BitCoin is a Scam

gbnsz5sc-1393331470I know I’m a broken record on how stupid I think BitCoin (BTC) is, but I just can’t help it. I’m taking such perverse joy as Mt. Gox, one of the BTC exchanges, implodes because they were inept at handling financial transactions.

The reason you may have heard about BTC being accepted at things like Starbucks or is because it looked like the price of the “currency” was stable, and doing a transaction in BTC was very cheap for a vendor. If you were to use Visa or Mastercard to buy something online, Visa may charge the online vendors, say 5% of the transaction. This is money you as the consumer don’t see, but it does come out of the vendor’s pocket as a cost to use Visa (this is why, for example, you couldn’t use American Express at a lot of vendors – AmEx charged higher fees).

BTC charges ridiculously low fees – in some cases free. So, to a vendor like, if you charge $10 for something that cost $9, with a Visa fee of 5%, Overstock gets $9.50 and Visa gets 50 cents, where using BITC you might get all $10.

However, the reason these BitCoin exchanges charge such low fees is because they have no… friggin’… idea… just how to keep these transactions secure (Mt. Gox implosion is because of this). In order to keep transactions secure, you have to spend, let me think, um…, a lot of money. Also, Visa has to follow silly little things called “laws” and “regulations”, which make them liable for fraud. Since they have to pay out when somebody steals Billy-Joe’s credit card and rings ups fraudulent transaction, they *are* going to pass that onto their other users, through fees.

Seeing how utterly inept BTC vendors are with transactions reminds me of an episode of The Office – where Michael and Ryan build a competing paper company that implodes because they used a “fixed cost model” instead of a “variable cost model” for shipping paper. Here is a transcript from that exchange (I wanted to find a video, but I guess NBC has made sure The Office clips can’t be on YouTube):

Michael: How much can we afford to pay a delivery guy?
Financial Guy: Well, if these numbers you gave me are correct–
Michael: They are correct, sir.
Financial Guy: Then you can’t afford to pay him anything.
Michael: Okay. A lame attempt at humor. Swing and a miss.
Financial Guy: Your prices are too low.
Michael: Lowest in town.
Financial Guy: Why do you think Staples and Dunder Mifflin can’t match your prices?
Pam: Corporate greed?
Ryan: Look, our price model is fine. I reviewed the numbers myself. Over time with enough volume, we become profitable.
Financial Guy: Yeah, with a fixed cost pricing model that’s correct.
Ryan: Yeah.
Financial Guy: But you need to use a variable cost pricing model.
Michael: Okay, sure. Right, so– why don’t you explain what that is to– so that they can under– just explain what that is.
Ryan: Explain what you think that is.
Financial Guy: Okay.
Michael: Explain that.
Financial Guy: As you sell more paper and your company grows, so will your costs. For example, delivery man, health care…
Michael: Well, we don’t–
Financial Guy: …business expansion–
Michael: Whatever, yeah.
Financial Guy: At these prices, the more paper you sell, the less money you’ll make.
Michael: Our prices are the only thing keeping us in business.
Financial Guy: They’re actually putting you out of business.
Michael: Okay, okay. Hold on, hold on. Ty, I would like you to crunch those numbers again.
Ty: It’s a program. There’s no such thing–
Michael: Just crunch ’em. Just crunch ’em please.
Ty: [presses key on computer] Crunch.
Pam: Did it help?

BitCoin is a complete joke.  Just like Michael trying to undercut Dunder Mifflin by using incorrect rules of finance, BTC is using incorrect math to justify why it is good.  Their transaction fees aren’t because it is an “internet currency”.  The transaction fees are low because the people running these exchanges are inept, or criminal, or both.

Now, this isn’t to completely dismiss BTC having any possible benefit to us as consumers.  While mostly Visa and Mastercard charge what they charge for fees is because of laws and regulations, there is a very good chance that lack of competition and complacency is causing them to charge more fees than they reasonably should be allowed to get away with.  If BTC’s low fees prove to be a good thing for vendors, despite the fluctuation in the value of the “currency” (seriously, I cannot help putting the word currency in quotes, because BTC is not a currency), then Visa and Mastercard will have to lower fees.  At which point, we all win.

