Just what you wanted, another atheist blog!

Well hello and welcome to Danthropology! I am very excited to join the team at Patheos and bring my blog to the awesome readers of the site.

For those who do not know me, my name is Dan Arel and I am an author and freelance journalist and you will see my work often on AlterNet, Salon and The Huffington Post.

My book, Parenting Without God, How to Raise Moral, Ethical and Intelligent Children, Free From Religious Dogma will be out later this year on Dangerous Little Books.

This blog will be sort of an extension of my pieces for AlterNet and Salon where I often write more essay style pieces, this blog will be usually shorter pieces on current events as they are happening, and updated daily as I see fit.

One of my main points of interest in evolutionary anthropology, hence the title of the blog and I will often write about evolution and often about the battle versus creationism and particularly the battle in the public school classroom.

I hope you visit and comment often and leave me feedback on stories you like or types of stories you would like to see more of. I will be bringing on guest bloggers and hopefully some regular contributors as well as the blog grows in an effort to mix up some content and perspectives and though I wont make it a regular occurrence to ask for donations, I have set up a Patreon to help bring in some extra income so I can pay writers for their time. But more on that later.

First I would like to just get you familiar with the site and myself.

Thanks for visiting!

Did the creation vs. evolution debate hurt science?

Screenshot 2015-09-13 at 9.04.14 PM

It happened. Bill Nye faced off against Ken Ham to discuss evolution versus creation. Though this had been strongly advised against, it carried on as planned. Of course, it should have because the fallout of pulling out a debate would have been worse than the debate itself.

So what happened during the debate? Did it hurt evolution? Not at all. Nye presented a powerful and strong case for why the theory of evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life on this planet. He presented understandable slides that show geological evidence for the age of the earth and explained how species diverged over billions of years.

Ham presented one piece of evidence all night, the Bible. This was mistake number one seeing as how the Bible is a claim, not evidence. Ham also attempted to present two types of sciences, historical and observational. He also attempted to redefine the definition of evolution, claiming secular scientists hijacked the word. This presented a strong weakness in his case for creation because his case cannot be made using words already defined by dictionaries around the world and without splitting science in two and creating his own fields of science.

All science is observational. Of course, I cannot go back in time and observe with my own eyes as Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) walked the earth and watch as each newborn slowly diverged into another species over millions of generation, but I can look at fossil records and DNA to put together a predictable and testable hypothesis, one that has been tested, and tells us how this happened. I can also use that same method to recreate this in the lab with fruit flies, plants, and many other species. I can observe how this works. Creationism cannot offer the same.

Ham’s own argument would set every murderer and rapist free who did not have an eye witness account because all the evidence against them is useless because you were not there to see it. Ham missed this glaring obvious misstep in his argument.

Nye was easily able to break down Ham’s claims about the great flood and Noah’s ark, using such great evidence and observations that Ham had no ground left to stand on other than claiming he still had faith such a boat could exist, and then turned to the creationist handbook to discuss “kinds,” the very unscientific term used to describe species while avoiding any evolution. Ham offered up a beautiful fairy tale of there being “kinds” on the ark, not species, as we know them today. One has to wonder if creationist like Ham simply makes up creation stories on the fly.

What Ham did get however was close to one million people listening to him proselytize them about the Bible and his faith. This is what most people feared would come from this debate. It was a mistake to allow him this opportunity to ignite a fire under the creationist’s movement. This platform offered them legitimacy as a worldview worth debating.

Just look around Facebook and Twitter and you, predictably, will find creationists rejoicing in Ham’s victory. A fictitious victory yes, but the creationists now feel energized, they truly believe their argument won out and they will now take this fight further. They will use Ham to the fullest to market creation as a viable worldview in courts and in school board meetings around the globe.

Nye walked all over Ham. This was obvious. Ham deflected any question put to him to supply predictable hypotheses from the Bible. Nye also was unafraid to say, “we don’t know” and be proud of it. If science didn’t have an answer, he was honest and that helped win him the debate. Ham had an answer for everything, the Bible. Nye could not answer how matter came into existence, Ham could. Ham was wrong, and offered no evidence. He simply said God did it and moved on, again using nothing more than a claim as empirical evidence.

What really lost this whole debate for Ham was the question, “what would change your mind?”

Nye listed all the things that would change his mind, and it all revolved around evidence, and not far-fetched stuff. Honest scientific evidence that would unravel the timeline and Nye would change his mind. Ham’s answer was in short, “nothing.”

