Beta Culture: Honoring the Fallen … of Science

joy adamsonI’m not a big fan of that pro-military, jingoistic “Support the troops” and “Freedom isn’t free” crap, mainly because it compresses a very complex situation down to a simplistic slogan, with an added “with us or against us” flavor. When I visit Washington DC, I’m always impressed with how MANY memorials there are glorifying war, how few there are — zero — glorifying peace.

Also, in counterpoint to the two national holidays we have honoring soldiers, I’ve suggested a national holiday, SALT Day, to honor Scientists, Artists, Librarians and Teachers. You know, those OTHER people who make American freedom possible, and livable.

So I was happy to find this:

The Wall of the Dead: A Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

The site honors those who have died in the pursuit of KNOWLEDGE, and I can’t imagine anyone who more deserves hero status. It delights me in this way, too: It ignores the lines of nations, presenting honorees as citizens of this other country, Planet Earth.

I don’t know most of the names on this list, so it was nice to be able to read over it and gain exposure to them. (It’s weird how many died of poison darts, spears and such.)

Some of the ones I did recognize:

Adamson, Joy (1910–1980), a naturalist, artist, and author best known for the book and movie Born Free, found murdered, age 69, in her camp on Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, by a former employee.

Adamson, George (1906 –1989), British wildlife conservationist and author best known through the book and movie Born Free, shot dead, age 83, in Kenya’s Kora National Park by Somali bandits.

Cousteau, Philippe (1940–1979), French oceanographer, diver, and filmmaker, second son of Jacques-Yves and Simone Cousteau, author of  Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea, died, age 38, when his PBY Catalina flying boat crashed in the Tagus River near Lisbon.

Felzien,Gregory (1965-1992), predator biologist, killed, age 26, by an avalanche in Yellowstone National Park while tracking mountain lions.  He was experienced at back country work but is said to have remarked, “If I ever have to die, I want it to be here in Yellowstone tracking cats.”

Fossey, Dian (1932-1985), leading primatologist and conservationist studying mountain gorillas, found murdered in her cabin, age 53, in the Virunga Mountains, Rwanda (case unsolved).

Gambel, William (1823–1849), American naturalist, namesake of Gambel’s quail, age 26, of typhoid fever in the Sierra Nevada.

Leopold, Aldo (1887-1948), father of wildlife ecology who helped found The Wildlife Society and the Wilderness Society, died of a heart attack, age 61, while battling a wildfire on his neighbor’s property.

And one I knew personally:

Gaines, David (1947-1988) , birder in the Sierra Nevada,  author of  The Birds of the Yosemite and the East Slope, and the main impetus behind saving Mono Lake from SoCal’s unquenchable thirst. He died, age 41, in a car accident near Mono Lake. Here’s a good biography (but disregard the dates).

I’d like to see this same effort for all of science, every field, all the researchers, boundary-challengers and explorers of reality who died in the course of their work.


The Root of Transcendence

Dan MountainsAs an atheist, you hear it all the time – the in-your-face assertion that Humans are “wired for God.” We believe in gods, we’re told, because it’s natural to us. Because we have something in us that NEEDS a god or gods. Maybe because it carries some evolutionary advantage, so we evolved to have it.

The conclusion, in the mind of any faith-professing Christian, is that we’re this way because there really is a god, or at least some sort of “something bigger out there somewhere” that makes it so. We believe because we need to, because we have to, because to do anything else makes us less viable organisms. Lacking a god-need is an evolutionary dead end.

In how many conversations have I had someone tell me “Well, I don’t necessarily believe in God, but I think there’s something out there. Something beyond anything we know.”? I’ve heard that a LOT. Even people I would otherwise consider full atheists have said such things to me.

I’ve felt that pull myself. I’ve thought many times, “We live our lives on a human stage. Everything we do is for other people. But is that enough? Isn’t there anything … more?”

I actually think there is. But it’s not God or gods or mystical superbeings of any sort. It’s this whole other thing, something real. But it’s something so much a part of us we fail to notice it.

I’ll tell you what I think it might be.

