The Second Law of Thermodynamics

To the right is one picture out of a series that was taken after the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate the other night. Creationist question Creationists were asked to write questions that they would like to ask of Nye. (I’d link the whole series, but it came from BuzzFeed. I already feel dirty enough having clicked the link myself.)

To answer the man’s question, the second law of thermodynamics does not disprove evolution. The second law states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases. That is, things because less orderly and more chaotic over time without an input of energy from an outside source. Since the Universe is an isolated system as near as we can tell, all the organization we see will eventually dissipate – no more stars or planets or black holes or anything else that uses energy. Eventually even all atoms will cease to move.

Creationists believe this fact of the Universe applies to evolution because they view evolution as greater and greater organization over time, and that requires an input of energy. They’re right so far. Where they fail is in their belief that greater and greater organization is not possible over time. As best as any rational person can tell, creationists appear to believe Earth is a closed system and that with enough time it should all fall away. Except it isn’t closed. That big yellow ball in the sky has a tendency to provide us with more energy than we know what to do with. (Not that we’ve been the best at harnessing it.)

Of course, we don’t need to even go as far as the Sun – at least so long as we aren’t talking about plants or photosynthesizing bacteria. We take in energy all the time. It ultimately comes from the Sun and, to an extent, Earth’s core and magnetic field, but on a day-to-day level, we don’t exist in a closed system at all. A dinosaur that killed another dinosaur had a source of energy to take in: the dead dino. An early hunter-gatherer would find energy by hunting and gathering. And right now I’m about to go find some energy in a hot chai tea.

What Christians keep telling me

I keep hearing over and over that I think all Christians and anyone else who disagrees with me is plainly stupid. Here are the stats:

In fact, this post from a recently-removed-from-my-blogroll-blog largely had me in mind, as I was told shortly after it was written. But this goes beyond me. Richard Dawkins and other Gnu Atheists get the same crap – so much so that Dawkins even penned a piece about the issue six years ago:

“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” I first wrote that in a book review in the New York Times in 1989, and it has been much quoted against me ever since, as evidence of my arrogance and intolerance. Of course it sounds arrogant, but undisguised clarity is easily mistaken for arrogance. Examine the statement carefully and it turns out to be moderate, almost self-evidently true.

This is largely my position (including beyond the subject of evolution). I think Christian arguments are almost universally awful and I find most creationists to be ignorant, but that does not mean I think every person who holds a contradictory view to me is stupid. Sure, I’ve called people stupid. Sarah Palin comes to mind. Leading creationists who should know better, such as Ken Ham, are obviously lacking in intellect. I have no doubt Andreas Moritz is a dolt. But notice: I keep it specific. I’m not saying all Republicans are stupid because Sarah Palin is stupid. I’m not saying the creationist who hasn’t sat in a biology course since high school is a moron. I am not saying all alt-med quacks are idiots. If I wanted to say any of that, I would say it. I try to be exact in my language; it is unlikely I would ever make such an oversight in my writing.

I have no delusions about how I write. I’m aggressive and unapologetic. I have little patience for bad ideas that have little to no evidence for them. I often pepper my paragraphs with disparaging remarks about the quality of whatever argument it is I am facing. It has long been my view that undeserved respect is…well, undeserved. It would be dishonest of me to pretend I hold something in esteem when the fact is I think it’s just a steaming pile. However, none of this means I think others are morons by virtue of disagreeing with me. Such a conclusion is, I hate to say, just stupid.

Ken Ham is a real piece of shit

Ken Ham, that dishonest creationist D-bag with a ‘museum’, recently held a “Date Night” where he spouted off about “love” and his own, personal ideas concerning marriage. People were allowed to buy tickets for the Christian price of about $72. And, as you do with events about “love”, Ham had security goons posted all over the place. That led to some problems.

Three of us (myself, my girlfriend and our friend Brandon) passed the security checkpoint despite minor scrutiny. We arrived right at 6:00 p.m.; Ken Ham was just beginning his talk of love in the museum’s special effects room, and we were eager to hear it. Brandon’s “date,” Joe of Barefoot & Progressive, was late, and so the solo Brandon was the focus of much interest for the two guards, who carried the air of actual police.

