Cosmos For Creationists II

Cosmos contains facts which some on the anti-science religious right object to, such as discussion of evolution and creation of the universe in the big bang. Last month I posted a video in which an episode of Cosmos was edited for creationists. Funny or Die made their version of an episode made for creationists–video above.

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SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Captain America and Agents of SHIELD; The Americans; Orphan Black; Continuum; Captain Janeway and Geocentrism; The Expanse

Hannibal Chilton

 Yakimono provided an excellent start for the second half of this season of Hannibal. The episode answered the question of how they continue for several more episodes between the release of Will Graham from prison and the ultimate revelation that Hannibal Lecter is the Chesapeake Ripper. Chilton had an agenda, but his plans did not work out: “Yes, I have an agenda. Living.” We knew after Hannibal winked at Chilton last week that he was doomed, but had no idea how complex his (apparent) death would be, along with the role of Miriam Lass. We found out why Hannibal kept Miriam alive, brainwashing her so that she would identify Chilton as the one who kidnapped her instead of Hannibal, and then shooting Chilton. This should serve to take suspicion away from Hannibal for several episodes.

It did take some foolish decisions by Jack Crawford for this all to play out as it did. Is it really plausible that Chilton had the strength to pull off all these murders, or that after covering his tracks so well would suddenly leave evidence out in plain site? Jack should have believed Will. Things were obviously not as they seemed. It didn’t make sense for Jack to go after Chilton alone if he believed he had really killed the FBI agents left in his home, but at least this didn’t affect the outcome. It was especially foolish for Jack to ignore all the warnings about Hannibal and take Miriam to Hannibal for hypnosis to “recover” her memory. Perhaps Jack will put this all together by the end of the season, or maybe Will will provide additional evidence against Hannibal.

Will remains the only one alive who has any idea what is going on, and decided that he preferred to get all the answers as opposed to killing Hannibal when he had the chance this week. Ultimately he returned to therapy under Hannibal, knowing that Hannibal would be unable to resist this request, and it might provide more information.

Abel Gideon is now dead and it appears that Chilton is also dead, but this is not certain. His death, along with the death of Beverly Katz, represent differences from Red Dragon. After Beverly was last seen cornered by Hannibal, Bryan Fuller did verify that she was dead in interviews, but he is being more vague about Chilton:

AVC: Chilton, correct me if I’m wrong, is the first character from the literature that you’ve killed who’s still alive in later books. Do you feel that shakes things up, or do you worry about not having that character to play later?

BF: [Frank] Serpico survived a bullet to the face.

Fuller explained Will’s motivations:

AVC: This episode ends with Will resuming therapy, and getting out of the hospital. Why did you need to pull him out of the hospital, and what is his thinking behind going back to the devil’s lair?

BF: The idea—and it’ll become much clearer in episode eight where you understand exactly what Will is up to—but it felt like we had completed the arc of the institution. We had Will very actively investigating Hannibal in his own way by not only going interior to his mind, but also using those around him who can be his own avatars out in the world to dig up clues. It felt like because we had completed the arc of the Chesapeake Ripper in some sense, that it was good to exonerate Will, and since he was never convicted of anything, it’s easier to get them out, once proof has been discovered that they’re guilty or innocent. So we wanted Will back out in the world, because we needed to continue to shift the dynamic of what’s happening between Will and Hannibal, and as we end this episode, seven, with “Let’s resume therapy,” we were launching a whole new psychological arc where it is Will and Hannibal. Will now, of clear mind, is beginning his own seduction of Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal has been working very hard to seduce Will, and now, it’s up to Will to seduce Hannibal and perhaps lull him into a false sense of security, so he can ultimately be exposed.

AVC: Why do you think Will doesn’t kill Hannibal when he has the chance?

BF: Because I think he honestly wants to know why. I think there has to be—and I talked with Hugh Dancy about this quite a bit—there has to be an element of honest reality to Will’s fascination with Hannibal Lecter. This man built him up and destroyed him in the first season, and then continued to manipulate him through the first half of the second season. When someone is so invasive to your psyche and has had such an impact, if you ended them, it’s like, Hannibal successfully bonded with Will and had Will bond to him, and it was probably more painful to kill Hannibal, because Will knows that he is started on this journey into a very dark place, and Hannibal Lecter may be the only one who can help him understand it.

He also explained how Hannibal accomplished some of his murders, along with the limitations imposed by a television budget:

AVC: How much do you sit around and figure out how he does all this stuff?

