for-july-15

I am going to reply to Joe’s letter in full because, well, it’s not often I am told I am really just a pawn of the devil doing the devil’s work by pointing out that exorcism is utter and total nonsense.

So Joe, you’d best wear a cup:

“A columnist’s job is to provoke, inform and entertain. Unfortunately, Grant LaFleche’s July 7 Rant bats 0-for-3. Instead of being provocative, it is simply mean-spirited; it lacks any useful information or insight; and its only entertainment value is in the writer’s laughable lack of knowledge or understanding of Catholic teaching.”

I am uncertain as to which teaching I am unclear on in this context. Is that the Pope believes in the devil? Is it that the Pope believes demons can inhabit the bodies of people and he can say prayers to cast them out? Because I think I am pretty clear on the church’s teaching when it comes to believing the ultimate boogeyman. I’ve also included an artist’s rendering of Satan to make the matter clear:

Daffy Duck Show-Biz Bugs

I am sorry you did not find my column entertaining Joe. True, I did not crack that many jokes, but then I don’t find the institutional abuse of the mentally ill a subject that is particularly funny. So, just to make sure you get your dollar’s worth, is a link to the mirror sketch done by Groucho Marx: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5lU52aWTJo

“The column also raises a couple of questions, the most obvious being: why did he write it? Why does LaFleche, a self-described atheist, even care what Pope Francis says or does? When the Holy Father spoke of the need for a worldwide association of exorcists, he was addressing the world’s 1.5 billion Catholics, and no one else.”

For the same reason it matters when any religious figure with sway over millions says anything. I need not share in the Catholic faith to pay attention to what he says and does and decide for myself if what he says is good or bad, or will have positive or negative results. The pope is not some lone quack on a street corner barking at parking meters. He is the leader of the single largest and most influential religious organization on the planet. What he says, and what the Vatican does, has real world impacts. It influences the decisions of billions, with a B. And anything that can impact the lives of a billion of my fellow creatures is worth commenting on, particularly when the impact could be tragic.

“While LaFleche’s denial of the existence of demons is consistent with his denial of God, simply dismissing the whole notion as mere superstition is a non-argument and hardly the basis for a rational discussion.”

So what would be the basis for a rational discussion, exactly? Demons are a rational starting point? Accepting, without any real scientific evidence, that demon possession is real? That when someone is behaving strangely, or acting violently, or hearing voices, or has sudden personality shifts, or sees thing that aren’t there, we should consider demonic possession a real alternative “treatment”? That is not rational. That is, I am sorry to say, barking mad.

Imagine if we took this approach with every line of discourse. Someone believes, say, Elvis is still alive. Do we discount this belief because of the lack of evidence, or do we accept his belief on fact because he believes it?

We know what mental illness is. It is brain illness and while we have much yet to learn about the human brain, we know for a fact it is not caused by a demon or a witch or a warlock. The longer notions of supernatural malevolent influence continues to exist, the more people with mental illness will suffer. The pope and the Vatican should have disavowed exorcism, not called it charity and urged for compassionate treatment of the mentally ill and increased research into the causes and treatments of mental illness.

“LaFleche regards belief in demons as a holdover from medieval times, and therefore unworthy of consideration. On the contrary, the fact that there are enough active exorcists around to have an international association points to the existence of demons, and their continued influence throughout our world.”

Ah, man where in the name of Odin’s unseeing eye do even I start with this? Sigh….

Ok, so, here is the thing Joe. Just because lots of people believe in something, that doesn’t make that something true. If a billion people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing. Facts are not determined by opinion polls, popularity contests, honestly held beliefs, ancient texts, or wish thinking. Facts are determined by evidence. QED. And there is no evidence, none, to support the conclusion that exorcism does anything other than abuse someone who is suffering from a mental illness or, perhaps, a chemically induced hallucination. In either case what is required is a medical doctor, not a voodoo man.

I mean, look, there are millions of people who believe that Elvis isn’t dead, the moon landing was faked, and the Loch Ness is home to giant, if sneaky, sea monster. Millions of Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad was carried to heaven on the back of a winged horse. Are we to conclude, then, that the Pegasus is real? Or we do concluded that Muhammad did not borrow a ride from Zeus, this is just an ancient myth, and horses don’t, in fact have wings?

Facts matter. Evidence matters. Compassion for the ill matters. Ancient rituals born from the darkness of human ignorance do not.

