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Evolution / Intelligent Design

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  • Meet The Hipster Racist Fox News Guest Attacking Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Gavin McInnes, Fox News guest, formerly of Vice

    A frequent Fox News guest who has contributed to a white nationalist website attacked Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist and host of FOX's Cosmos, for speaking out about racial profiling he has experienced.

    Gavin McInnes, who co-founded Vice but left the company in 2008, reportedly because he was a "liability," said he "hate[s]" Tyson and complained about Tyson stating that he has been racially profiled in stores on the June 3 edition of Fox News' Red Eye:

    MCINNES: I hate this guy [...] White liberal nerds love this guy so much, he could defecate on them like Martin Bashir's fantasies and they would dance in the streets. All he does is, he's drunk with adulation. And he talks about things like "when I was young in New York I would get racially profiled when I'd go into stores." Back then he looked like he was in The Warriors. He had a huge afro and a cutoff shirt and New York was a war zone. Sorry, you fit the profile.

    McInnes was apparently referring to a panel discussion at the Center for Inquiry in which Tyson discussed how many adults tried to steer him away from a career as a scientist as a child, and said that he has been racially profiled in stores (starting 1 hour, 1 minute and 30 seconds in):

    McInnes used to write for VDARE.com, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a "White Nationalist" "hate group," and stated in 2011 "I love me some VDARE." In one post for VDARE.com, McInnes compared a Canadian university to a "madrassa" because it wouldn't host Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who advocates for founding all-white towns.

    McInnes currrently writes for Taki's Magazine, a "paleoconservative" website that publishes overtly racist articles including ones by neo-confederates. At Taki's, McInnes has referred to Asian-Americans as "slopes" and "riceballs," suggested Muslims are "stupider" and "more violent" due to inbreeding, defended blackface because some minstrel shows were "just mimicking black people" and "fun," backed the racist comments of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, and argued that to yell the n-word at someone is "not racist" but "just very rude." He also owns his own website, StreetCarnage.com, where he defended Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's racist comments because Bundy was just "wonder[ing]" if African-Americans were better off under slavery. In 2013, 18 Milling Rising gave him a "Lifetime Achievement Award in Hipster Racism," a brand of racism marked by making "ironically" racist "jokes."

    He has also compared being a single mother to "child abuse," claimed that women who join the workforce are generally not doing what "they naturally want to do," and said that having short hair is like "rape."

    Greg Gutfeld, co-host of The Five and host of Red Eye, is one of McInnes' biggest fans and hosts him often. According to a Nexis search, Fox News' Hannity has also hosted McInnes frequently -- 18 times so far in 2014.

  • "Socially Liberal" Rand Paul Is A Media Creation

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) woos young voters ahead of an expected 2016 presidential bid, it's become conventional wisdom among many Beltway pundits that Paul could broaden the GOP's appeal with his ostensibly tolerant views on social issues - never mind that that this narrative is completely divorced from Paul's traditional conservative positions on such topics.

    Paul's effort to win over Millennials and other constituencies historically suspicious of the GOP came to the fore with his March 19 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, where Paul condemned government surveillance programs as a threat to privacy.

    The chattering class proclaimed that the speech was emblematic of Paul's appeal as an unconventional, "intriguing" Republican. And despite Paul's conservative stances on issues like marriage equality, reproductive choice, and creationism, many media outlets have also pointed to Paul as the kind of candidate who could help move the GOP away from its hardline social positions. It's a narrative that even some of Paul's conservative critics have come to accept, as Charles Krauthammer showed when he called Paul "very much a liberal on social issues."

    A look at media coverage of Paul helps explain where Krauthammer got that notion.