First, here’s me: Atheist. Beyond atheist, in fact. I independently came up with the term “antitheist” to describe myself 20 years or more ago, long before it was in vogue. Rather than the current fashionable pronunciation, “an-tee-THEE-ist,” I pronounced it “an-TITH-ee-ist.” I described it humorously as “Not only do I not believe in gods, but I don’t think you should either.”

But I’m also a realist. You have to face the real world and take what it gives you, even if you don’t like it, even if it flies in the face of things you think you know. So whenever I’m presented with a woo-woo idea, something I know isn’t right as presented, but which nevertheless seems to have some sort of substance to it, rather than dismiss it with “No, despite what it looks like, there’s nothing there,” I have to 1) accept whatever realness it presents, and then 2) see if I can figure out a real-world explanation for it that makes sense.

So do we have a need for gods? Are we wired for that? If not, what is it we DO have? Let’s explore a couple of conceptual trails and see where they lead.

Most of us, when we talk about going hiking in the woods, or camping in the wilderness, talk about it in terms of “going out there.” We live in cities, and we “go out” when we head away from the city into the wilds.

But it’s the other way around, isn’t it? Because cities are NOT our natural environment. Our natural environment is … the natural environment. It’s where we grew up, where we evolved to be. We’re not going OUT when we go to the wilds, we’re going BACK. The only time we go OUT is when we trek from the wilds into a city.

Our home, our real home, is in the woods, on the mountains, in the midst of trees and creeks and blowing wind. It is out in the sun and rain, in the dirt and dust, the pollen and bugs and mud. It’s out where we can stomp around in our bare feet, filling our toes with mud, seeing wild animals and birds and distant valleys, blue sky and fluffy clouds, nights filled with full moons and stars. Where we can taste berries and ripe fruit, where we can smell waterfalls and flowers and our own sweat, but also skunks and even blood and death.

I know you’re thinking all this is some kind of artsy-fartsy poetic allusion, but I’m dead serious. CITIES ARE NOT OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT. Cities are alien. Artificial.

They’re not even all that good for us. Yeah, we’re comfortable in our engineered and sanitized ’burbs, but we’ll also eat until we weigh 300 pounds, and then whine that we feel sick all the time. We’ll tolerate noise and pollution and chemically-adulterated foods until it weakens and kills us.

Think about all the animals we’ve invited out of the wilds, bringing them into towns and cities to live with us. Compared to their wild cousins, domestic animals are almost invariably weaker and dumber. More fragile.

Wild animals are generally tougher, stronger, faster and fiercer than our pets and livestock. We’re used to how soft and cuddly kittens and puppies are, but pick up a baby raccoon – which I did, years back – and you’ll be shocked at how hard it is. The little bastards are tough as boiled leather.

Just as our pets are, we humans here in cities are soft. Less robust. And probably a lot dumber than whatever wild cousins we once had.

But there’s a deeper point than that our real home is in the wilds. It’s this: That we’re a part of the world around us – profoundly inseparable from it. We’re no more alive without the world around us than a toe is alive when removed from its foot.

Allow me to argue the point:

Say we wanted to define “human.” We’d probably have a fairly involved description, possibly accompanied by a picture of some individual person, maybe some other animals for comparison. But what we wouldn’t have is a full understanding of what being a human means. Because we never really even think about it.

You’re sitting there right now believing yourself to be a complete individual, a discrete quantity of personness, probably picturing your exterior, your skin, as the boundary between “you” and “everything else.”

But your skin is NOT the boundary. In fact, when you really think about it … well, think about this:

Take a human. Hang a large sign around his neck, “Human.” Have him stand on a stage with no other person around, and take a picture of him. QED, this is a human, right? This is all a human is, all there needs to be. No, because you still haven’t separated him out from a great deal of other stuff.

But take that same human and drop him through a portal that deposited him someplace where he could REALLY be alone – say 50,000 lights years away, out in the space between galaxies. What do you have? A dead person.

We never think about it, but the definition of “human” has this hidden implication – that the human is alive, and that quite a lot goes into that aliveness. We never think about the food and water, the gravity and atmosphere, a solid place to stand, other people around to make life work, other animals and plants, a lot of them, somewhere nearby to eat.