“Catholics believe in the existence of God, and of Satan, and they know that one of the devil’s most potent weapons is convincing us that he doesn’t exist. LaFleche’s vicious attack on the Church’s belief in Satan, may just prove the point.”

And there you have it. I am actually a pawn of Satan, doing his bidding by asking the Catholic Church to end a practice that victimizes some of the most vulnerable people in society. You cannot beat this kind of idea which regards any opposition to it as proof they are right.

Of course, Joe, what you haven’t considered is that maybe I am not a pawn at all. Maybe I am actually the Morning Star himself, the ruler of the underworld, disguising myself as a journalist who, after going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it, I write columns to make people think I am not real so I can silently build my army of evil. Maybe, pitch fork in hand, I am standing right behind you…

Made you look, didn’t I?

The Tory math problems get worse

- June 3rd, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

So by now you’ve probably heard about Tory leader’s Tim Hudak’s, ah, questionable math on the jobs plan. In short, the numbers don’t add up. At all.

Still, Hudak continues to sell the jobs plan apparently taking a very Douglas Adams view that if he ignores the math problems, they won’t exist.

So now the Tories have released a new ad, trying to show Hudak as the Guy with the Plan, who Knows What is Really Wrong. Like a million people who woke up this morning without a job or a growing public sector draining our public resources.

Problem is, these claims are as wrong as his jobs plans numbers. Sun Media’s David Akin does a good break down of the ad and what is going wrong with the Tory campaign. Check it out here.

Hudak starts on a sour symphony: postscript

- May 7th, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

I don’t know how I am going to keep up with this election. I just don’t.

Yesterday, I wrote a column about Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s hilariously awful and cringe worthy campaign launch. As I started to move to other issues, I got a crush of emails and tweets from people (who aren’t fans of Hudak’s to put all cards on the table here) essentially saying “Hey did you see this?”

So Hudak’s blunders keep on rolling. First, he took his anti-”corporate welfare” message to a manufacturing plant – a plant that received, happily, provincial and federal development money. Ooops.

As it was at the recording studio the day before, Hudak’s team apparently is not bothering to pay attention to where in the space-time continuum they are sending their dear leader.

Then where was the whole Tim Hudak commercial thing that the Ottawa Citizen uncovered. Its a typically forgettable campaign commercial with Hudak trying to sound heroic while we see typical pictures of Ontario citizens hard at work building the Ontario of tomorrow. Except they aren’t Ontario citizens. Rather than take little bit of time to film, I don’t know, actual people from Ontario doing things people from Ontario do, the Progressive Conservative party decided to buy stock footage of Russians. The footage was bought by a Russian film maker who sells stock images.

In the grand scheme of things it is not that massive a deal. Lets face it, our government and corporations farm out work that could be done in Ontario to people around the country and the globe all the time. It’s frustrating, it hurts our local economy and is the reality of a global economy. No reason to expect the PCs do anything different.

Still, there is just something galling about a political leader and political party that cannot be bothered to use actual images of people in this province when you are asking us to vote for you to run Ontario. It’s pathetic actually. The party is saying it’s no big deal, this is how commercials are made so shut up about it. But we know if the Liberals, who are doing their own fair share of stupid by the way, did it the Tories would be all over them like a fat kid on candy.

It smacks of an epic laziness and contempt for Ontario residents to a) not use footage from Ontario and b) then dismiss anyone who complains about it. For good measure, the Tories used the opportunity to complain about the Liberals outsourcing security for the Pan Am Games to a U.S. firm. Certainly it is something to talk about, but the thing is when you get caught doing something stupid, the correct response is not to point out how the other guy did something more stupid.

I can only hope the Tories pull their act together soon. Or this is going to be a long long month.

What does the Maidana fight tell us about a possible Mayweather vs. Pacquiao bout?

- May 5th, 2014

Greeting boxing fans;

I had intended to Tweet round-by-round the Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana welterweight title fight Saturday night. I really did. But I only managed one Tweet.

It was after the fourth round concluded and I wrote “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Mayweather is losing. 3-1 for Chino.”

What I saw, watching the fight with friends at Shoeless Joe’s in St. Catharines, had me completely baffled. I had figured, like many boxing analysts, Mayweather would have an easy night. He would move, box smartly, and easily out point the slower, less gifted Maidana. Sure, Maidana is a relentless power puncher, but as Mayweather often says “skills pay the bills” and he has schooled better fighters than “El Chino.”