But until that happens, I will continue to enjoy watching BTC flail about.  The libertarian ideologues who love it are endlessly entertaining.  I’m waiting for the time one of these goofballs starts railing against the government, claiming the government is behind BTC’s collapses, and then veering off into complaining about fluoride in the water supply.


Book Review: “The Loudest Voice in the Room”

The news is like a ship. If you take hands off the wheel, it pulls hard to the left.” – Roger Ailes


Viewers don’t want to be informed; they want to feel informed” – Chet Collier, Roger Ailes mentor and boss at the Mike Douglas Show, commenting on his job as the first programming director at Fox News.

Those two quotes are pretty much all you need to know if you want to understand why Fox News is both successful, ridiculously partisan, and yet still believes it can call itself “Fair and Balanced”.

The book “The Loudest Voice in the Room” by Gabriel Sherman (Amazon, iTunes), is a biography both of Roger Ailes and Fox News.  It follows Roger through his childhood, to his first real experience doing TV with the Mike Douglas Show, his activities in Republican Politics, his time on Broadway (!) and finally, as the man who created Fox News and turned it into a ratings behemoth (in the cable news arena, anyway).

It is a well written narrative that gets right to the core of who Roger is, which is basically a guy driven to win, and a man who is incredibly paranoid.  Several examples of both of these traits are shown throughout the book, and they are pretty jaw dropping.  One example of his paranoia is that he wanted bomb proof glass installed in his office windows when Fox started, because “homosexual activists are going to be down there every day protesting.… And who knows what the hell they’ll do.”

The book is replete with stories of Ailes holding grudges, such that after he won a battle over some perceived slight, he would then send out Fox News employees to destroy the character of the person he just defeated.

Many aspects of the book were not new to me, as I knew many of these tales of Ailes over the years.  However, even these were pretty amazing, because the pettiness of Roger is on full display.  One example of this I think helps explain Fox’s popularity.  Early on, Roger and Chet Collier recognized when working at the Mike Douglas show, that you have to work very hard to keep people watching.  If you start to lose them in a segment, they might flip the channel during the commercial and not come back.  For the Mike Douglas show, they developed the idea of a each segment ending with a “payoff”.  Thus, when producing a show, it wasn’t enough to say you were going to talk about some topic for the next 7 minutes.  That topic had to have a beginning, middle, and end, and the end had to be something that was so entertaining that the person would stay through the commercial, because they wouldn’t want to miss anything in the next segment.  This kind of thing was just not done with TV news prior to Fox News.  The idea of a payoff just makes no sense in the construct of “news”.  That, right there, was the game changer Ailes brought when he built Fox, and helps explain why they have such ratings success.

The very last section of the book threw me for a loop.  In it, Gabriel describes how Roger bought a home in a small community in New York, and then proceeded to buy its local newspaper and turn it into a partisan, conservative rag.  He fired or scared off all the people who worked there, hired conservative ideologues to run it, and began going hard after his “enemies”, namely a local man who became the zoning commissioner.  The stories of how far he would go, using “news”, to destroy a small-town zoning commissioner were astounding.  And it was for no other reason than he just didn’t like the guy.

If you love Roger Ailes, you won’t like this book.  If you hate Roger Ailes, the stories may make you madder than you ever thought possible, like the story of the 2000 election and Florida debacle.  If you are just curious how a network could start from nothing while going up against CNN and then beat it, sort of a business angle story, you will learn a lot.

But I keep coming back to that quote from Roger about the news pulling “hard to the left.”  I think this sums up Roger and his paranoia pretty well.  You hear conservatives all the time talking about “liberal” bias in the media.  Such statements imply a conscious bias by reporters in the “mainstream” media, and thus one needs to actively combat that to be “fair and balanced”.  However, this quote by Roger belies that fact.  He basically admits that the media isn’t “biased” – it’s the news itself that is biased.  And the only way to deal with that bias is to keep paying attention and keeping a firm grip on ensuring that a conservative bias is applied as a counter-weight.  To me, that’s stunning.  When a bomb goes off during the Boston Marathon, that’s just a bomb going off.  It isn’t a “liberal” bomb.  It isn’t a “conservative” bomb.  You just report on it as a “bomb”.  Yes, you editorialize on talk shows about what the bombing means, and you can apply liberal or conservative spin on what you think it means, but a bomb is a bomb.  The idea that the event itself is “liberal biased”, is simply bizarre.