The atmosphere we breathe doesn’t just go in and out of our lungs, it seeps into and out of our skin, penetrating us on a cellular level, maintaining a pressure without which we’d die in seconds. The food and water we consume, and later excrete, forms a flowing river of input and outgo, without which we’d also die in short order. And the thing is, the food and water comes from somewhere, the air comes from somewhere.

So we are linked, bound into, an entire system of processes that extends backward in time and outward in complexity in a way that no end can really be found. The oceans? Part of us. The mountains? Part of us. The rainforest, the arctic, the deserts? Part of us. The clouds, the rain, the snow, the bees, the plants, the rocks, the crustal plates, all part of us.

The sun? Oh, yeah, part of us. BIG part of us.

And WE are part of IT. We don’t just live on Earth, we’re nailed into it, soaking in it, connected to it in a way that allows no separation. Even the International Space Station astronauts can live for only a brief time before they start suffering serious health effects – and they get continuous supplies from Earth.

There is only one way to define “human” without also including all this other stuff – the way that specifies “dead human body.” To have a live human, you have to include everything else … at least as far out as the sun.

We say “we” and we say “I” but those are rhetorical conveniences that have no true reality. The view of ourselves as separate and individual is purely subjective – a view which is fantastically, stunningly, titanically oversimplified from the real situation.

The truth is, our mysterious and powerful “something out there” is the natural world. Yet here we are off in cities, acting in our vast ignorance as if we’re discrete individuals, separate from our larger inclusionary selves.

On some level, I think we know this. We yearn for that larger part of us. We reach for it. We desire to be a part of it, to touch and be touched by it.

But divided from the natural world in cities, ignorant of it, we think the missing “something out there, something larger” is a god, or gods, or some other mystical formulation.

It’s a drastically wrong, tragically misleading answer. But sadly, it’s all most of us can understand or accept.

Yew Cain’t Trust Yore Lyin’ Eyes

Watch this video:

I’ve been seeing optical illusions like this for something like 60 years, and the never-fail tagline is always “You can’t trust your eyes!” The thing is always presented as a profound scientific lesson in human perception.

But it’s SLANTED science, science with a somewhat false editorial built into it, the whole aimed at achieving a little funhouse-type prank on the viewer. When I figured this out 30 or so years back, when I understood the REAL lesson, I stopped being impressed by optical illusions.

The real lesson is: Yes, your eyes can be fooled … on rare occasions. Note how much work has to go into these contrived examples. Someone has to work very hard, probably going through dozens of trials, before hitting on the final form of the “illusion.”

Note also that the illusion works only from a single, sharply limited viewpoint. Move a few inches to the side and the illusion breaks down completely. Rather than the eyes being fooled, they verify our sense of the real — even in the face of a significant effort to deceive.

Finally, we aren’t really talking about eyes, are we? We’re really talking about eyes hooked to a human brain, which is VERY GOOD at seeing the real world around us — better than just about anything alive. Presented with an optical illusion, natural or contrived, we naturally experiment with changing viewpoints, observation over time, other senses, the observational assistance of other people, and a certain amount of careful thought, until we see through the illusion.

The truth is, it’s actually very hard to fool a human’s eyes for very long. This is something we unconsciously know — so well that when we DO meet up with an optical illusion, we enjoy it immensely, playing and laughing at it, walking around it, studying it, until it loses its luster and becomes just another part of our sensory knowledge.

Contrived examples like this are useful, but the sole conclusion should never be “You can’t trust your senses.” It should be “Look out for these rare occasions when you can be briefly fooled but, other than that, you can trust your senses as THE prime tool for observing and understanding the world. Never let anyone tell you not to trust your own perceptions.”

This is one of an array of quasi-mystical declarations that tell us not to trust ourselves, either implying or outright saying we should instead trust some god, or some “authority” who speaks for that god.

Nobody’s saying human vision doesn’t have its limitations. But the real world is the real world, we evolved to live and prosper in it, and every one of us is qualified to witness and appreciate our surroundings.