    • A March 26 Wall Street Journal analysis of Millennials' political loyalties pointed to "the unorthodox Mr. Paul" as someone who "may have a wider lane than most other Republican candidates when it comes to appealing to the young." Besides his anti-interventionist foreign policy and anti-surveillance views, the Journal cited Paul's "more libertarian social views," even though it failed to provide a single example of a social issue on which Paul has bucked conservative orthodoxy.
    • NPR, in a write-up on the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), examined fissures within the GOP coalition on issues like marriage equality. The piece suggested that Paul was the candidate of those "more tolerant of same-sex marriage." 
    • Writing for Politico Magazine, Kevin D. Williamson asserted that "Paul's libertarianism is intended to offer a little something for everybody ... spending cuts for the Republican base, legal relief for potheads, a presidential pat on the head for gay people."
    • RealClearPolitics' Scott Conroy heralds Paul's "efforts to court young people holding progressive social views," while passively stating that Paul "largely" shares his father's conservative stances on reproductive choice and marriage equality.
    • Proclaiming Paul the GOP frontrunner for 2016, The Atlantic's Peter Beinart argued that "[o]n issues from NSA surveillance to drug legalization to gay marriage, the GOP is moving in his direction."
  • A Missed Introduction To Oregon's Extreme New Republican Chairman

    Former Congressional Candidate Has Espoused Fringe Views On Evolution, AIDS, Race

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Art RobinsonIt's hard to do justice to the extreme views of the new chairman for Oregon's Republican party. But reports on Art Robinson often didn't even come close, merely mentioning that he is a "skeptic of human-caused global warming," while leaving out the chairman's anti-scientific statements on evolution, AIDS, and nuclear waste.

    Robinson is best known for organizing a petition rejecting climate change that claims to have 31,072 American scientist signatories, with "scientist" defined as anyone who claims to have a bachelor's degree in various fields including computer science, statistics, and metallurgy. Robinson, who is a chemist but has not done any scientific research into climate change, has acknowledged that fake names such as the Spice Girl's Geri Halliwell made it onto the list. The petition says little to rebut the consensus of the vast majority of scientists, as it does not state what percentage of people responded to the survey. Robinson told the conspiracy website WND.com in 2002 that ""[t]here is absolutely not a shred of evidence that humans are causing any change in the climate by generating CO2."

    The Associated Press characterized all this by simply stating that Robinson is "a chemist and outspoken skeptic of human-caused global warming," echoing The Oregonian, Oregon's largest newspaper.

    Furthermore, at no point during Robinson's candidacy for GOP chairman did the two largest Oregon papers (The Oregonian and The Eugene Register-Guard)* mention that Robinson has made several other claims that run counter to scientific research:

    • Robinson signed an anti-Darwinism statement "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life," contrary to peer-reviewed studies repeatedly supporting evolution.
    • Robinson questioned whether HIV was leading to AIDS in the 1990s, reportedly writing that "AIDS may be little more than a general classification of deaths resulting from exposure to homosexual behavior." When MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked Robinson about these and other statements that he has made, he refused to answer, spinning around in his chair as he vaguely accused her of "lies."
    • Robinson reportedly believes in radiation "hormesis," the idea that low-level radiation is good for you, and thus supports disposing of nuclear waste by diluting it and "sprinkl[ing] it over the ocean" or using it to "enhance" drinking water in Oregon. Scientists say that the data on the effects of low-levels of radiation are too weak to base public policy on.

    Nor did they mention* the following extreme views and conspiratorial claims from the former Congressional candidate (in fact, The Oregonian published an op-ed suggesting that Robinson has not engaged in "offensive and bizarre comments"):

  • The Unscientific Model: "Academic Freedom's" Creationist Pedigree

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Creation of AdamTo listen to the Discovery Institute, Tennessee's "academic freedom" law, which is based on Discovery Institute model legislation, has nothing to do with creationism or religion. "The bill includes a clear statement that it only applies to teaching science and does not protect teaching religion," wrote Casey Luskin, research coordinator at the institute's Center for Science and Culture, on March 20. "Don't expect that to satisfy critics, who will predictably ignore the actual language of the bill and falsely claim it would introduce religion in the classroom."