What happened was something that, I think, shocked many boxing watchers. Maidana swarmed all over Mayweather, throwing 100 punches in the first around alone. That non-stop volume of punches, combined with Maidana’s rough (and sometimes dirty) tactics, shut down a lot of Mayweather’s magic. At the half way point, I had Mayweather losing, something that totally shocked me.

I was unable to Tweet for the shock.

Even more bizarre, Maidana landed nearly as many punches on Mayweather as Mayweather landed on him – something that never happens. True, Mayweather’s connect percentage was much higher, but that doesn’t matter when scoring a fight. Maidana not only matched Mayweather in punches landed, and outlanded Mayweather in terms of power punches, he also hit Mayweather more, according to Compubox, than any other previous fighter.

Now, Mayweather did what he always does. He made mid fight adjustments to win rounds and ended up winning the fight. The official scores were 117-111, 114-114, and 116-112.

I scored it 115-113 for Mayweather – on the strength of his performance during the middle rounds – on par with many fight observers who gave Maidana’s raw and rough aggression more rounds than the judges did.

Maidana’s success was shocking in part because we have not seen, maybe ever, Mayweather have to work that hard to win a fight, to work that hard to keep an opponent off of him, to see him obvious lose rounds and potentially lose a fight. The look on Mayweather’s face at the end of the fight was the same look that Manny Pacquiao had after his third fight with rival Juan Marquez. It was a look that said “I hope I won, but I am not sure I did.”

Maidana’s success, which brought him within inches of handing Mayweather his first loss in 46 professional fights, demonstrated what a lot of people have thought about how a fighter might, maybe, be able to beat boxing’s pound-for-pound king. High octane aggression combined with relentless volume punching is probably the only way to get pasted Mayweather’s defensive genius and counter punching.

No one had really tried to do it since Ricky Hatton, who had a few rounds of success before Mayweather took over and Hatton began to fumble around the ring until he was stopped. The over rated Canelo Alvarez was regarded by many of having the power to disrupt Mayweather’s style, but Alvarez tried to play a tactical game in their fight. Which is like trying to out-think Bobby Fischer in a chess match. It just won’t happen.

Maidana, unlike Hatton, did not stop. He forced Mayweather to fight in the trenches and didn’t worry about getting caught with Mayweather’s sharp counter punches. Maidana and his trainers must have understood there was no way to avoid getting caught with counter shots by Mayweather, so don’t worry about it so much. It is going to happen no matter what you do, so accept that and keep moving forward.

Unlike everyone Mayweather has fought in recent years, Maidana did not freeze in place, worried about throwing punches because of the inevitable counter shots. He just plowed ahead. Most guys, when Mayweather cracks them with a counter punch, step back and try to reset their attack. But all that does is play into Mayweather’s hands. Maidana just took the punches, blocked and slipped when he could — his head movement was particular sharp — and kept attacking.

Seeing Mayweather that vulnerable, combined with Pacquiao’s sensational decision win over the then undefeated Tim Bradley a few months ago, immediately renewed talk of the long dreamed of super fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather.

A lot of people thought that Pacquiao would be unable to get past Mayweather’s great defense to land his lightning fast combos and do the kind of damage that he’d have to in order to win the fight. But to my thinking, if Maidana can get to Mayweather, Pacman certainly can. Pacquiao is much faster in terms of footwork and handspeed than Maidana is, he puts pressure on fighters better than Maidana can, and he has a more versatile arsenal of punches. Pacquaio attacks from weird angles, has the best footwork in boxing, and throws fast, hard combos better than just about anyone else.

The Maidana and Bradley fights proved, to me at least, that far from being a mismatch, a possible Mayweather vs. Pacman fight remains the best match that can be made in boxing – if only the two sides stopped acting like children and made the fight happen.

Look, I think Mayweather still would have to be the betting favorite if he did ever fight Pacquiao. Not because Mayweather is undefeated to date, but because Pacquiao always has the hardest time with highly defensive opponents. Mayweather is the best defensive fighter of this generation, hands down. And lets not forget Mayweather’s uncanny adaptability in the ring — his ability to make adjustments mid fights has won Mayweather many bouts, including Saturday’s brawl with Maidana.

But, the success Maidana had against boxing’s pound-for-pound king, should show any educated boxing observer that a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao isn’t the blow out some think it would be. To my eye, it would be highly competitive.

But for now the onlyest thing we can do is wonder and imagine.

How much do you know about science? Take the quiz!