Pile-On Against ‘Rationalia’

via Wikimedia Commons

Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) fired out a tweet on Wednesday, June 29:

Earth needs a virtual country: Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence

… and the response was weird.

I know absolutely nothing about Tyson’s motivation, but I suspect he put it out there in mild and humorous frustration at how utterly NON-rational current society and government is. Suggesting ONE way it could be better — with a more-rational, rather than more-religious, or more-politically-factional, approach to social problems.

This is also a TWEET — you know, 140 characters? — so if he meant something beyond that, there was no way to explain it IN THIS ONE TWEET. It’s ludicrous to expect otherwise, don’t you think?

Some people took the suggestion not only seriously, but as if it was a dire threat to all mankind. They lost their collective shit, not just saying it was a bad idea, but likening it to the French Revolution, Hitler, and eugenics. Some even took swipes at Charles Darwin for good measure.

A rational nation ruled by science would be a terrible idea

Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s ‘Rationalia’ Would Be A Terrible Country

Is A Rational Nation Ruled By Science A Terrible Idea?

Neil deGrasse Tyson proposes a terrible new political policy called ‘Rationalia’

The Road to Rationalia

Terrible! Terrible! Terrible! Terrible! It’s like they all got the same memo.

Random excerpts:

“Scientism” is the belief that all we need to solve the world’s problems is – you guessed it – science. People sometimes use the phrase “rational thinking”, but it amounts to the same thing. If only people would drop religion and all their other prejudices, we could use logic to fix everything.


Scientism refuses to see this. The myopia of scientism, its naive utopianism and simplistic faith, bears an uncanny resemblance to the religious dogmatisms that people such as Tyson and Dawkins denounce.


The republic of reason Tyson thinks will logic away the world’s problems has been tried before. It was called the French Revolution, and it caused a lot of people to lose their heads—literally and figuratively.


Tyson, too, has a philosophy, whether he realizes it or not. It’s called “scientism,” the belief that science is the only valid source of knowledge. The rule-by-self-identified-experts he envisions for the happy land of Rationalia is scientism’s logical outcome. But when you insist that facts and evidence speak for themselves, it has a funny way of silencing everyone else. As one intrepid Twitter user replied to Tyson’s initial tweet, “Convenient how the ‘evidence’ always seems to line up with Tyson’s personal beliefs.”


Politicians already misuse science, construe evidence, or outright ignore evidence to get what they want. Do we want scientists doing the same in their studies if they think their findings could influence laws based on their own beliefs?


Professor Tyson, who may be the dumbest smart person on Twitter, yesterday wrote that what the world really needs is a new kind of virtual state — he wants to call it “Rationalia” — with a one-sentence constitution: “All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.” This schoolboy nonsense came under withering and much-deserved derision. Conservatives, who always have the French Revolution in their thoughts, reminded him that this already has been tried, and that the results are known in the history books as “the Terror.”


Man, I’m glad we settled that. Now back to the utterly perfect world we currently live in.

Did God Mess With Biology’s Roots?

Tito & HankI’ve said many times that the true, full effect religion has had on human society is not something any of us is really equipped to notice. It’s so … everywhere … that we have little to contrast with it in order to clearly see the damage.

Even science, which escaped the grasp of religion and went off to change the world in ways religion could never have managed, still — in my view, anyway — suffers aftereffects.  For instance:

Here’s a pretty good article about something humans and beasts have in common — thoughts and feelings.

Carl Safina Makes A Case for Anthropomorphism

The subtitle, in my view, is more correct, though:

The marine biologist’s latest book uses science to show that animals, like people, have complex inner lives.

I would argue that “anthropomorphism” is a mistaken word, a mistaken concept. It springs from an error injected into biology at its founding. The mistake — the belief in a separate creation for humans alongside the more general magicking into existence of the “birds and beasts” — was a religious one. Because Christianity was the paradigm of the day, Western biologists had no way to know it was a mistake, and automatically assumed humans were totally different from all other forms of life. Which would mean that attributing “human-like” characteristics to animals would be viewed as automatically wrong unless you could present masses of evidence for it. Which is what we’ve had to do for the couple of hundred years since.