BF: Well, we had a lot of stuff that we cut out that we simply couldn’t afford to produce. The show has a very tight budget, and it’s very streamlined in its storytelling. We had scenes where Hannibal goes down into his basement kill room, where we saw Beverly Katz go, and he goes through a door, and he goes into a steam tunnel, and you see him following that steam tunnel, and he goes down for like miles and miles and miles. So we essentially established a way for Hannibal to get in and out of his house without anybody seeing him and use underground steam tunnels throughout Baltimore to get around the city. We simply couldn’t produce it and couldn’t find the time. In our minds, he goes down in the basement and goes out a secret door into the steam tunnels, and that’s how he got to Chilton’s house, and that’s how he got back into his house without anybody noticing, but we couldn’t produce it, so we lifted that element and have the rationale in our brains, if anybody asks the question—but we just weren’t able to show you.

agents-of-shield-turn-turn-turn-2

Agents of SHIELD is finally becoming the show we wanted it to be. It is never going to be a spy show of the quality of The Americans, and remains behind Arrow in ability to turn a comic book world into successful television, but it has now become important to watch for those interested in the Marvel cinematic universe. Turn, Turn, Turn does a far better job of tying into Captain America: The Winter Soldier than previous episodes did with the attempts to tie into Thor: The Dark World. If you have not seen the episode, this contains major spoilers for both SHIELD and Captain America. If you have not seen either yet, I advise watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier before watching any further episodes of Agents of SHIELD, but if for some reason this is not possible it will still be possible to enjoy the episodes of SHIELD.

It is now apparent that Agents of SHIELD had been limited by the need to wait until the latest Captain America movie came out. The story line about the Clairvoyant was a distraction, with information really coming out due to the infiltration of SHIELD by HYDRA and not due to clairvoyance. It came as no surprise that Agent May was not the spy despite the suggestion of this last week and that instead she was reporting directly to Director Fury. The development of Coulson’s entire team makes more sense after learning it was based upon having the ability to repair, or if necessary kill, Coulson should there be problems after bringing him back to life with the alien blood.

The biggest surprise was to find that Agent Ward was working with Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) and HYDRA. Considering what a boring character he has been so far, this can be a welcome change in the show. Of course it is possible that the shooting of Hand and others was all staged with a gun shooting blanks and fake blood so that Garrett would trust Ward, allowing Ward to infiltrate HYDRA. Otherwise it seemed strange for Hand to tell Ward to kill Garrett when he was already in custody, and we already have two major characters who have come back from death or apparent certain death. This preview from next week’s episode portrays Ward as the villain, but again we don’t know if this is real or if he is faking to infiltrate HYDRA.

As we have a long time to wait for further movies, Agents of SHIELD can now provide a look into the Marvel universe. Will SHIELD rebuild as a major organization or will they just be fighting to survive and later get revenge against HYDRA? Presumably the show will set up the plans for what is desired for SHIELD in The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the next Captain America movie.

Captain America ended with Maria Hill applying for a job at Stark Industries and Cobie Smulders will be reprising this role on an upcoming episode. Samuel L. Jackson will also be appearing in the season finale. With Maria Hill working for Tony Stark and Nick Fury in hiding after faking his death, these episodes may or may not pertain directly to SHIELD, but should give some clue as to where they are going.

Besides the obvious tie-in to Agents of SHIELD, James Gunn, writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, has confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Guardians of the Galaxy will tie into The Avengers 3.

Arpanet-The-Americans-3

The Americans tied into the early development of the Internet on Arpanet. Elizabeth and Phillip concentrated on placing a rather large bug on Arpnet for the Russians. The subplot with children concentrated on Henry instead of Paige. I hope that Elizabeth and Phillip are proud of how he is developing an interest in spying on neighbors.

The storyline with Nina, Stan and Oleg overshadowed the usual main storyline with Elizabeth and Philip this week. The entire storyline with Oleg has turned out different from how it first appeared. Instead of working on his own, it turned out that his actions were planned with the KGB, and the initial fears that he presented to threat to Nina were probably a false alarm.

Nina had no difficulty fooling the polygraph thanks to coaching from Oleg. The Americans effectively leaves open questions in episodes and then often answers them with revelations of further information in subsequent episodes. The final scene with Oleg and Nina in bed together raises questions as to whether this was a new development, perhaps due to Nina’s gratitude for Oleg’s help, or if this had been occurring off screen for a longer period. In retrospect, Oleg’s coaching of Nina, including about squeezing her anus and imagining him in the room, might suggest a closer relationship between the two at the time.