- March 18th, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

So we have two brilliant of episodes of Cosmos in the can, and I am completely blown away. The last episode on evolution and how life develops was amazing. This is every bit as good as I had hoped and a worthy sequel to Carl Sagan’s original.

The next episode airs on Sunday night, so as a bit of fun while we wait, hop over to the Christian Science Monitor which has a very good “Are you scientifically literate?” quiz.

I scored 84 %. Didn’t do so well with some of the chemistry questions, but then chemistry was never my strongest subject.testscore1

Give it a try, report your score here and don’t forget to watch Cosmos!

Cosmos returns!!!

- March 6th, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

The new Cosmos is FINALLY here!

In 1980 the late, great, scientist Carl Sagan broadcast Cosmos: A Personal Journey on PBS. In the 13 part series, Sagan took viewers through the evolution of human knowledge, from our primitive ignorance to our tentative steps into the inky black of space. And he showed us how much more we have to yet to learn about the universe we live in and the planet we call home.

The series, and its companion book, changed forever how I looked at the world. Even as a kid, the spectacular scope of the universe, the bewildering kaleidoscope of what is actually out there in the space, captured my imagination and never let go. My passion and interest in science all stems from that TV series and that book.

We’re about to be treated to something just as awesome again. Astronomer Neil Degrasse Tyson  – who was profoundly influenced by Sagan in his own career – is leading new version of the series. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey starts Sunday on FOX.

I have high hopes for this series.

Hold onto your hats!

I get feedback: Creationists don’t like me edition

- February 27th, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

So in my recent column about the location of the new south Niagara hospital, I pointed out that denying some basic facts about the hospital is like denying the facts about evolution:

“To deny these facts is like denying evolution. Sure, you can do it, but you end up looking like a loon. Just ask Ken Ham.”

Well, as is always the case when I bring up the big E word, creationists go bananas, including one Harry Huizer of 
St. Catharines, whose response attempts to point out how evolution is really just a matter of opinion. Just to show how far creationists play in a world without facts, I think it worth responding to the points Harry makes.

“Grant LaFleche spoiled his article on the proposed south Niagara hospital with his insult to those denying evolution. To say they end up looking like loons is disrespectful and unwarranted. As an atheist, Grant doesn’t have much choice but to believe in the theory of evolution and we have to be respectful of his opinion.”

Harry goes right off the rails out of the gate here.

First, there is nothing to compel anyone to be respectful of anyone else’s opinion. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion and express it freely. That is what free speech is. But that doesn’t mean we have to respect the content of those opinions, or even be nice about them. This is particularly true about religion, where believers will regularly try to make the case that my disagreeing with them, by holding up their beliefs to scrutiny and even ridicule goes too far because, well, they believe it so. The honesty of their belief, they argue, should protect the content of those beliefs from being questioned or mocked.

I believe H.L. Mecken put it best when he said “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

Creationist do end up looking like loons because they deny the facts to such an extreme degree they end up looking like people who live in a fantasy world. Just consider at the recent debate between science educator Bill Nye and creationist guru Ken Ham. Ham ended up looking like someone who lives life by jumping into bed and pulling the blankets over his head. The only “facts” he accepts are the ones  he reads in his bible by flashlight. But this doesn’t stop people like Harry from offering up extraordinarily strange arguments.

“However here are a few “facts” that Grant and others should know: The fossil evidence from thousands of years ago shows not a trace of evolution. Animals and man seem to have suddenly appeared. The origin of life is the Achille’s heel of evolution since scientists have shown that the chances of assembling even one living cell is virtually impossible.”

Ugh. I don’t know what is worse about the creationism crowd, that they know nothing about probabilities, that they know nothing about biology and its related fields of science, or that they flaunt their ignorance as though its a badge of honour.

The fossil evidence is one of the best sources of evidence about evolution. It has become so detailed that scientists looking to tract the path of the evolution of a particular species can predict where they should find fossils that demonstrate the evolution of a particular trait. This is how Canadian scientists were able to find Tiktaalik, a critter that helps us understand how creatures that lived in the water evolved into those that lived on land. Because of the fossil record, the scientists knew where on the planet and in what layers of rock the fossils should be found. If those fossils were never found, you would have a serious challenge to the theory.

We’ve been able to track the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, and the evolution of feathers in the fossil record. We can watch the evolution of human beings from our primate ancestors. There is no “sudden appearance” of “man and animals.” Rather we see their development over long periods of time through small changes. Harry is just ignorant of what the fossil record shows.

