Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Concerning Jason Collins

In case any of you missed the significance of why media outlets gave so much attention to Jason Collins going public with his sexuality yesterday, please allow me to try to explain it to you as best I can as a straight person. Whether you believe it or not, gay people are treated very poorly in the United States (and even worse in other parts of the world). Being gay is a criminal offense that carries a prison sentence in 68 countries and carries the death sentence in 5 countries.

Homosexual teenagers have the highest suicide rates of any social group. This is due, in part, to the fact that many of them and their family members have bought into the lie that they, as a person, are fundamentally flawed. Homosexuals are frequently castigated from their own families, parents, siblings, friends, and communities once people find out they are gay.

A friend of mine came out to me in 2003 which really changed my perception of what a gay person was. Until that time, I thought all gay people were flamboyantly outspoken and that had to mean they were fundamentally flawed. Until my friend came out, I never realized a gay person could be normal, like sports, just be one of the guys. Right now there are tens of thousands of gay people living in fear every day that their sports team, that their church, that their friends, that their co-workers might find out that they're gay.

Jason Collins took a very courageous step yesterday by going public for the first time in history as an active player in one of the four major sports in the United States. Collins put everything on the line yesterday and risked being outcast by his team, friends, and the entire city of Boston. He did it for the suffering teenagers who consider suicide because they were rejected by family or get bullied at school or who get told that God hates them, just because they were born a certain way.

Jason Collins serves as notice that flamboyant gay people are a loud, outspoken minority. Society needs to wise up to the fact that most gay people are normal people whom you would never suspect until they are ready to talk about it. These people are your doctors, lawyers, teachers, friends, colleagues, co-workers etc. Most of them spend their lives quietly biting their lips, reading about what you write, what say, and are filled with sadness knowing that they'll never be able to reveal their pain with you because they know you simply won't understand.

I myself used to be guilty of this behavior. I lacked empathy and love for my fellow man and had hateful, inconsiderate thoughts and actions that I'm embarrassed to admit having. All people are deserving of respect, love, and dignity. I assert that a more Christ-like behavior would be a deep concern for the suicide rates and treatment of homosexuals rather than concerning ourselves with whether we are going to allow them to marry or not.  A more Christ-like behavior would be standing up and saying that a death penalty for homosexuals is unconscionable, unacceptable, and I will not stand for it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sh*t Creationists Say

I want to begin this blog post with a disclaimer, then onto the laughs. My intention is not to insult people of religious faith here. I have a lot of close friends of faith who are very intellectual, rational, wonderful people that I respect deeply. What I am making fun of here is unadulterated ignorance. I'm not mocking the belief itself but rather than horrifying thought process that leads to said belief and worse the ridiculous arguments used to uphold said beliefs.

Before we get to the fun, I think it's important to make our definitions clear. Creationism is not the idea that a Creator is the author of everything.  Specifically, creationism is a reference to the (pseudo)scientific idea that the Earth, universe, and all of life was created as-is in its present form.

First we will start with a few of the common, yet somewhat reasonable arguments that creationists make, then we'll move onto the outright crazy stuff some have argued with me before.

Common (but still bad) Arguments From Creationists

"Evolution claims that God does not exist."
False: Science makes no claims about gods, either for or against, because gods are supernatural beings. Science is a description of the natural world. Science will never even try to touch on the supernatural arena. Many believers accept evolution but believe a deity guided the process.

"This all did not just happen by accident (or chance)"
True: Science demonstrates how the universe, galaxy, solar system, planets, etc. all came into existence through the forces of nature in a predictable fashion. We know that stars and planets form as a result of gravity. It's predictable and testable. There is no "chance" or "accident" involved planetary formation.

"If humans came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?"
First of all, this is a horrible argument. Never use it. Humans did not come FROM monkeys. The proposition is that modern apes and humans share a common, ape-like ancestor that is now extinct, different from both species.

"Why did some monkeys not evolve into humans?"
Because humanity is not the goal of evolution, survival is. Apes are not "less developed" humans. They are a separate species that evolved along a different evoltuionary chain. All dogs are descendents of gray wolves. So this question would be equivalent to asking "how come some wolves did not evolve into poodles?"

"The Earth is perfectly suited for human habitation."
Partially true and false. Only 25% of the surface of the Earth is habitable by humans. Of that available space, only 50% of it is capable of sustaining crops of any kind. However it is true that the Earth is suited for human habitation, or it could be that humans have grown to be well-suited to Earth's environment. Evolution asserts that species who are well-suited to their environments are capable of survival and reproduction. The fact that humans are well-suited to habitation on Earth can be used as an argument for creationism, but it's certainly a valid argument to support evolution.

