Sunday, September 23, 2007

Absolutely spot on

I wouldn't usually create a post just to link to a cartoon, but I'll make an exception in this case:

Click the picture to make it more readable. And don't forget to Digg it here.

Favorite part: "Step five: The line between education and ignorance grows ever more indistinct." And that what's so galling about ID. It is screwing with our children's education to further a bizarre right-wing ideological cause.

~ Ste

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Library of Congress (maybe a tiny little bit)

Ok, so no - I haven't made the trip to Washington DC to sneakily run about reshelving junk science. Nor have I hacked into the Library of Congress (LoC) computer system to reclassify stuff. No. What I have been doing is talking via email with some very helpful and responsive staff of the LoC to determine why in bookstores, local libraries, and in the LoC itself, some intelligent design books are in science, while others are in religion/teleology/etc. - and how I can go about changing this.

This has the potential to get to the core of the bookstores apparent confusion...

I decided to focus my initial efforts at first on Behe's two books (LoC full records are here and here [links broken - LoC Control Numbers 96000695 and 2007298379, search at]). I asked that since there is a separate classification for creation science (BS651), why are two prominent Intelligent Design books, classified as biological science (in the 'QH's). The response was enlightening:

"The class number is based on the first subject heading, and subject cataloging/classification is subjective. We also catalog books based on what they indicate they are. They may not have presented themselves as books on creationism."

So if Darwin's Black Box was presented to the LoC as a scientific critique of evolution, and the book appears
to be science, then it is taken as such. One of the hallmarks of ID and creationism is the scientific obfuscation they engage in, trying to pass off their personal beliefs as hard science, and gain scientific credibility in the process. Has creationism been successful in sneaking into our public libraries and stores as science via this route?

I pointed out to our friendly librarian that these books are indeed creationism, and asked how I could go about getting the reclassified. This was the response:

"We catalog it as the book tends to indicate it is. We do not go back unless we are totally wrong based on the book itself. What does this book indicate? If it indicates it is a hard science, then that's how we treat it. ... Unless there is evidence in the book itself that the 1st, most important topic is creationism, what we have stands. And it must be about creationism itself, not tangentially related."

Since Behe's Darwin's Black Box was at the forefront of the resurgence of creationism, and concludes God is at work, therefore is not science - I am confident Behe's books meet these criteria. I argue my case to the librarian and he forwards our conversation upstairs to the Cataloging Policy & Support Office of the Library of Congress. I feel like I am getting somewhere!

A few weeks later I get a response:

"In 2006, the Library of Congress established a new classification number in the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) at QH367.3 for "Critical works" on evolution. The scope note says, "Class here works that argue against the theory of evolution." Behe's most recent work, "The edge of evolution : the search for the limits of Darwinism" (2007) was just classed in that number."

This makes sense as to why we find Behe's new book in science in libraries and bookstores, though I am far from happy. A special classification has been created within science:biology (the 'QH's) for works critical of evolution. One would think that books in this class would be critical of evolution from a scientific standpoint, not a religious, theological, or philosophical one. But, according to the LoC, if it's about science, it goes in Science.


"A 1996 book, "Darwin's black box : the biochemical challenge to evolution" was classed in QH325, "Origin and beginnings of life" at that time. LC's copy of that book is currently in circulation, but we intend to examine it when it is returned to see if it should be reclassed to QH367.3 or another appropriate classification."

Well, I might have done some good here afterall. Behe's Darwin's Black Box is currently classed as "Molecular Evolution" and "Evolution (biology)", with no mention at all of its real subject. The LoC CPSO is going to see if it deserves to be a part of this new class.

Creationism is sneaking in the back door to sit side-by-side with science. I feel that a new class number within science is not only wrong, but more than a little bit disingenuous. Does anyone know who was behind this new classification of ID books?

I encourage all readers to independently contact the LoC about this issue. Here is a link to "Ask a librarian" for science and technology. When you ask a question you have to sign in and your questions and conversations with librarians are all saved. It's all rather good and easy to use. I have found these people to be polite, patient, and responsive, also. Go for it!

Anyway, that's all I have for now. Happy reshelving.

~ Ste


Someone has got the same bee in their bonnet as we do it seems. Excellent:

"...we feel strongly that categorizing Intelligent Design (“ID”) as science is both inappropriate and misleading. Local bookstores and libraries unintentionally exacerbate this misleading categorization when they shelve ID books and legitimate science texts in the same section . Our goal is to convince the U.S. Library of Congress to re-classify ID books into sections other than the science section."

Sign the petition:

For the scientists among us

For the informed citizenry among us

~ Ste

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Please discuss...

Why are some creationist books found in science, while other are found in religion?

I've come across this kind of confusion before, with the books of the pseudoscientist William Dembski with No Free Lunch in science, and Intelligent Design appropriately shelved in religion. Why do some books incorrectly end up in science, while others are correctly placed in religion or philosophy? This is why these poor, confused bookstores need our help, but the underlying reasons for these inconsistencies need to be addressed also. Stay tuned for more.

~ Ste

Barnes & Noble, Tracy, CA

Ok, ok. I apologise. Before I complained about the lack of bookstores in the County of Orange. Relatively speaking, however, the citizens of The OC have it good compared to other parts of The Great State of California.

I find myself in Tracy, California. Tracy? Yeah. Go to California, find San Fransisco, then go east. Then east a bit more. East. Bingo. There is a grand total of two bookstores in the fine city of Tracy. Which should I choose? I could go to either "Libreria Cristiana Boutique Genesis" - which I think is Spanish for "Genesis Christian Bookstore", or a mysterious place of business called "Barnes & Noble". Since by definition all creationist books are religion, all intelligent design books will be correctly shelved in a bookstore called "Genesis". I also don't speak Spanish. Off I go to Barnes & Noble.

The science section:

A familiar pattern - Behe's two books are incorrectly shelved. Also eleven copies of Dawkins' The God Delusion are present. It looks like books railing against religion aren't too popular in rural California - surprise surprise. I boldly snatch the four copies of the comically bad The Edge of Evolution and the lone copy of Darwin's Black Box and helpfully moved to "Christian Inspiration", in correct alphabetical order, naturally.

A past poll on this blog determined that I should also be reshelving The God Delusion, as it is a book on God, and not science. It's not that it's pseudoscience - it's simply not science, but religion, or philosophy. I relocated two of the eleven copies to philosophy (perhaps "Theology" would have been more appropriate).

"Why just two copies?!, why not all of them?" you cry. Well, there was not enough room in the philosophy section for them all. This may sound like a lame excuse because it is. I was also a bit intimidated at wandering from on side of the store to the other with a stack of eleven very shiney silver hardback books with nowhere to put them, being eyed suspiciously by store employees. If any Tracy people want to help me out here then please go ahead and aid this bookstore.

~ Ste