And of course, evidence is not limited to just the fossil record. Genetics has proved to be a powerful tool to understanding evolution. And like all scientific theories, evolution makes specific predictions that can be tested, such as the theory’s explanation of why we have one fewer pair of chromosomes than chimps:

Finally there is this bit about the origin of life being “impossible.” No, we do not know everything about how life arose on this planet. But we are learning more and more all the time and the picture is increasingly looking like it all beings with simple chemistry. Once you have something that can self replicate, you have something for natural selection to work on. Just because we do not understand something, does not automatically make a religious explanation suddenly valid scientifically. When we do not know something, we do not know it. QED.

Of course, what Harry completely misses is that the theory of evolution is NOT about how life got started. It explains how the variety of life we see now developed. The precise details of the absolute origin of life as we know it is outside the theory’s scope. But science gets closer to understanding that mystery all the time.

Consider the alternative Harry presents here: a sky god with no origin, that always existed, magically created the world, made a man out of dirt and a woman out of a rib and from these two magical people, the entire population of human begins arose. (Apparently inbreeding wasn’t a problem for Adam and Eve’s children.)

Where is the evidence for any of that, Harry?

Oh and one final point. Harry is trying to say evolution didn’t happen because the odds of life arising from chemistry (the development of a single living cell as he put it) are “virtually impossible.” He does not know the difference between “improbable” and “impossible.”

Consider poker for a moment. The odds of getting a royal flush is something around 650,000 to one. Not good odds at all. And yet, players do get dealt royal flushes all the time despite the odds being “virtually impossible.” Long odds are not the issue here. What matters is what happened and what we know happened, regardless of how improbably it may seem, is that life developed on this planet by the process of evolution.

“Many prominent scientists have come to the conclusion that there is an intelligent designer behind all creation.”

Actually, no, Harry. This is an outright falsehood. Because of the overwhelming amount of evidence for evolution, scientists support it as the best explanation we have for life. Those who do not accept evolution are neither “prominent” and have produced no scientific work that support the outright religious idea of “intelligent design,” which is little more than creationism dressed up in a lab coat. It’s religion in drag.

To claim otherwise is like saying “many important scientists have come to the conclusion that gravity isn’t real and concluded that the sun goes around the earth.” Sure you can say that, but that doesn’t make it true.

Intelligent design by the way, is a complete discredited idea that was cooked up by a bunch of American creationists who were looking for a way to get around a Supreme Court ruling that forbade creationism from being taught in public school classrooms. There is no scientific work to support it, no peer reviewed work, no theory to be tested. Just an idea that says “god did it.” It was part of a strategy to teach creationism without explicitly mentioning god, who is replaced by the phrase “intelligent designer.” It is frankly a more pitiful attempt at political camouflage than the Progressive Conservative’s recent effort to hang onto right to work policy ideas without actually using the phrase “right to work.”

The organization that was behind the entire intelligent design thing is a group called the Discovery Institute, which operated on a premise that became known as the Wedge Strategy, which stated that if they could overthrow evolution as the primary paradigm in biology, they could introduce the idea of an intelligent designer, and eventually sway people to believe in Christian creationism.

The entire ID thing was exposed a few years ago in Dover, Pennsylvania during a trial where the history, methods and truth behind the Discovery Institute and ID was brought to light. Here is a very good documentary about it:

Which brings us to Harry’s last point:

“Michael Denton, a molecular biologist says it best: “Evolutionary theory is still, as it was in Darwin’s time, a highly speculative hypothesis entirely without factual support.” I think Grant needs to study all the facts before making his comments and conclusions.”

Yah, so Michael Denton works for, you guessed it, the Discovery Institute. They produce a lot of books, but no scientific work. Harry thinks he has made a point by telling us that Denton is a molecular biologist. His creds mean nothing if his conclusions are unscientific and discredited.

Better luck next time Harry.

I get feedback: Stop mocking Creationism edition

- February 24th, 2014

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens and the rest of you!

So a reader who goes by the handle “Niagara George” didn’t like my most recent Grant Rant because he didn’t like the mockery of creationists it contained.

This is particularly weird because it contained no mockery of creationists. The piece was about the lack of political action on important issues, particularly the improvement of science education. Still, I have mocked creationists and creationism in the past.

Niagara George doesn’t like this and wants me to stop.

So will I stop mocking creationists?

No.