One final point, near the end of the book it becomes clear that the higher ups at NewsCorp (Fox News’ parent), don’t really like Roger Ailes that much.  They may be conservatives in nature, but Murdoch has shown that he will back liberals if it makes sense for his business.  I truly believe that once Roger Ailes goes, the thing that is “Fox News” will go with him.  The station will change once he departs.

And that would be a very good thing for us all…

Progressives and the Chris Christie Bridge Scandal

I’ve lately heard from a couple of fellow progressives who have complained bout MSNBC spending “so much time” talking about the Chris Christie bridge scandal.  One of these was Bill Maher, who said he was “breaking up” with MSNBC, and said,. “Bridgegate has become [MSNBC’s] Benghazi. ”  A local friend of mine, who has spent several hours with me laughing about the stupidity of conservatives, also said he is tired of it.

In both these instances, the feeling seems to be that, “yeah, something happened here”, but now that we know about it, Christie is toast, and to continue talking about it is to be just like Fox News, hyping something that isn’t that big of a deal just because something happened to a person you don’t ideologically like.  That we as progressives, and MSNBC as a station, are just reveling too much in schadenfreude.

OK, um, let’s back up a bit here.

First off, liberals and progressives all the time talk about false equivalencies.  An example of the false equivalency is saying that “both sides” refuses to talk to each other seriously about policy, and that Obama needs to “lead” more.  This is just factually false.  A key example of this is election night 2012, where Obama called the leaders of the House (John Boehner) and the minority leader of the Senate (Mitch McConnell), but they refused to take his call because they were “asleep”.  Now, keep in mind that every presidential election the winner tends to all all 4 leaders (majority and minority) of the two houses.  No president ever was ignored by the leader because they were “tired” or whatever.  Everybody knows this call is coming.  If Nancy Pelosi refused a call from Dubya, Fox News’ head would have exploded (actually, that would have been kind of cool to see on live TV).  But again, since Republicans say that Obama isn’t reaching out, it’s just accepted that he must not reach out.  False equivalency.

So, anyway, liberals have lots of reasons to point out the false equivalency.  So it is especially troublesome to see them do the exact… same… thing…  No, the GW bridge scandal is absolutely not Fast and Furious… or Benghazi… or Obama’s friggn’ birth certificate.  First off, those “scandals” had several hearings.  And about 2 minutes into each one of the hearings, it was clear that the narrative Fox and conservatives were trying to portray about the issue was completely wrong.  And there were also massive instances of conservative selective document leaking.  So much so that his committee ends up releasing more documents just to shut him up.  Secondly, none of these hearings have ever found anything, yet Fox News still talks about it. Contrast this to Bridgegate, where there has yet to be any federal hearing, though there is a possibility this could happen since the Port Authority is an multi-state organization chartered by the federal government and subject to federal oversight.  And the state hearings just started, and no testimony has been given.  The subpoenas for documents have resulted in assertions of the 5th Amendment, none of which happened in any of the ginned up conservative controversies.

Additionally, the few bits of things that have come out have been simply amazing and are taking the investigation in entirely new directions.  For example, most recently it has been found out that David Sampson, a key player in the bridge controversy and chairman of the Port Authority, and also a VERY close friend of Chris Christie’s, was also a consultant for a company that leased a parking lot from the Port Authority.  They paid his law firm over $2M, and then Sampson, as chairman of the Port Authority, pushed through a change in rent for the parking lot from $900K per year to… $1.  He didn’t recuse himself.  He didn’t disclose his conflict of interest.  He promoted the idea.

The point of this is that there is no equivalency.  For one, the hearings have just started whereas the fake conservative scandals had multiple hearings.  Secondly, there seems to be something going on, we just don’t know what, given all the claims on the 5th Amendment.  Nothing like this happened with any of the fake conservative hearings.  Third, every instance of something happening with Bridgegate have happened with people that Chris Christie is personally close to, as opposed to, say, the fake IRS scandal, which never even reached the White House offices, let alone Obama (and keep in mind, the outrage was fake to begin with, as liberal groups were also targeted in that case).

