The Stupid-Driven Life — Part IV

THIS is the latest in our “Stupid Driven” series, in which we offer disconnected observations we’ve made while reporting on The Controversy between evolution and creationism. These pearls are sometimes taken from our earlier articles, but all of them were inspired by reading and analyzing the “work” of creationists.

For earlier episodes in this thrilling series, see: Part I, followed by Part II, and then Part III. Okay, here we go:

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You can often spot a cultist by his jargon. They usually refer to others by using some insiders’ term that means “not like us.” We noticed an example in this article from Alabama’s Mobile Press-Register: Well-known evolution defender to make his argument at UAB. The title alone is sufficient, but one brief excerpt will further illustrate our point. We’ll use bold to emphasize the jargon:

Author and renowned evolution defender Kenneth R. Miller will see how his message plays in the Bible Belt when he presents the lecture “Darwin, God, & Design: America’s Continuing Problem With Evolution” Nov. 5 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

That’s analogous to calling a physics professor a “gravity defender,” or a medical school professor a “germ theory defender.”

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When a creationist babbles about “the odds” against life, or DNA, or any complex structure appearing as a result of “random” forces, that’s their ever-popular strawman — the Theory of Spontaneous Assembly of Very Complex Molecules from Start to Finish from Utterly Isolated Atoms — commonly known as TSAVCMSFUIA.

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A creationist asserts that because everything needs a cause, logic requires us to believe that his magical Designer must have initially caused things to happen. But he then insists that his Designer needs no cause, and he brushes aside the glaring inconsistency by deploying his all-purpose contradiction nullifier: Ah, but that’s different!

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If ignorance had mass, the Discovery Institute would be a black hole.

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Most kook arguments — including creationism but also many political claims — fail to cross the threshold of the arena for rational discourse. The rational mind blocks out trash by imposing a burden of proof on all claims, which has two stages: (a) The one who raises an issue has the initial burden of coming forward with credible (i.e., objectively verifiable) evidence that actually supports his claim; and (b) if he accomplishes that and gets into the arena, he has the far greater burden of producing sufficient persuasive evidence to make a convincing argument. But creationists — and ideologically-motivated kooks in general — never get past the first step.

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Why do you debate with creationists? Do you argue with squeegee men at intersections? Obscenity-spouting winos staggering down the street? Dumpster divers? Napoleons in mental wards?

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Getting science information from a creationist website is like getting a recipe from Jeffrey Dahmer’s cookbook.

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There are at least three issues to be dealt with in arguing that ours is a designed universe: (1) One way to determine if the fundamental laws of the universe were designed would be to compare them with those in some other universe that isn’t designed, which we cannot do. (2) If everything within the universe were designed, there would be no way to determine this, as there would be nothing un-designed to use for comparison. (3) Finally, even if this universe were designed, it behaves in every particular as if it were the result of natural causes, so the issue of design is utterly irrelevant.

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When your highest source of knowledge comes from your inner feelings, what have you got? Can this “information” take us to the moon? Cure cancer? Build better computers? What does it do, except give you the warm, cozy feeling that you “know” something?

[Next in this series: Part V.]

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “The Stupid-Driven Life — Part IV

  1. When I grow up I’m going to be a frozen tundra defender.

    Arguing with creationists serves purposes that are not applicable to dumpster divers and winos who do not have the cultural influence and political power many creationists wield. The primary purpose is to present creationist arguments as unfounded assertions in an arena where people perched on the fence and young adults just forming their own value system can be convinced to trust in their own doubts and form logical informed questions about religion.

  2. About the “two stages” for rational discourse.

    There is a prior stage, which is so obvious that it usually is so automatically recognized that it goes without mentioning. Yet the creationists are famous for avoiding that.

    If you want to have a discussion about a hypothesis, or even a half-baked wild speculation, you have to have something of substance to discuss.

    The creationists do not have something of substance to discuss. Nothing positive: only, “something, somehow, somewhere is wrong with evolution.”

  3. Tundra Boy says: “Arguing with creationists serves purposes that are not applicable to dumpster divers and winos …”

    Yes, the purpose is different, but the results are the same. I encourage speaking to and writing for the benefit of educable audiences, but arguing face-to-face (or online) with a full-blown creationist is ridiculous.

  4. TomS says: “If you want to have a discussion about a hypothesis, or even a half-baked wild speculation, you have to have something of substance to discuss.”

    True. Mere denial isn’t much of an argument.

  5. A creationist asserts that because everything needs a cause, logic requires us to believe that his magical Designer must have initially caused things to happen. But he then insists that his Designer needs no cause, and he brushes aside the glaring inconsistency by deploying his all-purpose contradiction nullifier: Ah, but that’s different!

