Evolution biology on trial in Tennessee, USA

This video from the USA is called The Scopes Monkey Trial Explained in 5 Minutes: US History Review.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Primate witness: the monkey trials go on

Thursday 7th May 2017

PETER FROST is amazed that, 90 years after the famous Tennessee trial, the evolution versus creationism argument still rages

ON MAY 5 1925, 90 years ago this week, a group of thinkers in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, are discussing a newspaper announcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is looking for someone to challenge the new Butler Act passed by the state to outlaw the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools. This law bans the teaching of any theory that denies the literal truth of the biblical creation of man.

One of the men, 24-year-old science teacher and football coach John Thomas Scopes, says he will be willing to be indicted to bring the case to trial. Scopes has only taught biology as a substitute teacher and later says he isn’t sure he covered evolution in his classes.

On May 25 John Scopes was brought to trial for teaching evolution. The case, forever known as the Monkey Trial, made world headlines and is still talked about today.

Scopes agreed to purposely incriminate himself so that the case could have a defendant. He knew such a trial would draw intense national publicity to the argument. The world’s press flocked to Dayton. To make room for the many journalists and observers the trial was convened in the open air. This proved a blessing in the stifling Tennessee heat.

Defending Scopes was Clarence Darrow, already a famous lawyer. He would go on to become the best-known and most revered defence lawyer in US jurisprudence.

Darrow had made his reputation as a labour union lawyer and had defended many militant heroes of US working-class strikes and struggles — many of them framed on trumped-up charges. These included many members of the US Communist Party charged with treason. Leading the prosecution of Scopes was William Jennings Bryan, Bible scholar, rabid creationist and three-time Democratic candidate for US president.

Bryan’s argument was simple. He declared the word of God as revealed in the Bible took priority over all other human knowledge. Judge John T Raulston made no pretence at neutrality. He started each day with a hymn and a prayer. The judge ruled that the many scientists who wished to speak in Scopes’s defence could only give their evidence in writing.

British novelist H G Wells was asked if he would join the defence team. Wells replied that he had no legal training in Britain, let alone in the US, and declined the offer. The ACLU opposed the Butler Act on the grounds that it violated the teacher’s individual rights and academic freedom, and was therefore unconstitutional.

Darrow and the judge frequently clashed and there were several threats of action for contempt with Darrow forced to apologise. Darrow attacked the literal interpretation of the Bible as well as Bryan’s limited knowledge of other religions and science. He scoffed at Bryan’s horror that human beings were descended “not even from American monkeys, but from old-world monkeys.”

Darrow took the unorthodox step of calling Bryan, the chief prosecutor, to the stand as a defence witness. Darrow asked him questions such as: “If Eve was actually created from Adam’s rib, where did Cain get his wife?” The confrontation between Bryan and Darrow lasted approximately two hours before Judge Raulston’s announced that he considered the whole examination irrelevant to the case. He ruled that it should be struck from the record. Darrow closed the case for the defence without a final summing up. Under Tennessee law, when the defence waived its right to make a closing speech, the prosecution was also barred from summing up its case.

Scopes was found guilty and ordered to pay a $100 fine. He addressed the court for the first time. “Your honour, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom — that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust.”

The appeal court set aside the conviction because of a tiny legal technicality: the jury should have decided the fine, not the judge, since under the state constitution Tennessee judges could not set fines above $50, and the Butler Act specified a minimum fine of $100. Appeal judge Green added: “We see nothing to be gained by prolonging the life of this bizarre case.”

The Butler Act stayed on the statute books until 1967. In reality this bizarre case and the arguments that caused it are still being debated. Strangely despite logic and scientific proof, the ideas of creationism are still gaining ground on both sides of the Atlantic.

When the Con-Dem coalition established free schools in 2011, three such schools — each teaching creationism — were approved by the then education secretary Michael Gove. Today free schools in Britain are no longer allowed to teach creationism as if it were fact. Now such teaching is confined to religious education classes and not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.

Yet surveys show that, amazingly, one in three US citizens doesn’t believe in evolution. They think humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. White evangelical Protestants, particularly in the Southern Bible belt — states like Tennessee — are most likely to not believe in evolution and ridicule Darwin’s ideas.

