“Religious freedom” in Ohio’s classrooms


Groan, I`m from Ohio, and this is just ugh. We’re rapidly becoming the new Texas. Anyhow this video is by Rebecca Watson, a noted internet skeptic and social justice activist, and she goes over the intent behind the bill pretty well, explaining the “Wedge strategy” and how it relates to this particular bill’s intentions.

I suspect this will get flagged down by the courts, but fundies never give up, do they? It’s known that due to Trump’s mishandling of the Judiciary reactionaries are getting a lot more brazen, the latest bill about abortion coming from Ohio seems especially geared for the sole purpose of getting taken to court, and since the SCOTUS has a right wing majority, that’s bad news for progressives.

Abiogenesis and evolution

I’ve had to deal with this particular piece of creationist claptrap so many times I’ve decided to write this refutation once and for all and be done with it. Abiogenesis is not evolution, it never was, it never will be. Evolution only deals with how living beings change over time, note that in order to qualify as “living,” one has to be alive. The theory of evolution does not concern itself with abiogenesis, that’s a completely different field of study not even belonging to biology, abiogenesis is properly chemistry, not biology.

If one happens to feel the need to make believe that a god created life on earth but allowed life to evolve after that, go ahead, evolution does not conflict with such a belief because it only deals with what happens after life has originated, not before it. One final thing, cars are irrelevant and bringing up how cars need to be intelligently designed and how they don’t evolve is a strawman, cars aren’t living beings that reproduce, metabolize, and possess a genetic code. Piss off.

Improbable things happen

One common anti-evolution “argument” frequently used by creationists and other science deniers is what I like to call the “Probability Card.”
Typically it involves some wild-ass bullshit statistic they literally pulled out of their asses (otherwise known as the argumentum ex culo) to present a “gotcha” argument against skeptics. Of course while there are many problems with this, including several logical fallacies (such as the aforementioned argumentum ex culo, itself a variant of the equally fallacious argument from/by assertion), one way to get them to shut the hell up is by pointing out that improbable things happen, indeed this is even mathematically verified in a phenomenon known as “Littlewood’s law.”

On long enough time scales anything can happen, and there has been plenty enough time for truly wonderful things to come about by evolution, and there has been a large enough quantity of organisms over the past four billion years of life’s existence on this Earth to help evolution beat the odds of probability. People often forget that evolution happens on the scale of populations, not individuals, and population sizes often tend to range in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, that’s plenty of organisms with enough mutations happening every time they reproduce to Climb Mount Improbability (obvious Dawkins reference is obvious) and become a reality.

You can also ask them how probable it was that they would be born in the first place, since it obviously happened but the exact circumstances leading up to their birth in the exact same order happening in the first place is very improbable. Don’t expect them to answer this though, they never do.

Intelligent design?

If the universe is intelligently designed, then why does it appear to be unintelligently designed in structure, simply being a matter of emergence, bottoms up structure rather than from the top down? Everything we see in the universe is explainable by natural phenomena, the laws of physics are sufficient to explain what we see in our own universe rather than invoking some magic entity to attempt to explain it all.

Some might point out the wonders of life as “proof” of intelligent design. A good question to ask them is, if life is intelligently designed, then why do whales have lungs? An intelligent designer wouldn’t give whales lungs, he’d give them gills, and yet whales still have lungs like every other mammal out there. That is a stupid design, and you expect me to believe some omniscient, omnipotent deity created whales from scratch, complete with flaws? If that is really the case, then your god is a stupid one indeed.

Oddities like the presence of lungs in whales or vestigial tailbones in modern humans indicates that we had ancestors that possessed lungs and tails, which also implies that we have changed over time to lose our tails. If that’s not evidence of evolution, then what is it?

This doesn’t apply to just life either, even the structure of the universe itself is explainable by natural laws and the concept of emergence. Grand as galaxies may be, they are not intelligent constructs, but merely swirling bunches of stars, gas, and rock gravitationally bound to a supermassive black hole in the centers of all galaxies, solar systems may appear to be expert pieces of clockwork, but all we see suggests that the order we see in our solar system alone is merely the work of natural laws like gravity and emergence, we don’t have too many asteroids in our orbit because Earth cleared them all out, all of the ice giants are located in the outer solar system because that’s where conditions are cool enough for “ices” like ammonia to coalesce around rocky, metallic cores, the reasons rings of minor planetary bodies like the Asteroid or Kuiper Belt is because those are the regions of the Solar System where no large planets have formed that are big enough to clear their orbits of debris, essentially being the leftover remnants of when our solar system first formed, over five billion years ago.

Since all we see in nature is easily explainable by natural phenomena and emergence, why do we feel the need to deny reality and invoke nonexistent deities and magic instead to explain them?

“Were you there?”

Creationists like to use this as a “gotcha” argument against so-called “evolutionists”, but in reality the question is fallacious at best, and utterly meaningless at worst. First thing’s first, one can easily reverse this question and ask the creationist if they were “there” at the creation of the earth by God, of course they’ll say “God was there”, ignoring the fact that the only “evidence” they got is a book shown to be completely unreliable about damn near everything back to front, their God couldn’t even get his damn creation story straight, so why should we view the Bible as reliable since the whole damn thing is riddles with contradictions?

The second problem with it is that it assumes that eyewitness testimony is the most reliable form of evidence, when we know for certain that the case is the exact opposite of what they believe. Eyewitness testimony is the least reliable form of evidence, not only because memory is prone to error, but because the supposed “eyewitness” may have biases or illicit motivations that may cause them to commit perjury and lie about the events they witnessed.

The third problem is that it, probably unwittingly, disses the forensic sciences. Why do all that work investigating a crime scene when the eyewitness said some random person do it, and if eyewitness testimony is the most reliable form of evidence, they must be right, right? Science is nothing more than forensics, we uncover what happened in the past based off of the evidence left behind, there’s always a trail to follow, and that trail doesn’t go away, no matter what the irrational, paranoid, bigoted liar for Jesus wants you to believe.

A Basic Definition of Evolution

There are still tons of misconceptions floating around out there about what evolution is, and what it isn’t, so I think I should take it upon myself to provide a basic, and accurate, definition of evolution consistent with what we actually know to be true about evolution.

Evolution is simply the change in the frequencies of allele variations in any given population over time. An alternate definition of evolution is that evolution is simply descent with inherent modification, and the two separate definitions aren’t mutually exclusive.

Notice that neither of those definitions have anything to do with a “kind turning into a completely different kind”, such as the infamous Crocoduck of Kirk Cameron’s imagination, nor does it have anything to do with abiogenesis, the big bang theory, planetary formation, stellar nucleosynthesis, and the like. Evolution is solely an explanation of biodiversity, that’s it.

Perhaps the reader will be confused by how abiogenesis and evolution are two completely separate phenomena, so let me explain: Abiogenesis is about how life got here, while evolution only has to do with what happens after life got started in the first place. In other words, one needs a genome to evolve, something that prebiotic organic chemicals lack.

So it’s perfectly logically and theologically consistent for one to believe in both a deity and acknowledge evolution as the sole valid explanation for biodiversity, despite what the Fundies would have you believe.

A good source for understanding basic evolutionary biology can be found in the link below:

Understanding Evolution