    It's difficult to take these denials seriously, though, given that the language of the model bill and its stated intention of promoting "academic freedom" trace their pedigrees through a series of court battles spanning several decades of creationist efforts to inject religion into public school science classes. The model bill is designed to obviate the legal hurdles raised by previous successful challenges to creationism in the classroom.

    The Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture promotes research into "intelligent design" (ID), which it defines as the theory that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." While they are careful to not use explicitly religious language when discussing ID, it is impossible to see the phrase "intelligent cause" and not think "God," or "Creationism." The teaching of creationism in public schools has been banned ever since Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1987. Intelligent design is essentially an attempt to dress up the core tenets of creationism as science in order to sneak it back into the classroom.

    That, at least, was the position of Judge John E. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania when he issued his December 20, 2005, ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, in which parents of public school children in Dover, Pennsylvania sued the school board for requiring that ID be taught alongside Darwinian evolution in science classes. In that ruling, Jones methodically dismantled that case for teaching ID as science, writing: "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

  • The Unscientific Model

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    This past Tuesday, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam let become law a controversial "academic freedom" bill that protects teachers who want to "help[] students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught within the curriculum framework." The bill singles out "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as examples of the scientific theories whose "weaknesses" are deserving of review.

    The inclusion of "biological evolution" should clue you in to what's going on here. The bill's supporters were primarily conservative Christian groups who prefer school children be taught explanations for human development that are less science-y and more Bible-friendly. Faced with daunting legal precedents that ban creationism and its mutant offspring from public schools, they're turning to slickly crafted proposals, like the new Tennessee law, to create an environment in which faith-based critiques of settled evolutionary science can safely creep into the classroom.

    One fact that was largely overlooked in the media coverage of the controversy over the Tennessee "academic freedom" bill was that it was based on model legislation crafted by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that espouses the crypto-creationist theory of "intelligent design."

  • Coulter Continues Her War On Science With A Misguided Attack On Evolution

    Blog ››› ››› DAVID SHERE

    In her latest syndicated column, Ann Coulter launched an attack on Darwin's theory of evolution. She argues that "[m]odern science has disproved Darwinian evolution" because biologists now know that many features of organic life, such as complex cell structures, DNA, blood clotting, molecules, and "the cell's tiny flagellum and cilium" are extraordinarily complicated. From this, Coulter makes the leap that such things couldn't possibly have evolved through natural selection and random mutation, claiming this shows that evolution is "mathematically impossible."

    Not only is that false, it's yet another example of Coulter's longtime war on science.

    The concept Coulter is describing -- originated by intelligent design proponent Michael Behe -- is called "irreducible complexity." The basic idea is that "that there are in organisms 'irreducibly complex' systems that cannot be explained by random mutation and natural selection. These 'irreducibly complex' systems would cease to function if any one part fails -- which Behe claims rules out evolution and leaves only design."

    Coulter devoted a significant portion of her 2006 book Godless: The Church of Liberalism to an attempt to disprove evolution. She similarly touted Behe and his "irreducible complexity" theory, claiming it "disproved evolution." Media Matters thoroughly addressed the issue at that time, noting several deep flaws in her reasoning:

    The first is that, contrary to Behe's argument, irreducibly complex systems can evolve. Because an irreducibly complex system is defined as one that fails if any one part ceases to function, the concept indicates only that the addition of single parts did not evolve the system. Therefore, other mechanisms of evolution are still left, including deletion of parts, duplication of the system, change of function, addition of a second function to a single part, and gradual modification of parts. Additionally, when two mechanisms that are particularly common -- gene duplication and deletion of parts -- happen together, irreducible complexity is an expected result. This was discovered in 1918 by Nobel prize-winning geneticist Hermann Muller, who referred to the phenomenon as interlocking complexity. Furthermore, there are irreducibly complex systems whose evolutionary origins have been described in detail, such as the Krebs citric acid cycle.


    One of Behe's examples that Coulter touts, the flagellum, further calls Behe's assertions into question. On Page 204, Coulter repeats the false claim that "[t]he absence of almost any one of the parts would render the flagellum useless." In reality, the flagellum still functions as either a simpler flagellum or a secretion system if certain parts are lost. Additionally, there are dispensable proteins found in the eukaryotic flagellum.