Both Tennessee and Louisiana allow the teaching of creationism in school science classes. Currently, less than half of Republican voters, just 43 per cent, believe in human evolution. Only 67 per cent of Democrats think Darwin’s theory credible.

Worse, US opinion is shifting and the numbers doubting evolution and supporting creationism are growing every year. Nearly a dozen states are considering legislation to either outlaw the teaching of Darwinian evolution or to give equal space and time to creationism in school science classes.

In Tennessee the law defines controversial issues including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning and seeks to ensure schools also teach what the Bible has to say on the subjects.

Tennessee law wrongly suggests the scientific community is divided over these issues. It is not, but the law has now made it significantly harder to ensure that science is taught responsibly.

Dinosaurs, humans, sun and earth, medieval religious dogmas in Spain

This video says about itself:

Dinosaurs, and Creationism Debunked

1 March 2015

To believe that non-avian dinosaurs exist today or have ever existed with mankind is to show the highest level of ignorance in history, archaeology, and paleontology. This is my debunking of a creationist video that says dinosaurs once existed with man and that there is evidence for this in history.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

One in three Spaniards thinks humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs

Today in worrying news, 30 per cent of people in Spain think humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs.

A government-backed study also showed 25 per cent of respondents think the Sun orbits the Earth.

One positive to take from the Social Perception of Science study, from Spain’s Foundation for Science and Technology, is that at least scientific knowledge is improving in the country – in 2006 the proportion of people believing the previous two incorrect assertions was 50 per cent for dinosaurs and 40 per cent for the Sun.

Overall, nine years ago people answered 58 per cent of questions correctly, while now the ratio is 70 per cent.

This video says about itself:

Testing Geocentrism

15 November 2012

… a series on geocentrism, these videos take a wry look at the subject and how it stacks up against basic observations. This part [1] looks at whether the geocentrist explanation of the seasons holds any merit, why Polaris doesn’t move and how basic observations of the inner and outer planets hold up to the ideas of the geocentrist. A simple introduction is given to relevant concepts, providing topic pointers for the viewer who wants to find out more for themselves.

Subtitles: English
Guidance: Contains some mild language within a comedy context.

* I noticed after completing this video that the introduction should have said “Over two thousand years after Aristarchus” not “Nearly one thousand”.

Fake Italian dragon, pterosaur or dog?

Engravings from Meyer's book of the fake Italian dragon

From World Science:

Killed twice in 1600s, hoax “dragon” slain again—in creationism dispute

May 8, 2013
Special to World Science

A “drag­on” thought to have turned up out­side Rome in the 1600s was killed once, or even twice, in the lo­cal lo­re of its day.

It then lay for­got­ten for three cen­turies—be­fore tak­ing on yet a new life, in the minds of some crea­t­ion­ists who saw in the tale com­pel­ling ev­i­dence for their be­liefs.

Two bi­ol­o­gists from Fay­ette­ville State Uni­vers­ity in North Car­o­li­na have now de­cid­ed to slay the beast once and for all, by do­ing some sleuthing to con­firm what many Ital­ians al­ready sus­pected way back then.

The drag­on was a hoax, they con­clude. Such ex­ist­ence as it had, they add, was based on a forgery com­posed of var­i­ous an­i­mal bones. In that sense it was not too un­like the fa­mous Pilt­down Man, a fake “early hu­man” con­sist­ing of the low­er jaw­bone of an orang­u­tan com­bined with a hu­man skull. That scheme was ex­posed in 1953.

The drag­on sto­ry as trans­mit­ted through old doc­u­ments has de­light­ed some crea­t­ion­ists be­cause they cite the mon­ster—en­grav­ings from the time in­clude a de­tailed skele­tal view—as proof that con­tra­ry to main­stream sci­ence, a fly­ing, rep­til­i­an cous­in of the di­no­saurs lived just re­cent­ly.

But the tale cap­ti­vat­ed Ital­ians long be­fore ar­gu­ments over ev­o­lu­tion. The sto­ry brings us back to about the time when the great sculp­tor-ar­chi­tect Gian Lo­ren­zo Ber­ni­ni re­built the fa­mous square in front of St. Pe­ter’s Ba­sil­i­ca in Rome, erect­ing its cel­e­brat­ed col­on­nade.