On the other hand, if that starting slant was that humans evolved from common roots with all other life forms, a more workable initial view would be to assume similarity, and lots of it. Anyone asserting we had nothing in common with other forms of life, THEY would be the ones who’d have to present masses of evidence.

Our similar traits — feelings, a sense of self, grieving, so much more — aren’t “anthropomorphic.” They’re part of a non-anthro common heritage, handed down to humans from earlier sources. Specific traits possessed exclusively by humans would have to have evolved only very recently and are likely minuscule, something like the tiny capstone on a pyramid, compared to the massive block of similarity below. That similarity occurs in areas as diverse as body mechanics and function, biochemistry, neurology, behavior, and yes, thoughts and feelings. It took us hundreds of years to begin to really understand that, when it could have been a founding principle of biology.

On a side note, the question of “language” always comes up in these discussions, and though I can’t clearly point at religion as a root cause, I see it as the same sort of a mistake. The capacity for language might have originated with us, but communication didn’t.  Communication, the conveying of information from one animal to another, that’s something pretty much everything on two legs or four does. (And it’s not always aimed at, or received only by, members of one’s own species.) Bird calls and fox barks MEAN something; when they don’t wish to convey information to the world around them, animals are generally silent. Dogs convey messages all the time to their owners — in body posture, ear position, tail movement, and vocalizations — and it seems to me that most of it is deliberate. The question of intentionality is certainly worth examining in each case, but the basic truth of communication seems undeniable.

The Dark Side of the Sun

I belong to a couple of Facebook groups on Transhumanism and the Singularity, and I avidly read the articles and posts. But I don’t buy into every one of them. Yes, I want fantastic things to happen. Hell, I fully EXPECT fantastic things to happen. But … a lot of the articles are more about possibilities than realities.  For instance, I think we’ve been predicting safe, abundant fusion energy — any time now — for the past 50 years. I’ve kinda begun to wonder “What if it just isn’t possible?”

As to the idea of uploading human consciousness to computers, even I can think of some serious challenges to the idea: Considering that most of us isn’t exactly conscious, I have my doubts you could get a real person, warts and all, shifted over into an electronic domain.

The truth is, in the midst of my hopeful positivism, there’s a healthy helping of the negative. Because there’s some bad stuff coming too. A surprising amount of it is already happening.

If you take a fragmented view of the world, as so many of us do (most of us are so caught up in the noise of our own private lives we don’t even bother to pay attention to larger matters), you see a lot of little individual things going on. But if you look for patterns … oh, boy they’re there. And some of them are scary.

Here’s a couple of things, Little Scary instead of Big Scary, but also part of a pattern that, to me at least, appears related to human numbers. And what if, once you click together all the Little Scaries — like Dark Legos — you find you’ve built a Big Scary?

Little scary: Where Have All the Orange Roughy Gone?

As the following graphic shows, the orange roughy arrived with a bang and is now leaving with a long, drawn-out aquatic whimper.  The first sizeable catches were recorded in 1979.  A decade later the world catch peaked at a massive 91,000 tons.  And then, just as quickly, catches plummeted and now they linger around 13,000 tons a year.

The problem is that the orange roughy is a deep-sea species that cannot sustain the level of exploitation that our technology and policies have made possible.  It simply reproduces too slowly.  Orange roughy typically don’t start breeding until they’re 30 years old and can live up to 150 years. So catching orange roughy is much more like mining than fishing.  In effect, it’s more like a non-renewable resource!

Little scary: How the global banana industry is killing the world’s favorite fruit

During harvest last year, banana farmers in Jordan and Mozambique made a chilling discovery. Their plants were no longer bearing the soft, creamy fruits they’d been growing for decades. When they cut open the roots of their banana plants, they saw something that looked like this: [picture]

Scientists first discovered the fungus that is turning banana plants into this rotting, fibrous mass in Southeast Asia in the 1990s. Since then the pathogen, known as the Tropical Race 4 strain of Panama disease, has slowly but steadily ravaged export crops throughout Asia. The fact that this vicious soil-borne fungus has now made the leap to Mozambique and Jordan is frightening. One reason is that it’s getting closer to Latin America, where at least 70% of the world’s $8.9-billion-a-year worth of exported bananas is grown.