    The idea of irreducible complexity has also been rejected by a federal judge as a basis for including intelligent design theory in public school science curriculum. Finally, the theory has also been rejected by the National Academy of Sciences and "the scientific community in general through peer-reviewed papers."

    So the idea that evolution can't be true because living organisms are too complicated to have evolved naturally is, to put it mildly, not a slam dunk.

    Running with crazy pseudoscientific theories is well-trodden territory for Coulter, who has a long history of making outlandish statements about the scientific community. She has:

    • Referred to particular scientists who study climate change as "global warming cultists who want us all dead."
    • Suggested that the idea that the life on earth was created by a "flatulent raccoon" is as valid as the idea that life developed through evolution.
    • Called evolution a "fraud" and a "discredited mystery religion."
    • Claimed in the wake of the meltdown crisis at Japanese nuclear plants that "radiation is actually good for you."
  • Glenn Beck Takes Time Out From Fulfilling Prophecy To Debunk Evolution

    Blog ››› ››› HARDEEP DHILLON

    In the midst of promoting his prophecy-fulfilling "Restoring Courage" rally in Jerusalem during his radio show today, Glenn Beck took some time out to show that Darwinian evolution is not all it's cracked up to be. Beck stressed that it is called the "theory of evolution," and his side-kick Pat Gray stated: "It's not called Darwin's proof of evolution."

    BECK: Darwin's what is it called again -

    GRAY: The theory -

    BECK: Oh, the theory of evolution.

    GRAY: It's not called Darwin's proof of evolution.

    BECK: It's Darwin's theory of evolution. That's weird Ron [Reagan] that there might be some dissent on a theory. You see the difference here Ron is as a theory we didn't theoretically go to the moon, we went to the moon. Darwin only in theory can show you that monkeys come out of you or vice versa. But in your case, it may be reverse engineering but that's a theory of mine that you could disagree with.

    However, as used by scientists, the word theory is not the same thing as "guess" or "hypothesis." Indeed, for an idea to qualify as a theory, it must be an explanation of facts that have been proven to occur through experimentation. As the Encyclopedia Britannica explains:

    Scientific theory, systematic ideational structure of broad scope, conceived by the human imagination, that encompasses a family of empirical (experiential) laws regarding regularities existing in objects and events, both observed and posited. A scientific theory is a structure suggested by these laws and is devised to explain them in a scientifically rational manner.

    In attempting to explain things and events, the scientists employs (1) careful observation or experiments, (2) reports of regularities, and (3) systematic explanatory schemes (theories). The statements of regularities, if accurate, may be taken as empirical laws expressing continuing relationships among the things or characteristics observed. Thus, when empirical laws are able to satisfy curiosity by uncovering an orderliness in the behavior of things or events, the scientist may advance a systematic scheme, or scientific theory, to prove an accepted explanation of why these laws obtain.

    Moreover, The New York Times has noted that Darwin's theory of evolution was the result of meticulous work and it took scientists years to "understand the essential correctness of his views."

    But it's easier for Beck to play silly semantic games then to actually take on the science of evolution. Perhaps Beck knows that he has no actual basis for challenging the science behind evolution.

  • Glenn Beck denies his "half-human, half-monkey" roots

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Glenn Beck is the descendant of a tree-dwelling primate.

    So are you. So am I. Around 4.4 million years ago, a small hominin primate called Ardipithecus ramidus climbed down out of one of the dwindling number of trees on the African plains and walked upright on the ground, a trick made possible by the unique bone structures of its feet and pelvis. The decades of research into the Ardipithecus fossils and their transitional features shows how our primate forbears made the shift from arboreal locomotion (swinging from branches) to bipedalism. It is a crowning achievement of anthropology and a testament to the human capacity for discovery.

    But to Glenn Beck, who claims to revel in education and the pursuit of the truth, it's all a bunch of crap.

    Where to begin...