A cou­ple of dec­ades af­ter that proj­ect, ru­mors of the drag­on cropped up in con­nec­tion with an­oth­er, less fa­mous con­struc­tion near­by.

Ac­tu­al­ly, one pub­lished ver­sion of the drag­on tale ac­tu­ally dat­ed its “death” to the mid­dle of the St. Pe­ter’s Square proj­ect, in 1660. Yet ma­te­ri­al in an­oth­er book sug­gests that ru­mors of its sight­ing cir­cu­lat­ed about 1691, in the swamps out­side Rome where a di­ke was un­der con­struc­tion. Which­ev­er ver­sion might ac­cu­rately re­flect the “real” ru­mor, the lat­ter book is the one with the en­grav­ings.

This book, by an en­gi­neer in­volved with the di­ke, states that the drag­on was killed and pro­vides three de­light­ful en­graved il­lustra­t­ions. But it says lit­tle else on the sub­ject, ex­cept to men­tion that the beast was “was reco­vered in the hands of the en­gi­neer” him­self, one Cor­ne­li­us Mey­er. The book is mostly about di­ke con­struc­tion proj­ects around Rome.

De­tails on the bi­zarre rep­til­i­an tale are thus fog­gy. But the two bi­ol­o­gists, Pon­danesa D. Wil­kins and Phil Sen­ter, spec­u­late, based on the doc­u­ments, that a drag­on ru­mor be­came an ob­sta­cle to a di­ke con­struc­tion in 1691. Lo­cals or work­ers might have balked at the proj­ect, be­liev­ing a drag­on was on the loose in the ar­ea, per­haps one that was an­gry over the dis­turb­ance of its home. The beast was per­haps viewed as a res­ur­rec­tion of the same mon­ster writ­ten else­where to have died in 1660, al­so in the Rome ar­ea.

In any case, the bi­ol­o­gists pro­pose that Mey­er’s pub­lished “ev­i­dence” of the death in­clud­ing the en­grav­ings might have been part of an effort to fi­nally quell the ru­mors and keep the proj­ect afloat. A pa­per with their findings ap­pears in the May-August is­sue of the on­line re­search jour­nal Pa­lae­on­tolo­gia Elec­tron­ica.

The explanation for the engravings is that “Meyer chose not to invite op­position by ex­press­ing skepticism about the lo­cal rumor,” they argue. “In­stead, he wisely chose to avoid re­sist­ance by hu­moring the lo­cals… em­bracing the lo­cal rumor and pro­viding vi­sual evid­ence that their source of con­cern had been van­quished.”

Wil­kins and Sen­ter ar­gue that some­one likely cob­bled to­geth­er a fake skel­e­ton. This nat­u­rally found its way in­to some of those closely ob­served de­pic­tions for which Ital­ians had such a flair. In one of these en­grav­ings, the ske­l­e­ton ap­pears, prop­erly perched on a charm­ing ba­roque ped­es­tal.

All that re­mained was for Wil­kins and Sen­ter to fig­ure out just what went in­to this “skel­e­ton.” In­ter­est­ingly “the en­grav­ing is de­tailed enough to test” the view that it’s a real pter­o­saur, the re­search­ers wrote.

The con­clu­sions from their analysis are cut­ting.

“The skull of Mey­er’s drag­on is that of a do­mes­tic dog,” they write. “The man­di­ble is that of a sec­ond, smaller do­mes­tic dog. The ‘hindlimb’ is the fore­limb of a bear. The ribs are from a large fish. Os­ten­si­ble skin hides the junc­tions be­tween the parts of dif­fer­ent an­i­mals. The tail is a sculpted fake. The wings are fake and lack di­ag­nos­tic traits of bat wings and pter­o­saur wings. No part of the ske­l­e­ton re­sem­bles its coun­ter­part in pter­o­saurs.”

“This piece of young-Earth crea­t­ion­ist ‘ev­i­dence’ there­fore now joins the ranks of oth­er dis­cred­ited ‘ev­i­dence’ for hu­man-pter­o­saur coex­ist­ence and against the ex­ist­ence of the pas­sage of mil­lions of years,” Wil­kins and Sen­ter add. “Also, a three-century-old hoax is fi­nally un­veiled, the mys­tery of its con­struc­tion is solved, and an in­ter­est­ing and bi­zarre ep­i­sode in Ren­ais­sance Ital­ian histo­ry is elucidat­ed.”