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I have concentrated on coverage of Hannibal and The Americans since each started its second season this winter as these are two of the best shows on television. A third show of this caliber, Orphan Black, returns for its second season on April 19. Entertainment Weekly spoke with Orphan Black co-creator John Fawcett about some of the new characters for the second season, and the fate of one of the characters from the first season:

EW: Obviously one of the big cliffhangers from season 1 was Cosima’s illness. What can you say about that?
FAWCETT: Cosima’s illness is a major, major storyline in season 2. It’s something that is life or death for Cosima and then for everyone else. When someone is sick, it really kind of brings people together. I think that’s what we see from this. Now, Delphine and Cosima are in love, but Delphine’s kind of trapped in the middle. She does some bad things. But she does good things. She’s in love, but she’s still doing bad things. And trying to discover if there is a cure for Cosima is a big plot issue with season 2. And it’s something that carries through from episode to episode — this journey to try to find some sort of way to cure her.

There are also other excellent shows which I don’t discuss as often here. I am reluctant to speculate on Game of Thrones as those who have read the novels have such a tremendous advantage. It is also so much work trying to keep up with the names of all the characters. This chart might help. Person of Interest does not have as large a cast, but it is another genre show which is adding an increasing number of characters while gradually revealing more details about their back stories.  This character relationship chart might help keep track of all of them.

Continuum is another excellent science fiction show, but it is harder to review here since I’m watching it a few weeks ahead of most in the United States by downloading from Showcase. Minute Man, the second episode which aired in the United States this week, showed how Kiera became a CPS agent. While I will avoid being specific to avoid spoilers, future episodes to air provide more information about Kiera’s background and beliefs, some of which might be seen as positive and some negative considering her support for the future system.

Janeway

Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager (as well as Red on Orange is the New Black), did voice over work for a “documentary” which claims that the earth is the center of the universe. Lawrence Krauss had already been tricked into participating. Kate Mulgrew explained on her Facebook page:

I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew

Mulgrew’s work on a project claiming that the earth is the center of the universe led to inevitable jokes as to this explaining why Voyager was lost for seven seasons, but the real joke is the perversion of science coming from the right wing, adding geocentrism to creationism.

Filming for The Fall season 2 finally began this month. Colin Morgan, who previously starred in Merlin, joins the cast. This is a high quality mini-series well worth watching.

Syfy has had a hard time coming up with a major science fiction show since Battlestar Galactica ended. Defiance looked more interesting in its first season finale, but still is limited in scope. They are now looking into doing a series based upon The Expanse novels which does sound really promising.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Hannibal; Orphan Black; Doctor Who; Star Trek; Person of Interest; The Americans; Continuum; Fox vs. Kristen Bell; Mad Men; Lost; Creationists vs. Cosmos

Arrow Suicide Squad

I must admit I was a bit underwhelmed by this week’s episode of Arrow, not because it was a bad episode (it wasn’t) but my expectations had been raised so high by all the hype over the introduction of the Suicide Squad. I did like how they tied it to Dingle and his ex-wife, but beyond them there was little time for anyone else other than Deadshot and Amanda Waller. Of course Shrapnel didn’t last very long. (Are we certain he is really dead–we never saw the body.) They probably could have used more time to flesh out the story further, perhaps as a two-part show. Dingle was definitely able to carry the episode as lead and if limited to one episode it also might have been better to just give him the entire episode. Most of the scenes with Oliver and Felicity, other than the final scene, were pretty much filler anyways. I know it is unconventional to leave out two of the biggest stars, but it would have made a stronger episode.

There were two scenes with Oliver worth noting. I have no idea how Slade could have had video of Shadow from the island and suspect this was a case of the writers going for a more dramatic scene at the expense of reality (even within the parameters of this series). I did like the ending, tying into not only Dingle but Oliver, and having a potential new ally against Slade. While she was introduced to the DC world long after I stopped reading Batman comics, I understand that the cameo by Harley Quinn is a huge deal for many fans. Collider spoke with producer Marc Guggenheim about the series and potential appearances from characters from the Batman universe:

How much of the Batman universe can you plug into this show, especially now with Gotham out there?