"Evolution is ONLY a theory."
True and false. It is true that evolution is a theory. It is false that's it's a theory insofar as what a creationist thinks the word "theory" means. In colloquial language, a theory is an idea or guess. So why are scientists so adamant that a scientific theory be taught as a fact? Because in science, a scientific theory is the ultimate achievement. A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation for a well-substantiated body of facts and laws that is repeatedly confirmed through observation, testing, and peer-review. You may have heard of a few other theories, gravitation theory (which describes and explains the law of gravity) and also heliocentric theory (the theory the sun is the center focal point of our solar system).

Many people think that theories eventually graduate to "laws" once they are proven. This is not the case. Laws in science are simple observations, often expressed in mathematical terms that have no explanatory power. For example, Newton's Second Law of Motion is expressed as F=MA. That's the entire law. A law is merely an observation, not an "unbreakable rule." Theories explain why laws and facts behave as they do and are thus considered greater in the hierarchy of science.

Speaking of Newton's second law of motion, when Einstein published the theory of relativity, it demonstrated the fact that Newton's second law was inadequate. Newton's second law works flawlessly in a microsystem such as Earth where the force of gravity does not change. However, relativity demonstrated that space-time is curved. Gravitation and time both differ dependent on the proximity to large-mass objects. Thus, Einstein's THEORY of relativity corrected Newton's Second LAW of motion. Again, in science theories are held in higher esteem than laws.

The Craziness

The following is a collection of some of the wildest, craziest, most outlandish things I have ever read, seen or heard creationists say.

"When the Earth was made, gravity was only made on the Earth. It doesn't exist anywhere else."
You get 5 out of 5 Kent Hovind's for that comment!

"Evolution is impossible because it conflicts with the two laws of thermodynamics!"
Anyone who is familiar with discussing evolution will eventually get hit with "the second law of thermodynamics" argument from creationists. It's a poor argument that with even a little bit of research it will demonstrate why it's bunk. However, this genius not only tries to parrot the second law of thermodynamics argument, but completely blows it in the process. First of all, there are 3 laws of thermodynamics. Secondly the person heard "second law" at one time, and instead of bothering to research into it decided to repeat it, incorrectly. You get 4 out of 5 Kent Hovind's for that comment!

"You might be an ape, but I'm not!"
Actually you are. Humans are taxanomically classified as homindae, or in laymen's terms, great apes. We share this distinction with bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. The humor in this statement is the thought that reality is dependent on how they perceive it. You get 4 out of 5 Kent Hovind's for that comment, not only for stupidity but arrogance too.

"You're calling this a mammal because someone just made up what makes a mammal a mammal. If I decided to call my finger a hammer, it's a hammer."
Since this quote is from Kent Hovind himself, he gets 5 out of 5 Hovinds.

"How come some people haven't begun to be able to fly or breathe water?"
You get 4 out of 5 Kent Hovind's for that comment!

"The similarities between apes and humans doesn't imply common ancestry, it implies a common designer."
You get 4 out of 5 Hovinds for rejecting scientific facts, and then replacing it with conjecture and believing your conjecture is superior to demonstrable truth.

"I am neither ignorant nor deceptive for rejecting evolution. I just think the idea that life formed from nothing is insane."
You get 5 out of 5 Hovind's for claiming that you're not ignorant about evolution then following it up by ridiculing something that is not evolution. For anyone who does not understand the distinction, the idea that life formed naturally from inorganic materials is not evolution, it's abiogenesis. Evolution has been repeatedly confirmed, abiogenesis not so much.

"The Earth revolves, the tide goes in and out, you can't explain that."
You get 5 out of 5 Hovinds for the depth of your lunacy. Not only is this a logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance, (we can't explain this, therefore God is real) but it's also one of the most ridiculously bad claims ever. Science actually has a really great, demonstrable, and well understood explanations for both the Earth's rotations and the tides. Hint: they're related to gravity. Bill O'Reilly said this, by the way.

"When God made the Earth, dinosaur bones were floating in space and they got buried in the ground during the Earth's formation."
A clear 5 out of 5 Hovinds and a bonus Ray Comfort for that level of stupidity.

"God cryogenically froze the animals, beamed them on the ark, and then unfroze them after it was over. That's why they didn't need all that food taking up room."
Another 5 out 5 Hovinds.

"How can evolution cause animals to evolve when evolution was invented in the 1800s? Animals existed a long time before Darwin!"
You also get 5 out of 5 Hovinds. Derp!

"Once I gave a speech for why evolution should not be taught in schools. It started thundering right afterwards. God was clapping for me."
Congrats! You get 5 out of 5 Hovinds!

"If evolution works, how come we don't see Olympic swimmers forming webbed hands or gills to breathe?"
Ordinarily this would be an epic facepalm, but compared to some of the other entries on this list, it's moderate. 4 out of 5 Kent Hovinds.

I would love to hear from some of your stories as well. Please feel free to leave them in the comments section.