Skep­ti­cism over the drag­on yarn is far from new. The con­tem­po­rary Ger­man au­thor George Kirch­meyer re­counts that the “fly­ing ser­pent” was sup­posedly “killed by a hunt­er af­ter a se­vere and dan­ger­ous strug­gle”; but “this sto­ry, which ap­peared more like some fa­ble than real truth, was a sub­ject of dis­cus­sion among the learn­ed. The cir­cum­stance was de­nied by many, be­lieved by oth­ers, and left in doubt by sev­er­al.”

Two crea­t­ion­ists who have cho­sen to join the be­liev­ers are the au­thors John Go­ertzen and Da­vid Woet­zel, who penned 1998 and 2006 pa­pers on the sub­ject, re­spec­tive­ly.

“This study helps to es­tab­lish the re­cent ex­ist­ence of rham­phorhyn­choid pter­o­saurs; an­i­mals that main­stream sci­ence be­lieves be­came ex­tinct about 140 mil­lion years ago,” Go­ertzen wrote in his pa­per, which ap­peared in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Fourth In­terna­t­ional Con­fer­ence on Crea­t­ion.

Crea­t­ion­ists claim that the Bi­ble proves Earth is only a few thou­sand years old. Thus things like di­no­saurs, which died out 65 mil­lion years ago, pose a prob­lem for crea­t­ion­ists.

Woet­zel did not re­spond to an e­mail sent through his web­site re­quest­ing com­ment.

Go­ertzen could not be lo­cat­ed via e­mail or tel­e­phone, with none of his sev­er­al pa­pers on­line pro­vid­ing con­tact in­forma­t­ion. How­ev­er, his 1998 pa­per on the drag­on ar­gued that the Ital­ian drag­on tale was not the only piece of ev­i­dence for its re­cent ex­ist­ence.

“The re­mark­a­ble thing about this an­i­mal is that it was de­picted in sev­er­al cul­tures of an­ti­qu­ity. Ar­ti­facts iden­ti­fied with this in­ter­est­ing pter­o­saur spe­cies in­clude Roman-Alex­and­rian coins, an Ara­bia-Phil­istia coin, a French wood carv­ing, a Ger­man stat­ue and coin, sev­er­al Mid­dle Ages pic­ture maps, and an en­light­en­ing sketch of a mount­ed an­i­mal in Rome.”

See also here.

Grand Canyon, from the dinosaur age?

This video from the USA is called National Geographic – Amazing Flight Over The Grand Canyon.

During the George W Bush administration, there was pressure on scientists to be silent on the fact that the Grand Canyon is much older than the few thousand years of the Great Flood mentioned in the Bible. That flood made the canyon, according to creationists.

All geologists agree that the Grand Canyon is older than five million years. They don’t agree on how much older it is.

Just a few years?

Is it twenty million years old?

Or still older? Today, from Associated Press:

December 3, 2012 at 1:00 am

Controversial study contends Grand Canyon old as dinosaur era

By Alicia Chang

Los Angeles — The awe-inspiring Grand Canyon was probably carved about 70 million years ago, much earlier than thought, a provocative new study suggests.

Using a new dating tool, a team of scientists came up with a different age for the gorge’s western section, challenging conventional wisdom that much of the canyon was scoured by the mighty Colorado River in the last 5 million to 6 million years.

Not everyone is convinced with the latest viewpoint published online last week in the journal Science. Critics contend the study ignores a mountain of evidence pointing to a geologically young landscape and they have doubts about the technique used to date it.

The notion that the Grand Canyon existed during the dinosaur era is “ludicrous,” said geologist Karl Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

How the Grand Canyon became grand — with its vertical cliffs and flat plateaus — has been debated since John Wesley Powell navigated the whitewater rapids and scouted the sheer walls during his 1869 expedition.

Some 5 million tourists flock to Arizona each year to marvel at the 277-mile-long chasm, which plunges a mile deep in some places. It’s a geologic layer cake with the most recent rock formations near the rim stacked on top of older rocks that date back 2 billion years.