GUGGENHEIM:  That’s part of the ongoing relationship and discussions that we have with DC.  Things have not really changed with Gotham.  It’s the same thing that it always is, which is that we have an idea, we go to DC, we talk about it, and we find out where the lines are and which characters are available or not available.  I want to manage expectations with respect to Harley Quinn.  She was always intended to be an Easter egg.  I don’t want people to go in with incorrect expectations and walk away from Episode 16 disappointed.  But there is an element to the Easter egg that was not spoiled by the promo, that I think people will find a lot of fun. 

The Arrow’s secret identity was also discussed:

Question: There are a lot of people who know Oliver’s secret now.  Is that number going to go down, before the end of this season, or are more people going to find out?
MARC GUGGENHEIM:  I would say that that number is going to go up, before the end of the year.  By the finale, more people will know than currently do.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

GUGGENHEIM:  We talk in the writers’ room a lot about, are there too many characters that know and does it diminish the secret identity?  Where we have come from is the philosophy that, when members of our cast of characters know, it draws them into Oliver’s world and it draws them into the show more.  So, we tend to get more story out of people knowing than people not knowing.  You could say that too many people know, but we always use The Dark Knight trilogy as our compass, and a lot of people knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman, particularly by the third movie, and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of watching those stories unfold.  Obviously, there are different philosophies and different points of view.  For us, as writers, we always go towards whatever gives us more story, and more interesting story.  For now, at least, certain people knowing is more interesting than certain people not knowing. 

Quentin Lance used to be a detective.  How has he not figured out that Oliver is Arrow?

GUGGENHEIM:  Episode 19 pretty definitively answers that question, as far as Lance is concerned.  And the answer to that will surprise you.  It’s not something that you would expect.

I’m happy to hear they are addressing Lance. After a recent episode in which Lance saw Sara with Oliver and with the Arrow in a couple scenes I could not believe that he did not figure out that they were the same person.

More characters from The Flash will also be introduced in episode 19, The Man Under the Hood.

Hannibal Takiawase

Hannibal stressed a couple of themes this week which are pertinent to the series as a whole: death as an escape and unconventional psychiatric therapy. The first involved both the motives of the killer of the week (well played by Amanda Plummer) and a second storyline in which Hannibal was the villain not for committing a murder but for thwarting Bella’s attempt to die on her own terms. If the coin toss went the other way, would he have had Bella for dinner?

For a moment I thought that perhaps Will was going to win over a new ally but instead it is clear that Hannibal is going to have Beverly for dinner. If only she had taken Will’s claims more seriously, refrained from relating any suspicions to Hannibal, had passed on her suspicions to Jack, and had thought to have backup before falling into his trap.

Will might have lost one potential ally, but he is still not powerless despite being locked up, and now better able to play detective with the return of lost memories. As he does every week, Bryan Fuller discussed the episode with AV Club. Here is an excerpt about Will:

AVC: Will is getting his memories back, and you’re filling in some of the gaps in season one. Was that always the plan? Did you have thoughts of what had actually happened when you were writing last season?

BF: There was, once Will says, “The answers are in my head, and I’m going to find them,” I felt like we were obligated to tell that story and to keep peeling back the onion of his memory, or the pomegranate, as it were, peeling back membranes and finding these clusters of bloody seeds that he has to deal with. We did that with the intubation of the ear, and then we did that with the reveal of, on some level of consciousness, he was aware what was going on in Hannibal’s dining room when Gideon was there, and is able to access that it causes him to seek out Chilton, to see if he can help him answer some of the mysteries that are locked away in his mind. It felt like it was a way to keep Will active. He can’t actually go out to investigate things, as much as he can go in and investigate things, so we needed to have some device for him to continue his investigation. To be active while he’s incarcerated and going inside his mind felt like a really strong way to do that.

AVC: Did you struggle with finding ways for Will to be active?

BF: It was always part of the conversations when we were story-breaking. “Okay, Will’s not active enough. Will has to be driving this.” We are telling Will Graham’s story, so it was very important to seek out those ways to keep him active when he’s incarcerated. That was the big thing: We need to get outdoors and see him in his mind palace fishing to give us a sense of the power of his imagination and also the transportive power of imagination in general. I think we hear from survivors of terrible atrocities, and how they survive is their imagination. It’s such a wonderful gift, and there was a line that we cut from an episode where they talk about how imagination is the greatest virtual-reality machine known to man, and it’s between our ears. It’s that kind of, almost, masturbatory transportation where you can go someplace and make it as real as you need it to be in your mind, even though you’re locked in a cage.