So, let’s just stop the false equivalency, fellow progressives.  There is something here.  It might not get to Christie, but you know, it took about 2 years for Watergate to get fully exposed – the break in occurred in 1972, Nixon resigned in 1974.  I’m not equating Bridgegate to Watergate, but what I’m saying is that real investigations take quite a bit of time, even in the digital age.  The investigation into the GW bridge scandal is only about 2 months old.  Additionally, while MSNBC might be talking about it a lot, the reach of MSNBC is nothing like the reach of the Washington Post or the New York Times in 1972-1974.  MSNBC gets about 300,000 viewers a night.  From what I can find, it appears the Washington Post had a readership well over 1 million people per day in 1972.

What I would instead ask my fellow progressives to look at with all this false equivalency nonsense is… are you sure this isn’t the actual intent of conservatives?  Think about it – if the right gins up 10 fake controversies on Obama, such that the general public starts to roll its eyes at the silliness of it, is the general public going to be more likely or less likely to believe a real controversy, whether it is from the right or the left?  How do we really know if it is real vs. yet another fake one – a crying wolf thing?  We’ve seen how Machiavellian conservatives can be.  I’m not calling it a conspiracy – a conspiracy involves being secretive.  And there is nothing about the attacks on Obama that are secretive.  But I tend to think this whole attacking of Obama over ridiculous stuff is on purpose.  To put it another way, the Independent Counsel Statue arose during Watergate, as it was clear that the Justice Department, and Congress, wasn’t necessarily able to do its job to oversee wrongdoings in the White House.  This statute got horribly abused by Republicans in the 1990s, causing an initial failed land deal in Arkansas to shift over into looking at the Vince Foster suicide and every other nonsense Clinton “scandal”, until eventually they “got him” for having sex with an intern.  Everybody was so disgusted with the IC that we let the statue expire.  And what happened after that?  Secret meetings in the White House with energy executives, a complete failure on 9/11, memos being passed to and fro OK-ing torture, and secret wire taps of Americans illegally.  Do you think an truly independent prosecutor would have sniffed that stuff out?  I do.  But hey, it wasn’t there.  Point is, I’m not sure getting rid of the Independent Counsel was an “oops” thing.  I think conservatives really hoped this would happen and were willing to impeach a president over a semen stain if that’s what it meant to make it happen.

OK, having said all of that, let me point out another issue I think is important related to Bridgegate, and why I don’t think we should just “let it go”.  For this example, I would like you to look at one George Dubya Bush.  In the 1970s when he first ran for Congress, his opponent, very briefly, attacked Dubya’s service in the National Guard.  Everybody knew that unit of the Guard was a joke – it is where the children of the rich and powerful, as well as people like star players for the Dallas Cowboys, served so that they would not have to go to Vietnam.  (It was called the Champagne Unit).  And it looked like Bush didn’t even fulfill the obligations for that.  It looked like Bush just ignored times of service so he could campaign for a conservative in Alabama.

Now, this charge never went anywhere, because Bush lost the seat.  No investigation was done.  Democrats raised the issue in 2004 during the Presidential election, and Bush and his cronies whined, saying this was all propaganda, that the whole thing was “looked into” and that there was nothing there.  They basically charged the Democrats with being desperate.

But… here’s the thing.  It wasn’t looked into.  It was a throwaway charge that kind of hung around, but nobody every looked at it.  It wasn’t investigated and nothing was discovered.  It was hardly looked at.  Similar things happened with Bush around his DUI arrest records in Maine.  Nothing was really investigated when it happened, and Bush later used that to claim the whole thing was nonsense and we should move on.

How does this relate to Bridgegate?  Well, Christie tried to do the same thing.  The lanes on the GW bridge were closed in September.  There was grumbling about it at the time, but no investigation had been launched.  It was, basically, a throw-away editorial in a small New Jersey paper.  When it bubbled back up to the surface in November, Christie joked about it, calling the people looking into it “people with nothing better to do”, where he had many better things to do.

Now, of course, we know that some major things happened there.  Because the press didn’t let it go (specifically MSNBC), we now have an actual investigation.  We have 5th Amendment claims flying around like leaves blowing around on a windy fall day.  We have documents showing major scumminess originating from the Governor’s Office itself.  We have people being fired.  In short, we have big things going on.

