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The new Church & State newsletter from Americans United for Separation contains a squib about an effort in Pennsylvania schools to put creationism or its latest incarnation, I.D., on curricula alongside science courses, including biology.  A Pittsburg paper did some poling and found that although about 90% claim to believe in evolution, the other 10% include, unfortunately, science teachers.

Or at least one.  A guy named Joe Shomer, who teaches chemistry, claims that the planet was created about 10,000 years ago and that scientific methods (presumably including so-called critical thinking) used to date the earth are flawed and untrustworthy.  One begins to wonder if Shomer went into teaching because his "understanding" of scientific methodology kept him from making it in the real world.  Adherence to dogma tends to be rigid and irrational. 

Unfortunately, this guy is broadcasting his religiosity in the classroom, claiming that inquiring minds among the students want to know, "What do you think," which presumes that Shomer introduced creationist talk into the lesson plan.  He tells them: "The Bible is the source of truth."  Rather than go into my usual tirade here about slavery, father-daughter incest, slaughter of any other tribe that does not believe as you do, talking snakes, women created from ribs, and so forth, I should only observe that when Shomer disses carbon dating, we might respond that it is at least as truthworthy as all the accounts of miracles, a burning bush giving a mythological rabbi ten silly rules always more honored in the breach than by the observance, "God" himself proving top hypocrite, like a cop who speeds past your car because he just got off duty and wants to go home to a beer.

Rob Boston, a fine writer for the A.U. magazine concludes, correctly, that students with science teachers like Mr. Shomer, will rue familiarity with the man and his cockamamie ideas if and when they get to college "and struggle in freshman biology classes."  Can't you just imagine one of the dumber ones contradicting his professor by claiming that our planet is only 10,000 years old and that evolution cannot possibly be a fact, because, I mean, "Why do we still have monkeys?"

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The claim that there are flaws in radiometric dating methods is an old one among creationists and they never give it up no matter what evidence is given them.

The best way to deal with it is to refer them to a paper titled Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective by physicist Dr. Roger Wiens. It has been available on the internet for nineteen years and was revised last in 2002. It explains that radiometric dating is not a single method, but a collection of forty or so different methods which have been correlated with each other and with geological evidence. It is well worth keeping on hand to give to creationists. You can find it here:

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens2002.pdf

Thanks for the link, Allan.  Very damned useful!

Thank you for the Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective by physicist Dr. Roger Wiens.

Although I do not share his conclusion about the existence of a god, his explanation of radiometric dating holds up to what I understand to be true. While he and Francis Collins share the same conclusion, it puzzles me that they remain as silent as the lambs who don't know better. Their silence, in the face of ignorance, just does not ring true with my value system. 

When people like Joe Shomer want to spew their BS in front of kids, my attitude is simple: if that is their wish, they need to justify their positions.  That means it's Peer Review time.  They need to get up in front of a review committee with people who KNOW this area of study and, essentially, disprove a WHOLE LOT of established science.  If Joe or someone like him can stand up to that brand of scrutiny, then let him do as he pleases.

Somehow, I suspect such a proposal won't have a whole lot of takers.

Of course the Shomer's of the world need to present credible evidence for their claims and to not do that means automatic loss of teaching licenses. They are free to think, talk and act according to their own lights, but not to contaminate an education system that values and teaches evidence based science.  

Excellent question, Mindy, that deserves an answer.

What makes you think the Bible isn't "real science"?  It teaches you to not eat pork so you don't get trichinosis.  It teaches you to keep slaves so you don't work yourself into an early grave.  It teaches you to avoid shellfish because you can choke on the shells if you don't peel your shrimp.  There is a lot of science in the Good Book!

"Unholy" does not equal trichinosis. When you say, "There is a lot of science in the Good Book!" I assume you're being cynical.

Brandi, when you have a car that needs repair, do you turn to someone who believes they know mechanical skills, yet reveal they do not? If you have a heart operation, do you trust one who relies on prayers and god in order to do a skilled technique? If you have cancer, do you go to a homeopathist for care?

Why would you go to a JW, Christian Scientist, Seventh-day Adventist, a Latter-day Saint, a Roman Catholic or a Pentecostal if you had any of these sicknesses, or depression, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes or any other physical or mental or emotional distress? What do they have to offer that good, solid, well researched, tested and retested, per-reviewed medical people can't offer?

Brandi, I realize my question to you read as accusatory, instead of what I meant was why would you go to all those disciplines for answer?. Your response, excellently stated, clear, precise, and honest, is a pleasure to read. I understand the sciences are not everyone's cup of tea; music and art were not my favorite subjects and of course sports was a complete waste of time, as far as I was concerned. Why would anyone want to use all that energy and time to end up with nothing more than a score? I always wanted a product that worked. I reveal my prejudices! I can hear all the groans coming!

Thanks for sharing, Brandi. 

There seems to be no shame for deliberate ignorance, and why people who know better don't stand up in confrontations to these sign bearers is a mystery to me. Of course uneducated people think they know it all. It is so much easier to remember ancient myths than to work out complex math or science problems. These are the people who fail to understand the role of science in health, construction, bridge building, or any of the other things that a modern society needs. Combine this mentality with notions of abstinence only guarantees problems ahead. Add to all this, denial of climate change caused by human activity, I see little reason to hope. 
I am not a cynic; I think smart, trained, intelligent people can work together to turn all this around. The question is, will we? 

Joan, as a professional troubleshooter, I have asserted this many times.  If I went to a customer, worked on their system or device, then told them when I was done that I BELIEVED that it was working correctly, they'd show me the door faster than you could blink.  The way things truly work, I can say I found this or that failure, replaced this component or that circuit board, and ran diagnostics to confirm that the malfunction has been resolved.  In many cases, though, I'd recommend that the customer run their machine in production as an ultimate confirmation, and if the situation was critical enough, I'll offer to babysit the machine for a day or so to insure that no further problems arise.  The customer expects and deserves no less, and as a man dedicated to my craft, I have no interest in delivering anything less.

The fact is: evidence talks; bullshit walks.  The con artists and snake-oil salesmen can wave their hands until St. Swithin's Day 2027 if they want, but until they can back up their blather with substance, they've got NOTHING ... which is all they've ever had and all they ever WILL have.  I've thrown this quote out several dozen times, I suspect, but it remains on point:

If you've got the truth, you can demonstrate it. Talking doesn't prove it. Show people.
-- Robert A. Heinlein

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