    A variation on a theme that I summarize with the story about the world borne on the backs of turtles, standing upon the backs of turtles….. and so one, until someone asks the unpleasant question about what the bottom-most turtle is stand on….

    “That’s the Turtle of Special Pleading….

  6. Thanks for the lolz, Curmie!

  7. Longie says: “… the Turtle of Special Pleading….”

    But Longie, logic demands that there must be such a turtle!

  8. The Curmudgeon notes

    …even if this universe were designed, it behaves in every particular as if it were the result of natural causes, so the issue of design is utterly irrelevant

    One can go further: 99.9% of all known species that have existed on this planet are now extinct. Nearly all (or perhaps even all) of the species we see around us today will, in time, become extinct (the average ‘lifespan’ of a species, from first appearance to extinction, is about 10 m years).

    Somehow, none of this really suggests either a Designer nor a one-off Design Event.

  9. longshadow: “That’s the Turtle of Special Pleading….“

    Bah. It is irrational to think that the “turtle of special pleading” – or any turtle – can rest on nothing.

    Creationists everywhere get it – they understand that the philosophical point “all turtles must rest on something” means they are fully justified in arguing that there must be an elephant at the bottom of the stack…

  10. Gabriel Hanna

    @SCGetting science information from a creationist website is like getting a recipe from Jeffrey Dahmer’s cookbook.

    I disagree. Jeffery Dahmer probably knew how to cook people and his cookbook would contain actual recipes, though you wouldn’t want to try them.

    The creationist cookbook turns out to be a dictionary, or a Harlequin romance, but never actually contains any recipes.

    @LongShadow: that I summarize with the story about the world borne on the backs of turtles, standing upon the backs of turtles….. and so one, until someone asks the unpleasant question about what the bottom-most turtle is stand on….

    “That’s the Turtle of Special Pleading….“

    You’re very clever young man, VERY clever, but it’s TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN!

  11. Great Claw says: “… 99.9% of all known species that have existed on this planet are now extinct.”

    That’s because of the Fall. Don’t you know anything?

  12. > eric // 20-October-2009 at 3:44 pm

    longshadow: “That’s the Turtle of Special Pleading….“

    Bah. It is irrational to think that the “turtle of special pleading” – or any turtle – can rest on nothing.

    Creationists everywhere get it – they understand that the philosophical point “all turtles must rest on something” means they are fully justified in arguing that there must be an elephant at the bottom of the stack…

    Okay, I revise my comment to be: “The ELEPHANT of Special Pleading”

    😉

  13. Ah Stupid. A most delicious flavor.

  14. I don’t know, varied reasons… but I do like this site alot. I really like Curmudgeons style and observations and it is now a weekly stop. But, man why the hatred towards someone with different beliefs? ex.–Why do you debate with creationists? Do you argue with squeegee men at intersections? Obscenity-spouting winos staggering down the street? Dumpster divers? Every Chistian is not that sad. I guess the diss is a main focal of TSC and probably why I found this site, but come on. I don’t look down my nose at anyone and the worst I say to Nons is …Well, I feel you are missing out on something because you haven’t tried it.

  15. Curmudgeon: “That’s analogous to calling a physics professor a ‘gravity defender,’or a medical school professor a ‘germ theory defender’.”

    I notice their increased use in recent years of “Darwinists”. But oddly not “Newtonists.”

    TomS: “The creationists do not have something of substance to discuss. Nothing positive: only, ‘something, somehow, somewhere is wrong with evolution’.”

    Some groups still claim that different “kinds” originated independently (though almost always carefully avoiding stating it in useful scientific terms), and a subset of them even claim that those blessed events all occurred mere 1000s of years ago. But as you know such claims are getting scarce, and more vague than ever if mentioned at all. Nowadays it’s almost exclusively about throwing anything at evolution that will “stick”. Even if it contradicts something else that has been thrown.

    If you let them talk enough, though, it’s clear that their real objection to evolution is the fear that acceptance of it leads to all sorts of bad behavior. As if “Expelled” leaves any doubt.

  16. Anonymous: “But, man why the hatred towards someone with different beliefs?”

    I can’t speak for SC or any other critic of ID/creationism, but I do not hate even the anti-evolution activists, let alone the rank and file creationists they exploit. What I despise is what the former are doing – spreading misinformation that I suspect they do not even personally believe.

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    I’d second Frank here. I hate the lies, but not the liars. I feel sorry for the dupes; but not sorry enough that I don’t humiliate them with their scientific ignorance whenever they give me the opportunity.