Doubting the process

Though the exposed rocks are ancient, most scientists believe the Grand Canyon itself was forged in the recent geologic past, created when tectonic forces uplifted the land that the Colorado River later carved through.

The new work by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and California Institute of Technology argued that canyon-cutting occurred long before that. They focused on the western end of the Grand Canyon occupied today by the Hualapai Reservation, which owns the Skywalk attraction, a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends from the canyon’s edge.

To come up with the age, the team crushed rocks collected from the bottom of the canyon to analyze a rare type of mineral called apatite. The mineral contains traces of radioactive elements that release helium during decay, allowing researchers to calculate the passage of time since the canyon eroded.

Their interpretation: The western Grand Canyon is 70 million years old and was likely shaped by an ancient river that coursed in the opposite direction of the west-flowing Colorado.

Lead researcher Rebecca Flowers of the University of Colorado Boulder realizes not everyone will accept this alternative view, which minimizes the role of the Colorado River.

“Arguments will continue over the age of Grand Canyon, and I hope our study will stimulate more work to decipher the mysteries,” Flowers said in an email.

More number disputes

It’s not the first time that Flowers has dug up evidence for an older Grand Canyon. In 2008, she wrote a study that suggested part of the eastern Grand Canyon, where most tourists go, formed 55 million years ago. Another study published that same year by a different group of researchers put the age of the western section at 17 million years old.

If the Grand Canyon truly existed before dinosaurs became extinct, it would have looked vastly different because the climate back then was more tropical. Dinosaurs that patrolled the American West then included smaller tyrannosaurs, horned and dome-headed dinosaurs and duckbills.

If they peered over the rim, it would not look like “the starkly beautiful desert of today, but an environment with more lush vegetation,” said University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz.

Many scientists find it hard to imagine an ancient Grand Canyon since the oldest gravel and sediment that washed downstream date to about 6 million years ago and there are no signs of older deposits.

And while they welcome advanced dating methods to decipher the canyon’s age, Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico does not think the latest effort is very accurate.

See also here.

Grand Canyon is not so ancient. Parts of famous chasm are tens of millions of years old, but integration happened more recently: here.

A scar on the Grand Canyon: Plans for mega hotel, retail complex, cable car, walkway and housing development threatens one of the natural wonders of the world: here.

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United States religious Right pseudo-science

This video from the USA is called Sarah Palin Thinks Humans & Dinosaurs Co-Existed.

From the National Memo in the USA:

Weird Science: Six ‘Scientific’ Theories That Right-Wingers Insist Are True

August 24th, 2012 11:08 pm

Jason Sattler

Mike Huckabee isn’t the only conservative now defending Todd Akin (R-MO) — who is still running to replace Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in the U.S. Senate. Huckabee and other religious right leaders within the GOP insist that Akin is right — although many of the party’s leading figures — including the party’s presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — asked Akin to withdraw after the congressman said that victims of “legitimate rape” can’t get pregnant.

Conservapedia – the right-wing alternative to Wikipedia – not only supports Akin, but has published a footnoted reference that defends Akin’s scientific prognosis about “legitimate rape” victims — something that only Rep. Steve King (R-IA), of all elected Republicans, has attempted to do so far. “In the experience of most sexual assault centers, the chance of pregnancy occurring is quite low,” says Conservapedia, quoting from “the classic text book by Lentz.” It’s a text that American women impregnated by rape — estimated between 25,000 and 32,000 victims annually — would surely dispute.

Rewriting science to fit a political agenda is a constant complaint conservatives voice about liberals. Yet the left believes in the academic discipline of rigorous peer review. The right continually relies on literal interpretations of the Bible and pseudo-science, which is the only way you’d ever buy any of the following theories.

Dinosaurs existed at the same time as humans, and still exist

You may know that in the state of Louisiana students are being taught that the Loch Ness Monster is real. The belief that dinosaurs existed at the same time as mankind — and still may exist today — is crucial to “New Earth Creationism,” which posits that the earth – as the Bible says – is only six thousand years old. How else would you explain these recent dinosaur sightings in Papua New Guinea?