Orphan Black insider video with Tatiana Maslany above. We already have a strong set of genre shows airing now with Arrow, Hannibal, Continuum, and The Americans. Orphan Black might be the best of them all.

Mark Gatiss has discussed the return of the Time Lords of Gallifrey to Doctor Who.

Blastr has the first hints about the third Star Trek movie since the J.J. Abrams reboot. I’m still waiting for a movie in which the original Spock recruits the Enterprise crew to fix the time line and save Vulcan.

The Americans had another great episode. Claudia is back, and they are trying to track down the killer from the first episode. I would assume that the couple who intervened in the final scene were involved. Last week Elizabeth used fear to get information from the poor janitor. This week she used other more womanly techniques for interrogation. Paige created problems again, this time by going to church and getting caught reading a Bible. Plus Nina might be in danger because of Oleg, and Martha might place Philip’s identity at risk. Arrow shows what a superhero show should be and The Americans sets a new bar for spy shows. This makes Agents of SHIELD look so weak in both genres.

Person of Interest Root2

I’ve also highly enjoyed the last couple of episodes of Person of Interest. The first was almost entirely flashback, filling in some major holes to date in the back story. It ended with Root in the present, leading into this week’s episode which was more centered around Amy Acker’s character. She can easily carry the show, just as Dingle could carry an episode of Arrow. I was happy to read in this interview that she will probably be in the remaining episodes this season.  It looks like she has her own team to rival Harold’s, with root more connected to the Machine.

In many ways Person of Interest is increasingly reminding me of Fringe. Both started by concentrating more on monster or case of the week episodes, but overtime the mythology of the show took over. The characters have become increasingly compelling as people beyond operatives. Root is by far my favorite to watch, and I enjoy seeing her developing relationship with Shaw (“I love it when you play doctor.”) At least the two get along better than Root gets along with Fusco, who constantly calls her “Cuckoo’s Nest.”

I am trying hard to avoid any major spoilers on the season premiere of Continuum. Alec’s decision to use time travel has major repercussions, and is moving the show in a new direction. There is finally an answer to the central question of the show, as to whether the time line can be changed.

Now Fox (the network which says it might take a long time to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 because it took us 2000 years to find Noah’s Arc ) is attacking Kristen Bell for saying rich people should pay more because they can afford it. Incidentally, I received my copy of the script and digital download of the Veronica Mars movie last week after donating to the Kickstarter campaign, but have not had time to watch yet.

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Matt Weiner isn’t going to let much out about the upcoming season of Mad Men, but there was a little information at PaleyFest. Here’s what they said about Don Draper:

Don is even more aimless without his job.
Don Draper has had some dark moments, but he’s always had his job to fall back on and obsess over. “His marriage is in trouble, his relationship with his kids is tricky at best, and now work isn’t there,” said Hamm. “Don is trying to process his life and his place in his job, his career, his family, everything.” And he’s made some uncharacteristic mistakes of late, including the disastrous Hershey’s pitch. “That was a completely honest moment for him. He thought, I’m going to try this because it’s a step in the right direction,” said Hamm. “But it was a step in the exact opposite direction.” Don’t dismay, though. Hamm ended on a hopeful note: “There’s one principle to Don: He’s a survivor. He rises to the challenge.”

The Lost show runners discussed the finale at PaleyFest. No, the fan theory which I never believed that they were dead the whole time is not true.

Creationists are angry about Cosmos as Neil deGrasse Tyson isn’t providing them with equal time to deny science. Last week’s episode did an excellent job showing how evolution is the foundation of modern biology. As there is tremendous evidence for evolution and zero for creationism, there is no reason to grant the creationists a moment of time (other than perhaps to further debunk their claims).

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Cosmos For Creationists

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A Fox affiliate in Oklahoma cut the only reference to evolution by cutting out fifteen seconds of the premiere episode of Cosmos. Reportedly this was accidental, just like the eighteen minute gap in the Watergate tapes. The above video shows further editing of Cosmos to appeal to the anti-science right.

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Bill Nye and David Attenborough Respond To Science-Deniers on Evolution And Climate Change

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Sir David Attenborough have both worked hard to use the media to provide education on science. This task is especially important considering the vast ignorance of basic scientific concepts found in recent polls, and due to political groups intentionally spreading denial of science. Both Bill Nye and David Attenborough are now taking on attacks on science coming from creationists and climate change deniers.

