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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Florida Academic "Freedom" Coming Soon?

So today I was preparing for my talk tomorrow to the Gainesville Humanist Society.  I am reviewing creationist legislation in Florida and how the Florida Citizens for Science has been fighting against creationism.  In 2008 (and several other sessions in the 21st century), "Academic Freedom" Legislation has been introduced in the Florida House, Senate (or both).  The most recent attempt was co-sponsored by Senator Ronda Storms and Representative Alan Hays.  The bill passed both the house and senate, but there was significant difference in the language of the bill.  Eventually, time ran out and the two houses could not agree on a common language and the bill died.  Now, Hays and Storms will both be in the Senate (Hays was elected this fall) and they will have Stephen Wise who will strongly endorse a new bill.  They will have at least one ally in the house Rep. Dennis Baxley who introduced a similar bill in 2005.  Considering that the governor elect, Rick Scott is also friendly to the intelligent design crowd, it may be the perfect storm for passing this sort of legislation in the state of Florida.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Humanist Society of Gainesville

I'll be giving a talk Monday night at the Alachua County Library (downtown branch) to the Humanist Society of Gainesville.  The tenative title of my talk is "The Florida Citizens for Science and the Struggle against Creationism!".   I will give a historical perspective on the battle between science and YEC'ism with particular attention to the state of Florida.   Given the results of the recent elections (conservative house, senate and governership), it is highly likely that anti-evolution bills will be proposed in the Florida legislature.  The talk is at 6:30 pm on the 4th floor of the library.


Joe Meert

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Southern Baptist Pastor turns atheist.

From ABCNews about a pastor who has lost his faith.  It's interesting that someone so entrenched in faith can eventually read widely enough to challenge their long-held beliefs.  I link to this article because it speaks of Noah's flood and given the Southern Baptist background he more than likely was an anti-evolutionist. 


Joe Meert

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Marcus Ross Two Faced Again

Creationist Marcus Ross was at it again during the 2010 Geological Society of America Meeting. He, along with creationists Steve Austin, William Hoesch, John Whitmore and Timothy Clarey led a field trip called "Garden of the Gods at Colorado Springs: Paleozoic and Mesozoic Sedimentation and Tectonics". One of the students from the University of Florida attended the field trip and I am hoping to entice him into a guest blog entry. My blog is going to focus on Marcus Ross' contribution to a session on Cretaceous ammonites.

The abstract listings can be found by following this link. Ross' abstract is the last one on the list. The abstract itself is rather innocuous and does not refer to a young earth or a global flood. Nevertheless, I wanted to see exactly what Ross was going to say. To be honest, Ross gave a very nice talk, sprinkled with humor and good slides. He was prepared and the presentation was of a professional quality. So what happened?

Basically Ross was using ammonites as a correlation tool to put his mosasaur fossils in a stronger temporal framework. The abstract itself contains little details of the methodology, but suffice it to say that Ross used the geological time scale (millions of years), showed images of dentition changes in mosasaur fossils (but did not mention evolution), hiatuses in the stratigraphic record and then used these all to demonstrate that ammonites could be a useful proxy for placing mosasaur fossils in a proper stratigraphic framework.

I was sitting in the audience thinking, "OK, this is pretty decent work but it sure as hell doesn't harmonize with his stated position on the age of the earth and the occurrence of a global flood!". First of all, a global flood would have rendered such a statistical method useless as there is no reason that ammonites should be zoned in a global flood and furthermore there would be no correlation between ammonite zones and the changes in mosasaur populations through millions of years of geologic time. Furthermore, there would be no way to make this work in a column of rocks that include erosional hiatuses that took place over millions of years.

After his talk, I asked the following question; "How do you harmonize this work with your belief in a 6000 year old earth on which a year long global flood took place?". He was immediately flustered and then a bit tersely replied "My talk had nothing to do with a global flood or a 6000 year old earth so your question is irrelevant". I then pointed out the fact that indeed his talk was completely counter to his public statements/creationist position because he showed correlation between strata/fossils, millions of year ages, evolution of mosasaurs and hiatuses in the rock record. He then replied (and I am paraphrasing to the best of my recollection) "Ok, for everyone in the audience who doesn't know it, yes I am a young earth creationist who believes the Earth is 6000 years old and a global flood took place. However, I am not speaking as a young earth creationist here. When I speak at young earth creationist meetings I use a different framework than when I speak at the Geological Society of America meeting." Several jaws dropped at that point, but someone in the audience felt sorry for Marcus and invited him to look at his collection etc. It would be nice if Marcus could eventually see that what he just described in his talk actually argued against a young earth, but it won't happen.

Students came up to me afterward and one wondered why I was so harsh with Ross. It's a good question and I have an answer. Creationists like Marcus Ross, Steve Austin etc don't necessarily care about how they are viewed at these conferences, but they attend and present so that they can go out to their creationist brethren and flash credentials. It's not so much what they say or do, but that their followers think that they are actually making an impact in the world of science. If you don't believe me, take a look at this post from the ICR describing last years meeting. The article claims that they were 'influential' at the meeting and thus makes it appear that they are making inroads in moving geology back to the 18th century. In fact, all Ross did was to show that he is schizophrenic when it comes to science. I don't yet comprehend how he compartmentalizes these two opposing viewpoints and claims to be 'honest' about his approach to both. The simple fact is that one cannot hold that the earth is both 4.5 billion years old AND only 6000 years old. It's akin to saying that 3=69. One is reminded of the biblical quote

""No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. "

There is another point to be made. Marcus Ross, Steve Austin and many others are also trying to overthrow science education in this country in favor of a new system under perhaps a conservative Christian theocracy. This is the reason I am so harsh when I see such blatant hypocrisy. For Austin, Ross and others of their ilk, the Ph.D. and the presentations at meetings like GSA are all about trying to enhance their image amongst their followers. If they can appear to be real scientists, then those who don't know any better might believe that young earth creationism is also good science. They might then be persuaded to act at the local, state and national level to have creationism instituted in the public schools.

Marcus Ross is just one of many two-faced creationists and I'm going to call them out on this hypocrisy any chance I get.


Joe Meert

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