[ … ]

And we don’t need to imagine what that would mean for banana exports—the exact scenario has already happened. Starting in 1903, Race 1, an earlier variant of today’s pathogen, ravaged the export plantations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Within 50 years, Race 1 drove the world’s only export banana species, the Gros Michel, to virtual extinction. That’s why 99% of the bananas eaten in the developed world today are a cultivar called the Cavendish, the only export-suitable banana that could take on Race 1 and live to tell.

One of the strong possibilities of human transcendence has to do with human population. Yes, I’ve heard all the cool assertions about what educated, empowered women do: they have fewer children. And I’ve read that human population is even now leveling off. I sure do hope it’s true.

But what if, as I suspect, we’re already well over the carrying capacity of the Earth? What if we’re at 7 billion and still headed skyward (to 11 billion!), when the sustainable population is more like 5 billion? Three billion? Less?

What if we TRANSCEND our own homeworld’s welcome?


Prairie Dogs are Calling You Fat

I don’t think I ever got to meet this guy when I lived in Flagstaff and edited an arts and entertainment magazine for 3 years, but I wish I had. He’s doing some amazing work.

Dr. Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D., assisted by students at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, has managed to decode some of the content of prairie dog language. As it turns out, they’re pretty expressive.

You might not think it to look at them, but prairie dogs and humans actually share an important commonality — and it’s not just their complex social structures, or their habit of standing up on two feet (aww, like people). As it turns out, prairie dogs actually have one of the most sophisticated forms of vocal communication in the natural world, really not so unlike our own.

After more than 25 years of studying the calls of prairie dog in the field, one researcher managed to decode just what these animals are saying. And the results show that praire dogs aren’t only extremely effective communicators, they also pay close attention to detail.

Working with Gunnison’s prairie dogs, Dr. Slobodchikoff studied their alarm calls, recording and analyzing the calls, but also noting the conditions during which the calls originated. What he discovered is that prairie dogs can not only tell the difference between a coyote and a similar-appearing domestic dog such as a German shepherd, they can express that difference clearly in distinct warning calls.

Turns out they can make similar distinctions between humans wandering into their territory, even going so far as to describe the human’s size, shape and clothing color!

Watch the video (or read more about the critters at Wikipedia).


Neuroscientist: Fundamentalism As Mental Illness

A HuffPo article from yesterday (Friday, May 31) says:

Kathleen Taylor, Neuroscientist, Says Religious Fundamentalism Could Be Treated As A Mental Illness

An Oxford University researcher and author specializing in neuroscience has suggested that one day religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness.

Kathleen Taylor, who describes herself as a “science writer affiliated to the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics,” made the suggestion during a presentation on brain research at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday.

In response to a question about the future of neuroscience, Taylor said that “One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” The Times of London notes.

“Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology — we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance,” Taylor said. “In many ways it could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage.”

Though in this story she’s quoted as saying she’s not speaking of “obvious candidates” such as radical Islam, another story on the subject is titled Science ‘may one day cure Islamic radicals’.

Muslim fundamentalism may one day be seen in the same way as mental illness is today and be “curable”, according to a leading neuroscientist.

Heh, that’s gonna go over really well in the middle East.

But it’s an idea I’d like to see propagated. I’ve long said I think it’s a shame there’s no category of mental illness named “religious illness” (as far as I know, anyway). I mean, look at some of the more obvious examples in the U.S. — the Phelps clan, Pat Robertson, Ken Ham — some of those people are crazy as hell. I couldn’t say whether it’s that mentally ill people frequently model religious memes, or whether religion drives people bonkers. Either way, it should be addressed, don’t you think?

The First Music Video in Space … Rocks.

I know you’ve probably seen this already. But it’s special enough that *I* wanted to put it somewhere permanent. This is so cool it brought tears to my eyes.