There is a valid argument that the debate format is the wrong way to confront those who are intentionally giving arguments which are counter to fact, and Bill Nye is far more knowledgeable at science than in political debating. He still deserves credit for seeing the importance of confronting science-denial. I previously looked at Bill Nye’s debate against  Ken Ham on evolution. Over the weekend he confronted a Republican member of Congress on climate change. The video is above and the transcript is here. Coverage from Swampland:

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” told Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to stop questioning the facts behind climate change on Sunday morning, as the Congresswoman said the “engineer and actor” didn’t know enough about climate science to claim authority.

The two sparred over the the most appropriate response to extreme weather events and global warming on NBC’s Meet the Press, and disagreed on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.

Blackburn maintained that there is no consensus in the scientific community about global warming, pointing to two vocal dissenters, Richard Lindzen of MIT and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, who claim that humans are not causing climate change.

“Neither [Bill Nye] nor I are a climate scientist. He is an engineer and actor, I am a member of Congress. And what we have to do is look at the information that we get from climate scientists,” said Blackburn. “There is not agreement around the fact of exactly what is causing this.”

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, according to NASA. Experts say there is still some uncertainty in absolutely linking isolated extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy or bad droughts to global warming, but the vast majority of scientists ascribe climate change and the increase in extreme weather to human activity.

Nye responded harshly to the Congresswoman.

“We have overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. That you cannot tie any one event to that is not the same as doubt about the whole thing,” said Nye. “There is no debate in the scientific community. I encourage the Congresswoman to really look at the facts. You are our leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”

More at Climate Progress.

Attenborough

David Attenborough has typically stayed out of these debates in the past, but The Daily Beast reports that he is now speaking out:

In the U.S. Attenborough is perhaps best known for the Life on Earth series that was broadcast on PBS in the 1980s, on the other side of the Atlantic he is an institution, recently winning a BBC poll to find the greatest living British icon. His work has often been diluted for an American audience, with his masterful narrations for Planet Earth and Life re-recorded by Alec Baldwin and Oprah Winfrey before they were broadcast on the Discovery channel. There have also been accusations that the U.S. network sought to downplay climate change in the shows.In fact, Attenborough says he has finally grown sick of America’s attitude to climate change. “I think it’s very sad that people won’t accept evidence for what it says—it’s extraordinary that one of the wealthiest, materially advanced societies in the world can support irrational myths in that way,” he said. “That they should do it privately is up to them but since what they do effects that whole world it’s pretty serious that they should not accept that humanity has been responsible for these changes that are absolutely evident to everyone else.”

You could hardly describe the response as knee-jerk since Attenborough has made a career of resisting controversy, often describing himself as “a reporter” with no views of his own. He does also have sympathy for those who resist the prevailing science on climate change. “There are very good reasons why people should not wish to accept it, because it interferes with their business,” he said. “I would much prefer it wasn’t true—but it is true and unless we can do something about it we are going to be in trouble.”

He has less time for those who deny the existence of evolution, however. “Every society in the world has found it necessary to produce a story to account for the fact that humanity is on earth,” he said. “The Australian Aboriginals think that the first humans were regurgitated by a great rainbow serpent in the sky, the people in Thailand think the beginning of the world was a huge pool of milk and a snake was pulled by demons, and the milk coagulated and that formed human beings and there was a time, two and a half to three thousand years ago, when people on the east end of the Mediterranean thought woman was made from the rib of the first man.

“If somebody says to me I believe every word of the Bible is true, you can’t argue against that degree of irrationality…there is actually a way of looking at the natural world and seeing the evidence and it’s all there. And what’s more it’s the same evidence whether it’s in Australia or Northern Europe or wherever. It’s all the same—it all produces the same answer and you can all see the evidence—if you reject that then there’s nothing I can say.”

Attenborough and his fellow naturalists have been demonstrating the science behind evolution and the fossils that show the development of animal species for decades, and yet recent years have seen an uptick in the number of Americans who believe God put humans directly on earth. One suggested explanation, has been the surge of unchecked disinformation available online. “Never before in history has the entire world been able to speak to one another. We are at the beginning of an extraordinary evolution as a species—one species is able to communicate instantly with every member,” Attenborough said. “I’m not so cynical as to think that ignorance will always win.”

