Saturday, 7 September 2013

Fundamentally flawed...

We had a report in the press today about a bit of a ruckus in East Kilbride, the town I grew up in. It seems that a bunch of evangelicals have "infiltrated" Kirktonholme Primary School in West Mains and have been volunteering as teaching assistants. Not only that, but they have been handing out books which claim evolution is false and how you can know that God exists. They're real young earthers.

They're from the Church of Christ and think they are missionaries bringing Jesus to the Scottish heathens. They seem to think that in a population of 5.1 million people there are only 700 practicing Christians in Scotland. Yes, 700. Not 7000 or 70,000 or 700,000, but seven hundred. That's it.

They have given pupils two books, one containing a drawing of children with a stegosaurus. They are insistent that man and dinosaurs co-existed

Is it a coincidence that the Church of Christ has 700 members in Scotland? I think not. It seems that only the members of this particular sect are considered practicing Christians by them. This is rather ironic when one considers the defenders of this sect have been making loud noises on my personal Facebook page, not realising that the sect they defend also considers them to be non-Christian. The people I have in mind are young earth creationists, biblical literalists and inerrantists; one is Seventh Day Adventist. The penny hasn't dropped that this cult would have been telling their children that mommy and daddy aren't "real" Christians and are in danger of hellfire. Would they still defend an extremist sect which did this in their child's school? You bet they wouldn't.

What this has demonstrated is that extremists will go to any lengths, including usurping parental authority, when it comes to pushing their beliefs on unsuspecting children. I have no problem with religion, in fact I'm a Christian myself, but I would never push my beliefs onto somebody else's children with or without parental consent.

This is the crux of the matter. No parental consent was sought for this prosletyzing. The parents were in blissful ignorance until the children brought home the two books they had been given. What's worse is, when confronted with complaints, the headteacher defended the decision to hand out these books! Legally, when a child is at school, the school and particularly the head teacher are in loco parentis and it is their responsibility to protect the children from this sort of indoctrination. That the opposite has happened here is a disgrace.

As you can imagine the parents are up in arms over this and are looking forward to a meeting with the school authorities. The headteacher however, has decided not to attend and will only deal with complaints on a one-to-one basis. That isn't good enough.

Here's a link to the follow-up article

You will also find extensive discussion of this matter at this link

Monday, 2 September 2013

The windmills of some minds...

As I wander around various discussion groups on Facebook, I think I've seen pretty much every nonsensical denial of science possible and then I come across a gem like this.
One poster has declared that the earth does not spin on its axis at all and thus is not only the centre of the solar system, but the centre of the universe and that the entire universe orbits the earth. That means that, with our stationary earth, day and night are due to the sun orbiting the earth in a 24 hour period. That's going to create special problems for distant objects which will have to travel at thousands of times the speed of light to complete a single orbit in a 24 hour period such as the Andromeda galaxy.

Now, I have to wonder where the other planets are in this system. Are they orbiting the earth as well? Do they follow the sun like a chain of baby ducks? Maybe they're orbiting the sun as it orbits the earth. On top of that, how on earth does this "model" account for seasons?

I thought I'd heard it all...then he went and spoiled it by posting his "evidence". Firstly, he says, Polaris doesn't change position in the sky. That completely ignores the fact that just about every other bleedin' object does. Secondly (and this one had me on the floor) he posted a video of earth taken from a geostationary satellite. I kid you not.

Now you're probably wondering why this person is so insistent that the earth doesn't spin on its own axis. In fact he insists that it is the only thing in the universe that doesn't rotate, orbit, wobble or otherwise move in any way. This is based on his reading of Psalms 93:1

The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty: the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world is also established, that it cannot be moved.

So, there you have it. Astronomers could have saved themselves a lot of time and money by not bothering.

It scares me that in this day and age there are still those who are so hell-bent on denying science in order to interpretthe Bible literally that they will ignorethe evidence of their own eyes. Can you imagine the education their offspring will get if they are home-schooled? That's the really tragic aspect when people think like this poster does - the detrimental effect o their children who deserve better.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

What's it all about, Alfie...?

Have you ever wondered why you bother? How often have you seen science mangled and screamed at your screen? This is my version of screaming at my screen. I've been prompted to start this blog by the latest Intelligent Design debacle involving none other than Jonathan McLatchie and his two execrable articles which deal with the GULOP gene in humans and his musings on the ability of RNA editing to resurrect pseudogene transcripts.

What has appalled me the most is the sheer incompetence and dishonesty demonstrated by his feeble retraction of his original erroneous article. Instead of accepting that he messed up and didn't have a clue what he was writing about, he chose instead to blame the ENSEMBL database, claiming it was inaccurate. That it is in fact accurate is blindingly obvious to anyone with even a basic ability to use it. Still, any port in a storm, as they say.

The really sad thing about this whole fiasco is that the Discovery Institute tweeted his original article as "new evidence". Even a cursory glance by a moderately competent molecular biologist would have exposed the fundamental flaws so why didn't the Discovery Institute notice this? You can supply your own answer as you see fit.

To make matters worse, the Centre for Intelligent Design UK Facebook page has now started removing any comments which draw attention to this false accusation against the ENSEMBL database, while still linking to the feeble retraction containing the accusation. They are also blocking those critical of either the articles or the subsequent cover up attempts. All of this could have been avoided if, in response to criticism of the original article, Mr McLatchie had said "Yup, I got it wrong. I retract the article. Sorry folks." Instead his squirming attempts at face-saving have done him and his ID masters no favours whatsoever.