How can you have an honest worldview and claim to care about evidence when nothing can change your mind? This showed that Ham was not interested in the truth at all. He cared about one thing and one thing only, his opinion. Ham shined here as the charlatan that he is.

So the aftermath, was this debate a mistake? Yes. Regardless of how well Nye did, and he did better than many predicted he would, Ham still got airtime. Ham still stood in frond of more people than he can normally grab on his own and espoused his gospel and Ham still ignited his base. There is very little doubt donations will be pouring into Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum over the coming weeks and months.

Let’s not end on that note, though. Nye presented a great case. The evidence was on his side and he answered questions with confidence and honesty. He understood the arguments that Ham came prepared with and was able to combat every creation claim put in front of him. For that, Nye deserves to be commended.

And maybe, just maybe, a handful of kids around the world were inspired by Nye and his presentation and will look at the world a little differently and question the beliefs that are being jammed down their throats. Maybe a child being raised in a creationist environment can watch this debate and become the next great scientist of their generation.

This article appeared in The Huffington Post.

Photo credit: YouTube screen capture

Bill Nye should not debate Ken Ham; creationists do not deserve the attention

Screenshot 2015-09-13 at 9.04.14 PM

Scientists should not debate creationists. Period. This may sound harsh but let’s start by looking at what sparked this statement. TV personality and science advocate Bill Nye (Bill Nye the Science Guy) has accepted an invitation to debate Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis / The Creation Museum on February 4, 2014, at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

This is a bad idea and here is why.

Debating creationists offer their position credibility

When you accept a debate, you are accepting there is something worth debating. Political ideologies are worth debating, religion, as it pertains to things like human well-being and flourishing, can be worth debating because these kinds of ideas claim to offer solutions to problems and they are debating the best way to achieve such problems. Debates about the existence of God can be fun, they are not really that meaningful, but they are a debate about ideas and beliefs and can be worth the effort.

Creationism vs. evolution, however, is not worth debating. Why? Simple, there is nothing to debate. Evolution is a scientific fact, backed by mountains of evidence, peer-reviewed papers you could stack to the moon and an incredible scientific community consensus.  Creationism is a debunked mythology that is based solely on faith. It has zero peer-reviewed papers to back up its claims, it has absolutely no scientific consensus and is not even considered science due to the fact it cannot be tested.

Why would a scientist debate this? Nye would do more good on his own going on TV and discussing evolution and the importance of scientific education instead of giving Ken Ham any publicity and a public forum with thousands, if not millions of viewers, to spew his dishonesty. Ham is a snake oil salesmen and Nye just offered him up an infomercial to sell his product. Ham can repeat his mantra over and over; “teach the controversy”.

Nye is not a biologist

I do not know an incredible amount about Bill Nye other than I loved his show. However, a Google search only turned up that Nye has nothing more than a bachelor’s degree in engineering and three honorary doctorate degrees. We fault Christian apologists almost daily for trying to ride their honorary degrees, it would seem only fair we hold Nye to the same standard.

So we have Nye, a very smart man with a degree in engineering, not biology, not anthropology, and he does not practice any form of research science. Nye should be credited greatly for his work in education; but as a qualified candidate to defend evolution, especially against the likes of conmen like Ken Ham, he is not.

You must fully understand your opponent

This is mere speculation but I have no reason to believe that Nye has the firm grasp on creationism that would be needed to go up against the likes of someone like Ham.

To win a debate successfully you must understand your opponent’s position better than they do, in fact, you should know it well enough that you could debate for them.

Creationists have no rules, their dishonesty stops nowhere. Nye will attempt to use proper science and reason to bring down Ham, but Ham will care little for any facts or evidence and will stick to nonsense and will feed on audience ignorance and use terms like “irreducible complexity” to confuse the watchers into thinking he has made a valid point. Key phrases like “half a wing” will fly from his lips as he openly ignores science’s amazing understanding of the evolution of things like the eye, or wings. Ham will be relying on faith and pushing the biblical teachings onto the viewers and will attempt to call out anytime science could have been wrong to tear down its credibility.

This debate is being held at the Creation Museum itself and this will ensure that the brain-dead creationist zombies come out in droves to support Ham and loudly applaud anytime he manages to string together and coherent sentence or even more likely shouts that his grandmother was no monkey.

I honestly think it would be fantastic to see Nye destroy Ham, but will that do any good? Suddenly a little-known figure outside of his circles, Ham will be thrust into the spotlight, reaching impressionable youths around the world, and as great as it would be to see him taken down, the risks of him winning are greater.