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Ignorance of Science In America

Earth From Moon

Last week I wrote about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on evolution versus creationism. Many scientists were justifiably annoyed that this was even a topic of  debate. We are contrasting evolution, based upon a tremendous body of actual evidence, with creationism, a belief lacking any evidence which is based purely upon religious dogma. I’ve noted in the past that a disturbing number of Americans do not accept evolution, which provides the foundation of modern biology. While far more Republicans deny evolution than Democrats and Independents, the problem is not limited to Republicans.

We see ignorance of science in many areas. While the tobacco industry has pretty much given up the battle against evidence that cigarette smoking is hazardous, we see essentially the same type of anti-scientific misinformation being spread by the petroleum industry regarding climate change denialism. The recent death of Philp Seymore Hoffman of a heroin overdose raised the issue that there are people who remain unaware of the science demonstrating that addiction is a disease, not just a bad choice.

Unfortunately ignorance of science is widespread in this country, often impacting views on public policy. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has released a survey demonstrating this ignorance:

Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

The result of the survey, which is conducted every two years, will be included in a National Science Foundation report to President Barack Obama and US lawmakers.

One in three respondents said science should get more funding from the government.

Nearly 90 percent said the benefits of science outweigh any dangers, and about the same number expressed interest in learning about medical discoveries.

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The Evolution vs. Creationism Debate

Creationist Debate

MacLeodCartoons sums up the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on evolution vs. creationism in the cartoon above. This comes quite close to this summation of an exchange from The Guardian:

What is the one thing upon which you base your belief?

Ham: the Bible. There’s no other book like it. It tells us everything we need to know. Man is a sinner. The Gospel…Jesus died on the cross. Salvation, Jesus, God, God, the Bible. The Bible, the Bible, the Bible. God will reveal himself to you.

Nye: “I base my beliefs on the information and the process that we call science. It fills me with joy. It is a wonderful and astonishing thing to me. If we abandon all that we have learned, if we let go of everything we have learned before us, if we stop looking for answers, we will be defeated…We have to embrace science education. We have to keep science education in science classes.”

Here is another key exchange which sums up the difference between creationism and science in a nutshell. When asked what would change their mind, Ken Ham essentially replied “nothing” while Bill Nye replied “evidence.”

Ham-Nye-debate-in-a-nutshell

A more detailed recap of that portion of the debate:

What, if anything would ever change your mind?

Ham: I can’t prove it to you, but basically, God and Jesus. “The Bible is the word of God.” No one will ever convince him that the word of God is not true. Like, ever.

Nye: “We just need one piece of evidence like a fossil that swam from one level to another.” We would need evidence that rock layers could form in 4,000 years. Bring me any of those things and I would change my mind immediately.

Many things were said without responses. This included Bill Nye asking if Kangaroos got off the Ark in the middle east, why are they only in Australia, and not even a fossil of one anywhere else? I would have liked to hear an answer to that one.

Ken Ham is a young earth creationist, the craziest of the crazies. Even Pat Robertson thinks that young earth creationism is a joke.

More commentary here, here, and here.

Video of the debate here:

Unfortunately many schools which receive public money teach creationism. Slate put together this map as to where they are located:

Creationism Schools

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Mike Huckabee Thinks Democrats Are Providing Coverage Of Birth Control Pills Because Women Cannot Control Their Libido

After being embarrassed by comments such as Todd Akin on “legitimate rape” and Richard Mourdock, saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from god,” the Republican Party has been trying to teach their candidates how to speak without offending women. (Maybe they should teach their candidates about science, history, and economics t00). It appears that Mike Huckabee (who could also use some education on science) did not show up to the class on how to avoid offending women. This is how he wants the Republicans to speak to women:

“I think it’s time Republicans no longer accept listening to the Democrats talk about a ‘war on women,’” Huckabee said during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington. “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender.”

Huckabee said Democrats rely on women believing they are weaker than men and in need of government handouts, including the contraception mandate in Obamacare.

“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it,” Huckabee said. “Let’s take that discussion all across America.

He is saying what he thinks Democrats think, but from the context it sure appears that he is projecting his views here. Apparently, in Huckabee’s mind women who do need birth control are those who cannot control their libidos and do what he thinks unmarried women should do–abstain from sex. I believe this is a view he shares with Rush Limbaugh who called Sandra Fluke a slut for advocating in support of contraception coverage. After marriage, one Republican Congressman, Steve Pearce, recently advised that the wife’s role is to “voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice.” This is a view which Huckabee appears to share.

Was this comment on  libido just a one-time mistake? No, he has used the same line before on his show.