“What kind of car will she be driving?” asked one of the guards. They wanted to know so they could keep strict tabs on who came into the museum.

“Oh,” I said. “His partner’s name is Joe. I think he drives one of those hybrids…”

You can guess how things went from there. The gay couple was denied entry for not being very Christian and Ham continued on about “love”. It’s weird, isn’t it? There is no way to resolve what makes one person more or less Christian than the next when both stake a claim to that awful title, yet people still seem to think otherwise. It’s a wonderful exercise is pure subjectivity.

Of course, none of this may have happened if the state was different. Kentucky has no law granting equality to its gay citizens. Maine and about 20-25 others states do (depending on the exact extent of equality being discussed). So as it stands, Ham’s immorality is perfectly legal right now, even if ultimately unconstitutional. That’s terrible, but at least it will be easier for future generations to see his sort of bigotry for how absurd it really is; I predict in 35-40 years that the actions of Ham and his goons will be widely viewed much as we would view them if they did this to a black couple today.

I told you he read FTSOS

Jack Hudson is a bit like Ken Ham. Both are Christians. Both are creationists. Both routinely fail to defend positions. Oh. And both refuse to link to those who criticize them.

Anyone who regularly reads Pharyngula knows that Ken Ham and his Creation ‘Museum’ people will not link back to PZ’s articles. It’s a cowardly passive-aggressive sort of thing. They have made a habit of referring to PZ as an “atheist professor”, a “professor from Minnesota”, or some other similar name, but they won’t mention him directly. Now it looks like Jack Hudson has taken out a page from that play book for use on me.

After getting up in a huff over something someone else said to him, he left FTSOS, vowing never to return. Okay. But it has been clear that he still lurks around here. His articles have often been based upon links posted here, and his remarks have often been thinly veiled responses to comments made here (and a couple times even to comments made on Facebook…sort of like how he referenced his Facebook discussions when he texted my cousin).

You know, I can’t deny that I’ve had conversations with friends that have resulted in posts here. It happens from time to time. Of course, if I’ve made specific responses to a person, even if written in a generalized voice, I’ve always sent on a link to the person. It’s just common courtesy. And really, why would I want to hide from what I’ve said? I said it in the first place because I want people to listen.

Jack has had at least three responses to FTSOS. The first was an update to a post of his that was pro-bigotry while vaguely featuring some infantile libertarianism.

An Addendum:

It’s a bit of a myth that this wouldn’t have happened to a heterosexual married couple; in fact, this does happen to elderly married couples.

This was in response to my post about an elderly gay couple that was separated by the state. The two men had about as much legal documentation as they possibly could so as to avoid the hardships of current end-of-life care in the United States which disregards their humanity. But it didn’t matter. They were separated and had their belongings stolen and sold by Sonoma County in California.

Jack thinks that’s the same as another older, heterosexual, married couple who was forced into a nursing home. While that is superficially similar (the gay couple was also forced into a nursing home), the fact is that this all hinges on marriage. Someone blinded by pure bigotry dressed up in lies isn’t likely to see this: the gay couple was separated and not allowed to see each other, despite the lack of any sort of conviction for alleged abuse (which was alleged by known liars), much less the presence of any charges. A married couple would have been given better than that. And, in fact, the married couple in the second story, while in a deplorable situation that was and is an abuse of power by the state, were not separated, the only reason being because they were married. Honestly. One friend (who will be getting this link, incidentally) recently told me that this whole thing is about “the legitimization” of gay relationships, suggesting that there are ways gay couples can get rights “without calling it marriage”. That’s crap and this is just another piece of evidence that separate but equal can never be equal. Oh, and gay relationships already are legitimate, gays already act as the heads of households and families, and no denial of equal rights is going to change that fact.

But that isn’t the only passive-aggressive attack.

To that end I need to make clear a few simple rules I have here – one’s that I have always had, but didn’t feel the need to make public before, but now feel compelled to.

First off I filter foul language – if you can’t say anything without dropping the f-bomb or referring to a body part in the crudest of terms, then it won’t get posted here. It is a pretty simple rule for most to follow, but some can’t seem to help themselves.

This is in response to posts of mine which occasionally have featured th-th-th, gasp!, the F-bomb!