The American people are not going to dissect Nye’s credentials to accept such a debate and if he goes down, he will take down a lot of hard work in science with him. If the American people, who are already weary of science and already disown the idea of evolution as quickly as possible, see who in their minds is a top scientist lose to a creationist, we will have taken steps backwards in time.

The risk versus reward in this scenario is not worth it. Nye is putting a lot at risk and he is not the man to do so.

Creationism is a worthless and uneducated position to hold in our modern society and Nye is about to treat it as an equal, debatable “controversy”.

This article first appeared on RichardDawkins.net, and later, on AlterNet.org.

Photo credit: YouTube screen capture

Pope Francis is TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year for doing nothing at all

On December 11, 2013 TIME Magazine made their year’s big announcement, the Person of the Year. It chose Pope Francis.

One must wonder then, if the act of doing nothing is all it takes these days to be a person of the year. Sure the Pope has said some really nice things:

Photo: Casa Rosada
Photo: Casa Rosada

Atheists can go to heaven. That’s nice, but atheists don’t actually believe in heaven, so really, it’s just a kind gesture. Lets not forget though, church officials quickly said he was wrong. (Infallible?)

The Catholic Church should back off from the fight against homosexuality. Again, this is nice, but he only suggested it, and did not change a single church policy or endorse same-sex marriage or for that matter announce the church would recognize such unions.

Capitalism cannot solve poverty. He is right, it cannot, and hearing the Pope criticize capitalism was awesome. Too bad he did it sitting on a pile of billions of dollars.

What the Pope has not done however is persecute a single child rapist priests, or even come up with a plan to do so (he talks about making a plan, but again, this guy is all talk). He hasn’t used the churches billions to make real change. Hell, IKEA donated more money to the Philippines disaster than the Catholic Church.

The Pope has also not ended the churches stance on condom use, he mentioned it once or twice, but did nothing to change it and help curb the continued spread of HIV and AIDS.

All this Pope has done is spew PR jargon. He keeps saying all the right things and making all the Catholics love him while actually doing absolutely nothing. He is selling a product less and less people are buying these days, so they are changing their message, but only their message, they have not updated their product. You are getting sold on one thing, and delivered another.

This Pope is no person of the year; he has done nothing to earn such a title, even from a failing and irrelevant magazine. Though what should we expect from a magazine that has chosen Adolf Hitler and twice chose Joseph Stalin as Person of the Year.

This article originally appeared on The Examiner.

Transgender acceptance in the atheist community

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In the first weekend of June 2013, I attended the American Humanist Conference here in San Diego, CA. On the second night, they awarded journalist and author Greta Christina with the LGBT Humanist Pride Award. Her acceptance speech was amazing. She wowed the crowd with ideas and inspiration to get out and work, and she did speak about what the humanist and atheist movement can learn from the LGBT movement. But she brought up one point that really stuck out to me, one that left me thinking the whole drive home and the next day.

In the humanist and atheist movement, we are traditionally and overwhelmingly accepting of the LGBT community, but we need to do better. The area we need to improve the most? The T part. We are amazingly accepting of LGB, but we fall short on the T, the transgender community. I am not personally sure why this is, but I have some thoughts.

When it comes to the LGB, we all seem to know someone, either very directly and personally or indirectly. We understand their struggle and we want to fight right along with them. However, I think very few have a direct connection to the transgender community, or at the very least, we don’t think we do, because of the terrible social stigma still attached to it. Many of us probably do know someone who is transgender, but is still too afraid to come out.

I think the fact that it is still so hard for the LGBT community to come out in so many parts of this country is one of the biggest battles transgender people face, and as humanists, we will embark in this battle with them, but we have to make sure to include them all, not just who we know. It is our duty, as humanists, to work towards erasing the social attitudes towards traditional gender roles, and create an environment of safety and understanding for those who do not fit into our society’s current gender roles. No matter how small a group appears (and I say appears because I do believe it’s much larger than we know, and once we rewrite social norms, we will get to know many more) we should be fighting for their rights as humans.

So please, learn as much as you can about the transgender community, especially in your area, reach out to them and offer support through your humanist group, or on your own. Find out what you can do for them and let’s be sure to include everyone in our struggle together. L G B and T.

This post first appeared on EmilyHasBooks.com in June of 2013.

(Image: Ted Eytan / Creative Commons 2.0)