Taylor Marsh tried to explain things to Huckabee:

Democrats are aiding women economically with free reproductive health care that includes preventative screening and birth control, not because they think we’re sluts, but because they know it’s a basic healthcare cost that drains the pockets of young women, and they’re trying to level the economic playing field a bit for us. Republicans are the ones who are fighting basic reproductive health care coverage, which hurts women.

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Pew Survey Finds Nine Point Drop In Republicans Who Believe in Evolution Compared To 2009

Pew Research Center has released a study on public attitudes on evolution versus creationism.   In contrast to a Harris poll released last week, Pew does not find an increase in the number who believe in evolution but shows a significantly higher percentage of people who do:

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

The Harris poll, which was an online poll compared to Pew survey based upon telephone interviews, found that “Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.”

As expected, both polls showed the same partisan breakdown:

There are sizable differences among partisan groups in beliefs about evolution. Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).

The size of the gap between partisan groups has grown since 2009. Republicans are less inclined today than they were in 2009 to say that humans have evolved over time (43% today vs. 54% in 2009), while opinion among both Democrats and independents has remained about the same.

This is consistent with the increased polarization between the two parties. Belief in creationism corresponds with Republican attitudes of hostility towards science along with the tendency of Republicans to accept an entire world view which is divorced from reality. Often belief in creationism can be seen as a marker that someone has been taken in by the right-wing narrative and accepts the many other falsehoods they spread.

There are other demographic differences, such as the young and more educated being more likely to believe in evolution. Taking additional factors into account did not explain the partisan differences. If is far more likely that this is a sign of the basic differences between the two parties, even if I remain disappointed that a sizable number of Democrats also believe in creationism. This is partially due to the Democrats being more of a big tent party which might be good from the perspective of long-term political potential, but which also shows that there are limitations to the Democratic Party’s ability to be a force for liberal change. While I would like to see Democratic candidates more forcefully defend separation of church and state and be able to use disbelief in evolution as an argument against Republicans, the overall degree of both social conservatism and scientific ignorance in this country makes this unlikely to happen in the near future. As the next generation ages and gets out to vote, this could change.

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Belief In God Down And Belief In Evolution Up In Harris Poll

A Harris poll shows declining belief in God and associated religious views:

Three-quarters of U.S. adults say they believe in God, down from 82 percent in 2005, 2007 and 2009, a Harris Poll indicates.

The Harris Poll found 57 percent of U.S. adult say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, down from 60 percent in 2005, and 72 percent say they believe in miracles, down from 79 percent in 2005, while 68 percent say they believe in heaven, down from 75 percent. Sixty-eight percent say they believe Jesus is God or the son of God, down from 72 percent; and 65 percent say they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70 percent.

Sixty-four percent say they believe in the survival of the soul after death, down from 69 percent in 2005; 58 percent say they believe in the devil, down from 62 percent; 58 percent say they believe in hell, down from 62 percent…

Just under 2-in-10 U.S. adults described themselves as very religious, with an additional 4-in-10 describing themselves as somewhat religious down from 49 percent in 2007. Twenty-three percent of Americans identified themselves as not at all religious, nearly double the 12 percent reported in 2007.

Not surprisingly, a decrease in belief in various religious views correlates with decreased belief in creationism and increased likelihood of believing in evolution: “Forty-seven percent say they believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, compared to 42 percent in 2005.”

While it is somewhat disturbing that in the 21st century a sizeable number of people reject science and believe in creationism, the number is comparable to those who believe in other crackpot ideas including astrology:

The survey found 42 percent of adults say they believe in ghosts, 36 percent say they believe in creationism, 36 percent say they believe in UFOs, 29 percent say they believe in astrology, 26 percent say they believe in witches and 24 percent say they believe in reincarnation, or that they were once another person.

No report on the number who believe that the earth is flat or that the affordable care act includes death panels.

Breakdown by political party is also as might be expected. The survey found that 49% of Republicans believe in creationism compared to 30% of Democrats and 34% of Independents, unfortunately leaving a substantial number of non-Republicans still denying science. Republicans are slightly more likely to believe in witches than Democrats (27% to 26%) with fewer independents believing at 27%. Numbers believing in UFOs was pretty close in each group. Slightly more Democrats (31%) believe in astrology compared to 29% of Republicans and 27% of independents.

While the general trend in compared with previous polls is likely valid, consistent with what appears to be the case regardless of the polls, the exact numbers might not be exact considering that this was a fairly small online poll with margin of error not listed.

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