So, we should just let that go?  If we do, how is that a good thing?  Couldn’t Christie just continue to stonewall it?  And if he does, in two years, couldn’t he come out and call people talking about it “desperate”?  Yeah, actually, he could.

So, again, the idea that we should just lay off this, that MSNBC should just talk about something else, is just silly.  It’s what conservatives want MSNBC to do.  What you actually have right now, I would argue, is the equivalent of a Scooby Doo episode, where old man Johnson is trying to get away with scaring off local residents, except for those “pesky kids” of MSNBC not letting him get away with it.

So, in conclusion, fellow liberals and progressives, and people who just don’t want to talk about politics… Bridgegate is not Benghazi.  There is something here.  It affects people who could be the leaders of our country as future presidents.  It matters.  It is not something MSNBC should just stop talking about.  Don’t be conned into thinking it is.

The Bill Nye / Ken Ham Creationism Debate

On February 4th, 2014, Bill Nye debated the curator of the Creationist Museum, Ken Ham, on whether or not creationism is a viable method for discussion the origins of life.  I thought it was silly for Bill Nye to debate such a person, as I don’t consider them to be serious people.  There is no way to “win” a debate with such a person, as their position is based upon a faith, and faith cannot be tested.

Before we get into the debate itself, it is important to define creationism in the context of this specific debate.  Many of us view creationists as uneducated.  We think of them as people who simply don’t understand the world and retreat into myth.  And while this is true for many, if not most, creationists, that is not what we are talking about here.  There is another branch of creationism that has very educated people in it, many of them PhDs, and as constantly emphasized by Ken Ham in the debate, these creationists have done things like build spacecraft and the MRI machine, they are astronomers, they are molecular biologists, they have published peer-reviewed scientific work, and on and on.

Understanding these creationists is key to understanding the debate about creationism in classrooms.  Understanding their worldview helps us better understand the fight in Texas, say, over what should be taught in textbooks.  So, let’s begin.

Throughout the debate, it became clear to me that creationism in its modern incarnation is really no different from those that disavow anthropomorphic (i.e. man made) climate change, or those that want to stop (or delay or spread out) childhood vaccinations.  Despite evidence saying their view is wrong, they hold onto it even tighter, even more convinced that they are right.  From this, I’ve seen patterns in their behavior, and I think it comes down to 3 tenets:

  1. Tenet #1: Concede the Obvious:  First, you have to concede many scientific points of your opponent, because they are obvious.  You have to, for example, believe that animals evolve.  Note that this is very difficult for the uneducated creationist, and is how you first differentiate your garden variety uneducated creationist from the educated creationist.
  2. Tenet #2: Keep Minority Opinions at Your Fingertips: Secondly, you have to keep all contradictory opinions to the mainstream belief in an easily accessible Rolodex, to use as if it were a trump card when arguing with the mainstream viewpoint.  Whether it is a scientific paper you hold dear, a gap in the evidence on the other side you wish to exploit, or historical data where the mainstream viewpoint changed, you have to have it at the ready to “throw down”.
  3. Tenet #3: Accuse Your Opponent of Your Behavior:  Otherwise known as having a persecution complex.  Creationists’ belief is based upon faith, so they have to challenge the other side as if it, too, were faith based.  Once making that attack, they can then say the majority is using their faith to persecute you, the lonely scientist who just wants the ‘truth”.

The debate highlighted all 3 of these tenets, and Ken Ham did it quite brilliantly, as I hope to show below.

In order for a creationist idea of the universe to be true, they first have to frame the debate.  Ken Ham managed to do this by doing something I thought was impossible, by redefining the term “science”.  Modern creationists redefine science into two categories.  In this worldview, the first type of science is “observational” science, which is the kind of thing you can see and test.  This is the kind of science that “even creationists” do.  It involves the scientific method, the development of a theory, testing it, etc.  The second kind of science is called “historical” science.  The main definition of historical science is “we weren’t there, so we didn’t observe it, so we just don’t know.”