There are three reasons I don’t stop anyone from saying “fuck” all they want on my website. One, I’m not a child. I can deal with it. Two, censorship is mostly crap. Three, it is an immature view of language to think it a good thing to curb any of its use. Words should be elastic, allowed to move and flow with the times, context, and even emotion. Sometimes a good go fuck yourself is the best available terminology; the magic is in its simplicity. I often intentionally use very simple, straight-forward titles for my posts to get my point across. Was anyone confused about what I was saying when I titled a post Andreas Moritz is a stupid, dangerous man? Was anyone befuddled as to where I was going when I said Deepak Chopra is not an intelligent man? I like to think I was pretty clear. And that was the whole point behind those titles. Sometimes simple words are needed when what’s behind the meaning is simple. There is no need to be an obtuse, pompous douche when there is so much more clarity in being short. But then there are times when a pretentious title is needed. For instance, when I wrote about the tenability of unsourced claims as they pertain to objective morality, I wasn’t trying to convey that an easy read was ahead. Philosophical styles differ markedly from most other ways of writing – and not in a way that makes them a breeze to peruse. For anyone who actually gives a rat’s ass about writing, it is abundantly clear that it is a mistake to unnecessarily corner language and only allow what feels good. Language is expression; express it.

Secondly, I don’t post personal attacks or responses to them.

Really?

You know Michael, I almost never feel compelled to deal with anyone physically, but you are very lucky your puny little bank teller body is in Maine, because i would kick your butt from one side of the room to the other if you said that to my face. Of course you wouldn’t because you are a coward.

And along with that readers should know I never call or email strangers or people who I interact with online.

Again, Jack is directly responding to material from FTSOS, but he’s pulling the ol’ Ken Ham. He doesn’t want to link others here and get any exchange moving between users, I suppose. Fortunately, while Jack has a handful of creationist milling about his page, I have a bit of a larger audience. I encourage everyone reading this to venture over to Jack’s site and start leaving comments. Don’t spam the guy’s stuff, but make him actually response to something intelligent. I recommend starting with this incoherent post about atheism, but feel free to tear apart whatever seems appealing. Unlike Jack, I don’t want to pretend I’m your boss.

And finally:

Recently I saw an atheist claim that ‘spiritual beliefs do not equal religious beliefs’. This may be true, but for an atheist to say so is a bit like a vegetarian lecturing on the best way to prepare a steak.

Surprise, I’m that atheist.

This analogy is just so awful. First, an atheist has no religion. That does not mean an atheist has no knowledge of religion or is unable, like Jack, to tell the difference between a real world phenomenon and a nebulous term that always needs to be defined before being used. Second, aren’t theists always claiming that atheism is a religion? In Jack’s bad analogy, atheism is very unlike religion. Isn’t it amazing just how often these people undermine their own silly claims?

So a quick wrap-up (because this post is way longer than I ever intended): Jack is a creationist like Ken Ham who refuses to link back to those who criticize him; he does not understand how to parallel socially important issues because (also like Ken Ham) he is a bigot; and finally, he apparently does not pay close enough attention to FTSOS. Say something stupid loudly enough, like Christopher Maloney or Andreas Moritz, or cross me in a magnificently stupid way like Rawn and Judy Torrington or Lt. J Christopher Read, and I have no issue posting and posting and tearing apart what I see as a wrong on my website (and for all five of those people, publishing and distributing stories all around my hometown, including Maloney’s own neighborhood). I mean, honestly. Have I not been clear? Has there been confusion as to what I am willing to do to get my point across? Do people not realize that to do something for the sake of science does not simply mean to act in a way that shows passion for science because science is good, but it also means to stand up to bad actions, bad behavior, lowly thoughts, and dishonest methods?

The prof

A blogger once noticed that people who don’t like PZ Myers refer to him as “Paul Zachary Myers”. Now there’s a new level of contempt. Mark Looy of Ken Ham’s staff will only call him “the prof”

…He was standing with the prof and 10-12 SSA members, and I stopped to hear what was being said—especially since the prof was being filmed at the time and that was creating some congestion.