Thanks to ISS Commander Chris Hadfield. (Hurrah for Canadian intelligence, talent and bone-deep class!)

Video below:



Well, This Is Disturbing.

Before I started A Citizen of Earth, I blogged as The Blue Collar Atheist.

The name was mostly intended to underline my lack of a college degree, or any great amount of advanced education, to make the point that giving up religion, become an agnostic or atheist, is not something you need a Ph.D. to do. You can be a complete doofus and still reason yourself free of it.

Speaking of which, even *I* can see the gaping holes in some of the stuff from this site (hat tip to commenter Chris for the link): Creation Science 4 Kids.

Clicking through it, I come across bits like this:

Dinosaurs fit into the Creationist worldview far better than they do into the Evolutionary storyline.  These Creatures size, power and careful design don’t show the slow and steady increase in complexity that is the bedrock of Evolutionary thought.  They do make a lot of sense in our view, especially since the Bible mentions them in a number of places!

And this:

We actually have lots of evidence that people were quite familiar with dinosaurs.  We just never called them that until the mid-1800s.  We called them dragons.

Apparently artistic representations of dragons from various cultures are the proof. I mean, you couldn’t have ALL those different cultures painting these things, not unless they existed! Because obviously none of those people EVER talked to each other, or told their best scary stories around shared campfires.

One of the pages is Kids Resources. A sampling of “Family Creation Camps”:

Alpha Omega Institute, CO
Apologetics Press Camp, Oakman, AL
Creation Adventures Museum, Arcadia, FL
Akron Fossils Science Center Akron, OH
Genesis Camp Lomita, CA
Camp Sunrise Fairmount, GA
Tamarack Valley, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, MI
Living Waters Bible Camp Creation Museum/Nature Center, Westby, WI

The page also lists Online Activities, Bible Stories and Videos. And damn, there is some scary shit there, and big heaping truckloads of it. Scary not because it’s sheer flat-out lies, but because the lies are mixed with true stuff, descriptions of real places, real animals, real science. If you have even less education than I have, or read less widely than most of US do — especially if you have a religiously-cultivated mistrust of “experts” and educated people —  it all starts to sound plausible. Plausible enough to inspire further doubt of them SIGN-tists and all the unbelievable stuff they say.

Here’s what passes for erudition on the site, which is, remember, aimed at and for kids. Excerpt from a book review:

The first thing I noticed about Evolution Impossible is all the footnotes. I checked the whole thing and only found 11 pages out of 179 which didn’t have references. Most of those 11 pages were the half pages at the beginning or end of a chapter! Dr. Ashton expects you to search out the truth for yourself.

Then there’s the amount of math involved.

Yeah, the number of footnotes always impresses me too. Most of the books I recommend to people, I make a point of mentioning how many footnotes there are. And the math, I always talk about the math. Because it’s, you know, MATH, right?

Take a look at The Akron Fossils and Science Center. It’s like Science! Science! Science! … until you get to the creationism and climate change denialism. But no matter, it also has a Giant Slide and Zipline! There’s also a Truassic Park, a 2.5-acre outdoor park. I love the name gag, “True-assic.”  It’s an “outdoor adventure park with a dinosaur theme!”

Most importantly:

We are devoted to teaching creation science and intelligent design models on the origin and history of life (in contrast to teaching evolutionary models).

The location information is interesting too:

Our museum is located in the same building as a few other businesses. Our museum entrance is located on the Minor Rd. side of the building complex. Our upper parking lot is on the Cleveland-Massillon Rd. side of the building where we share parking space with Independence Financial Group an accounting firm and Alpha Background Investigations.

Makes it sound like the “Duchy of Grand Fenwick — Through the Gate and Around in Back.”

Yes, Religion now has to use Science to prop itself up. You can’t just hand around live rattlesnakes anymore, or Speak in Tongues. Well, you can, but it’s not as razzle-dazzle as a 60-foot dino skeleton unearthed and pieced together by, well, people who actually know something.

But they’ll use any tool at hand, twisting and warping it until it serves their purpose. They never stop.