And if you are willing to look at science that way, you can see how all 3 of the above tenets come into play.  You can concede that evolution occurs because we have seen it, but you can then also claim that you can’t assume it was like that in the past when you didn’t see it.  You can throw doubt on the “majority” opinion, by pointing out the times when majority opinion has been wrong, and thus show that since scientists made assumptions about the past that were wrong, they could very well be wrong now.  And you brilliantly create the third tenet out of whole cloth – since mainstream scientists don’t view science in two forms (observational vs. historical) this “majority” are completely missing the point, and have “hijacked” the term to fit their “secular belief system”.

It’s quite brilliant when you think about it.  It’s throwing a major monkey wrench into the scientific process by saying there are two types.  But there aren’t two types of science.  There is only one.  We observe things that are going on now, and we actually are able to make judgments on the past from it.   In many cases those judgments are wrong, and when they are, the theory is thrown out.  But when they are right, they confirm the theory.  We can study earthquakes and volcanoes, and understanding the geology, eventually come up with the theory of tectonic plates, and we can then test that.  We can look for evidence in the mountains where we think two plates slid on top of each other, and test the rocks to see whether that is true or not… and it is.  And we can make predictions based upon those tectonic plate movements on what the future would look like.  Creationism, on the other hand, can’t do any of that.  If the world is only 6,000 years old, we can’t look at that mountain and make any assumptions on things such as tectonic plates.  And this is very important for actual, practical knowledge about how to build things in the future.  If you don’t believe in tectonic plates, you wouldn’t have proper building codes.  And then when the earthquake happens, you would have no idea why, and hundreds, thousands, or millions of people will have died.

One of the most entertaining aspect of this dual definition of science comes in the science of evolution.  Creationists do, for example, admit that the virus for the common cold mutates, and that’s why we can’t completely cure it.   But since the Bible tells them that God created everything as it should exist, and since we weren’t there when He did it, we can’t, therefore, claim that evolution can do anything but exist in a narrow window.  In the creationist worldview, there were animal forms, called “kinds”, and they got on Noah’s boat.  They later got off the boat, and bred and mutated and that’s why we have all the species we have today.  Thus, they concede evolution (mutations since the Flood) while maintaining a belief that God made a flood, and that he stocked the boat with animals of specific “kinds”.  And He created everything anyway, so there was no evolution to even create the “kinds”.

This theory answers a lot of questions about Noah’s Ark.  It conveniently solves the problem of having a boat big enough to hold every animal species.  You actually don’t under this theory.  Instead, rather than the boat holding every one of Darwin’s finches discovered on the Galapagos, you only need one pair of the “finch kind” which then mutated after the flood.  You don’t have to have lions and tigers and cheetahs, you just have to have a “cat kind” which then mutates after the Flood.

Now, that’s brilliant, right?  You’ve executed tenet #1 by conceding that evolution exists.  You get to throw in tenet #2 every so often, by throwing down scientific papers that show how we’ve gotten some dates wrong about various forms of man or other animals, and you get to use tenet #3 by saying evolution requires you to “believe” in missing links we haven’t found, while a creationist doesn’t need to do that because there aren’t any missing links.  To believe in the missing link becomes the religion, and the Bible becomes “fact”.

Bill Nye did great job debunking this, by using a silly thing called “math”.   I’m going to use different numbers than Mr. Nye did in his debate, but the result is the same. Creationists estimate that as few as 4,000 (2,000 kinds) to as many as 50,000 (25,000 kinds) were on the ark.  Scientists today say there are about 3 million to 100 million animal species today (if you include viruses and insects in rain forests we haven’t found yet), with over 95% of them being invertebrates.  Additionally most species are species that live underwater and thus wouldn’t need to be in the ark.  So, let’s take the lowest possible number, 3 million, and take 5% of that, which leaves us with 150,000 species.  And let’s take the high end of species saved on the ark – 25,000.  As the great Flood was supposed to be 4000 years ago, this means that:

(150,000 modern species – 25,000 Flood species) ÷ (4000 years)

= 31.25 species / year

In other words, every year, 31.25 new species would have to have been created since the flood, or just under 3 per month.

Think about that.  We’ve been looking for different species since the mid-19th century when naturalists such as Darwin started looking for them.  And we have seen nothing like this in the last 150 years.  We don’t find a species of lion that then becomes a new species.  In 150 years, don’t you think we would have observed that?