I actually counted twelve instances of Looy using “the prof” to reference PZ. He slips up and writes “the professor” once. Perhaps his heart soften for just a moment. But at no point in Looy’s post (or Ken Ham’s surrounding post) does “PZ Myers” appear. They even refuse the often creationist-preferred “Paul Zachary Myers”. Looy, Ham, and ilk seem to have decided that the best way to express their deep, vitriolic hatred of PZ is to be as humanely impersonal as absolutely possible. Whatever. They still know shit about science.

The Prof

If some blogger can morph this with an image of PZ, that would probably garner a few hits.

Editorial does creationists no favors

Peter Bronson of the Cincinnati Enquirer is wondering why secularists are so afraid of the Creation Museum.

The live Nativity at the Creation Museum will have an actual, living, cud-chewing camel. Frightening.

There will also be goats and sheep. Terrifying.

Cuddly lambs might seem harmless to the average visitor, but some people are scared witless by the possibility that some innocent, devout secularist could accidentally wander onto the grounds of the Creation Museum and get exposed to radioactive Christianity or other dangerous ideas that should be outlawed.

Let’s just cut straight to the chase. Bronson is making up shit. The reasoning for the reaction to the Zoo/Museum combo ticket has nothing to do with fear or any other bull like that. Evolution is a settled question among scientists. There is zero doubt that it happened. It is just as sound a theory as gravity – insofar as it taking place. Precisely how it has taken place is still a huge field of study and interest and wonder and beauty. Much has been decided – random variation is acted upon non-randomly by natural selection. A fuller, more robust history of life is still waiting to be discovered – not by belief in ancient texts and magic, but through the power of the scientific method.

The Creation Museum web site gets about 1 million hits a month that could have been linked to the zoo. But the zoo got angry calls and e-mails that protested the promotion.

Here’s a sample of the flavor, from the Enquirer Web site:

“Asking me to ‘tolerate’ this kind of worldview is akin to asking me to ‘tolerate’ illiteracy. Both are problems of education and intelligence. Creationist thought is … naïve, it is anti-intellectual, and it harkens back to pre-enlightenment thinking. I don’t have any tolerance for that.”

Got that? Creationists are stupid, illiterate, naïve and backward.

It was an analogy, Bronson. That person did not say creationists were stupid or illiterate. Given that he was presumably writing a letter to voice his opinion to both rational people and creationists, it’s safe to assume he’s well aware creationists have the ability to read; they are, afterall, a bit attached to one of the greatest literary publications in history. What the e-mailer was saying was that creationist thought is unworthy of tolerance because it is shallow and dismisses evidence when that evidence doesn’t match a presupposed conclusion. It opposes the scientific method. For that reason, it is a bad thing. You are naive and backward, however. Good job.

“They’re the ones who are being intolerant,” [Museum owner and notorious creationist, Ken] Ham said. “We’re not afraid of creationists going to the Zoo and seeing their messages about evolution. People have to stand on their own beliefs. It’s not up to us to say you can’t go to this place or that place.

“But they’re sure worried about people hearing about creationism,” Ham said. “More and more, the secularists and atheists don’t want people to even hear the other side.”

First of all, no one is stopping anyone from going anywhere. Insofar as creationist thought should actually be tolerated it is in the sense that no law should be made which prevents people from their free thought – of course, that is concern for a principle, not creationism specifically. Second, a large portion of Americans believe “the other side”, Kenny. That makes this whole martyr complex all the more perplexing.

It makes me wonder: If the science is so unshakeable, what are they afraid of? Why wouldn’t they welcome a debate? Why not encourage open-minded exploration? Isn’t that what scientific inquiry is all about?

I’m going to let PZ Myers take this one.

Again, abandon that premise. We are not afraid. The real issue is that this is a settled scientific question, long resolved and with growing evidential support, and there is little point in continuing the discussion.

Anyone who has had kids knows this situation: when they discover the word “why”, they learn that it is a tool for starting an unending conversation. Give ’em an answer, and they just say “why” again; explain that, and it’s “why” again; the game keeps going until the adult gives up in exasperation. We all know that the kid is not trying to think or get a complete answer — he just wants attention. We can answer for a while with patience, but at some point we have to stop and insist that the child exhibit a little more honest curiousity to trigger more answers.

Creationists passed the point of honest inquiry long ago. I would suggest to Mr Bronson that he go through his little essay and try replacing every instance of the word “afraid” with “exasperated” and he might see his way through to a little more truth.