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

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Skylight Books, Los Angeles, 8/24/2007

I decide to branch out further in my quest for common sense in science shelving by visiting Skylight Books in Los Feliz, LA. Before entering the store I notice a cat curled up sleeping in the window. This turned out to be a good omen. Cats = Good. Independent bookstores = Good. Cats + Independent bookstores = Fan-bloody-tastic.

This was a small bookstore, so I wasn't surprised to find a small science section. However, not only did I not find a single Intelligent Design nonscience book, but it was packed with great books from Darwin to Gould, Dawkins to Mayr - along with some interesting-looking physics books. The only way you'd know creationism existed in this science section was an Ayala's Darwin's Gift: to Science and Religion.

So, I liked the cosy bookstore cat. I liked the intelligently-designed science section. I especially liked the organization of the store, placing "Nature/Science" next to "Lesbian". This resulted in a little lesbian-creep into science, with a compilation called The New Fuck You: Adventures in Lesbian Reading over the divider into "Science", next to Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee.

Not forgetting my mission to aid bookstores correctly shelve science, I helpfully pop this little lesbian gem into it's proper place.

Moving to the religion section, I saw another fine example of category-clashing, with "Erotica" slap-next to the "Religion/Mythology" shelves.

"Religion/Mythology" is equally well-stocked. The top two shelves are taken up with fairy tales (no comment), and all the ancient holy texts are present, as well as some fascinating tomes dealing with theology and mythology.

Only one ID book is present. The Case for Christ by our familiar friend Lee Strobel.

Since Strobel doesn't even claim to be science, and he always is present in "Religion", I have come to be fond of his non-pseudoscientific books. They are a reminder there is some sanity in this world.

Thoroughly pleased with Skylight books, I make a purchase and head up the road to a coffee shop with free wi-fi to document this successful mission. If you're in LA and want to buy a book - make a beeline to 1818 N. Vermont Avenue and support a great independent bookstore.

~ Ste

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Son Shines on BHB

Aug 16. Irvine, CA.

Having hunted down the elusive Ste (it took weeks, I wouldn't recommend trying it), I managed to convince him to mend his erring ways. Not reshelve books, you say? Hardly. I convinced him to give the clerks at B&N and Borders a well-deserved rest and try one of the other bookstores in OC. And what more natural place to start than the other end of the ID spectrum? We headed down to Sonshine Books in Irvine.

The Idea being, of course, to see how a Christian Bookstore might treat ID books. We were a tad startled by the size of the place, though they sell a good deal more than books. But a first pass through the store came up empty. Then we met Alex, a helpful clerk-cum-theologian who showed us the (small) Creation/Science section. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the creation science books are in the Creation/Science section. Kudos! These guys are shelving stuff the right way. But far from being lazy biologists, instead of calling it a days work, we took a closer look.

Aside from the accidental but fortunate framing of the photo (which suggests that Creation/Science is a cult or false teachings), the first noticeable feature of this section is the notable lack of books on intelligent design. Where'e Behe? Dembski? Down at the bottom there there's a Strobel book Ste previously found appropriately shelved in the religion section. But none of the big guns.

Just to make sure we weren't missing something, we checked over in bestsellers, but nada. Ste, wary of relinquishing editorial control, moved that last sentence. So don't hold me responsible if it should be above the photo.

Done wrestling over editorial control, we continued to wonder what was up with the lack of ID. My first thought, conspiracy theorist that I am, was that the Discovery Institute or the government or aliens were somehow specifically avoiding selling ID books in Christian bookstores, perhaps to establish a veneer of scientific credibility. But a quick check of the internet tubes finds ID being sold online in Christian bookstores. One can find Behe at, Dembski at, and even Campbell at the ever-fundamentalist Michigan State University Press ( no not that Campbell ). OK, OK, to preempt the hate mail and legal battles, I have no idea what other drivel msupress publishes. The point is, Christian booksellers sell ID. So much for conspiracy.

Why then, does Sonshine bookstore not sell the big ID books, the bestsellers, the authors that make it onto Colbert? The short answer is that it's anybody's guess. But, coming back to our friend Alex, we think there are one of two possibilities.

Alex, bless his little cotton socks, endured 10 minutes of conversation with us. And it became clear from talking to him that he wasn't a fan of ID. Though he seemed a conservative Christian, he didn't think there was a conflict between science and religion. One can't test, he posited, whether God is constantly creating. One can't test that the world was created, exactly as we observe it today, 10 minutes ago. He didn't seem at all put off to find out that we were biologists (yes, me too!), and didn't seem to find much conflict between religion and science. In fact, he was rather hostile to the mention of ID or creation science -- anything that tries to mix the two. While he's only a clerk at the store, his attitude was suggestive of the possibility that the store has intentionally avoided ID because of it bastardization of both science and religion. If that's the case, we give Sonshine Books a big two BHB thumbs up!

There is another possibility, one Ste and I personally think the more likely explanation. After perusing the bookstore for some while, it became clear that manliness was an important theme. There were separate sections for boys, teens, and men (we checked, but Dembski wasn't in the boys section either), and gobs of literature about a man's duty to the Lord. As this idea was just occurring to us, the manliest macho evidence possible sprung into being in front of us:

Clearly, these people take machismo seriously. Is it possible, then, that Behe and Demsbki are just not man enough for Sonshine Books? I leave it to you, good reader, to debate this issue. But when considering Intelligent Design, as the mighty Chuck Norris would say "Not in our homes. Not with our kids."