Now, the 31.25 species per year being found is a kind estimate – it took the lowest possible number of current species with the maximum number of saved species such that the number of mutations (to create new species) would be low. What if we take the other end – with the most species, the smallest number of them on the ark, so 5% of 100 million, and 2,000 kinds:

(5 Million modern species – 2,000 Flood Species) ÷ (4,000 years)

= 1,249.5 species / year

= 3.4 species / day

3.4 species per day?  Um… OK.

Now, what is amazing about this argument about evolution is that it isn’t even consistent within the creationist community.  While Ken Ham talked about evolution within “kinds”, he later seemed to discount that even this kind of evolution exists in a later argument.  In this argument, he pointed to a scientist who, through manipulation of the environment of a solution of e-coli, caused those e-coli to evolve.  By doing what we say evolution will do, which is to take random genetic mutations, which are then chosen by natural selection, he created a new species of e-coli.   You can find a link to the experiment here.

You would think that this would be something creationists would hold onto as proof, because it shows evolution happening very quickly.  And clearly, it needs to happen quickly for the earth to be so young.  Yet, other creationists, including a molecular biologist, have criticized this.  They have actually said that the changes aren’t evolutionary.

Why would creationists do this, as it seems like it would prove their point? I think this gets to the fundamental problem with the worldview.  While these educated creationists are, in theory, willing to accept certain scientific principles as described in tenet #1, the majority of their audience, the uneducated creationists, aren’t, and so even the educated ones go immediately to tenet #2 and tenet #3 – they attack the scientists for making such a claim by stating other claims in the past have been proven false, and claiming that these scientists who have demonstrated e-coli evolution are simply using a secular definition, and are hijacking the term for evolution.

Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the problems creationists have.  You can look at other wild claims they have made for the ark story to be true, but don’t hold up.  For example, the world was flooded for almost a year according to the story.  However, that would have killed essentially every plant, and every seed of every plant, and Noah didn’t stock a bunch of plants.  So, how can we have trees that are over 6,000 years old and one Bill Nye described which appears to be 9500 years old, if it was under water?  The Bible says that all animals were vegetarians before the great Flood.  That certainly is convenient because it would be really difficult to have carnivores on the Ark for a year.  But they all of a sudden became carnivores through a rapid evolution only after the Flood?  Why?  Kangaroos are native to Australia.  If a Kangaroo ancestor was on the ark, and the ark was in the Middle East, how did it get to Australia?  They can’t swim.  Creationists postulate a land bridge.  Where is it?  Nobody has ever found one.  And the list goes on and on.

When faced with all this evidence, tenet #2 comes into play.  Because remember, in the worldview of creationism, we can’t look to the past – we can’t look at what we see now and make a prediction on the past. Ken Ham did what creationists do with tenet #2.  He said, “the majority of doctors used to think you could perform surgery on one person and then deliver a baby on another person without washing your hands in between, and now we know that’s not true.” He pointed to an elementary school book in the late 19th century that talked about “5 distinct races (species) of human beings, with Caucasians being the most advanced”, where today we know that there is only one.  Scientists were wrong in the past; therefore you can’t trust it now.

And, this incorrect knowledge that scientists have disseminated in the past leads right into tenet #3 – that scientists are pursing their own dogma (i.e. a religion) and crowding out critical thinking (i.e. creationism is true science).  I felt Bill Nye knocked this one down easily, because as he pointed out, the minority opinion in science is welcomed, because scientists actually like being wrong.  This was clearist in the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson.  This has been the Holy Grail for particle physicists, yet just before the announcement, many particle physicists, those that strongly believed in the math behind the theory of the Higgs boson, were hoping that it wouldn’t be found – they were actively hoping to be wrong.  The idea that science just dismisses all minority views out of hand is simply not backed up by historical data.  It’s true that it might be derided for a long time, but scientists are constantly hoping to be wrong.

In summary, this was a good debate.  No minds were changed, because again, creationists aren’t interested in learning they might be wrong.  For me it was educational as I actually learned how the modern creationist thinks, and I think it is important to understand the thought process so that we aren’t just being snarky when dismissing them.