Louisiana Creationism: Incurable Stupidity

This video — Crazed Senatorial Questioning — is only one minute long, but it’s definitely worth a look. We would have embedded it, but the visible title is inappropriate for this blog. When you click on the link you won’t see it.

The video is from the 2012 effort to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, and we mentioned this event at the time, in Louisiana Creationism Repeal: Hearing Report, where we said:

A retired biology teacher spoke for repeal, and she was interrogated by some creationist who was probably a member of the legislature. He asked her for an experiment that “proves” evolution. She talked about the fossil record, and how evolution predicts the types of fossils that will be found at each level, and then she mentioned an experiment involving generations of E. coli, in which some evolved to be able to digest various substances introduced into their isolated environments. The guy questioning her asked if they had evolved into a human or remained bacteria. Brilliant!

The genius questioning the pro-evolution witness is Senator Mike Walsworth. That’s his page at the legislature’s website. Wikipedia has an entry for him: Mike Walsworth, and it mentions the magic moment displayed in the video:

As a science teacher described Richard Lenski’s decades-long study with E. coli bacteria which froze some and allowed others to evolve, Senator Walsworth asked whether any of them evolved into human beings.

There’s nothing new here, but it’s a slow news weekend, and this is just too crazy to ignore.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “Louisiana Creationism: Incurable Stupidity

  1. Watch the reaction of the people in the audience, especially those in the front row. Priceless.

  2. Louisiana Senator Mike Walsworth is simply repeating a standard village-idiot creationist challenge in slightly modified form. Usually it’s “Show me a monkey turning into a man.”

    Of course if anyone actually could show him any such thing, either he’d say it was a trick or (if he were a bit smarter) point out that such a transformation proves nothing about evolution since Darwinian theory predicts no such instant metamorphosis. (Actually, I suspect he isn’t smart enough or well enough informed to make the latter point.)

  3. the really scary thing is that the people in Washington aren’t any less ignorant and have much more dangerous agendas.

  4. He asked her for an experiment that “proves” evolution. She talked about the fossil record…

    And that, folks, is why the creationism/ID scam still exists in 2014. What she needed to say was:

    “I’ll be glad to tell you the minute you tell me exactly what alternate ‘theory’ you have in mind, and all its ‘what happened when’ claims that differ from those of mainstream science, and support each and every one on its own ‘convergence, neither sought nor fabricated’ of evidence, not your perceived ‘weaknesses’ in anything else.”

    He would then attempt to do everything but answer the question. So after a minute or so of his babbling, she needed to interrupt him with: “Thank you for demonstrating what really ‘proves’ evolution!”

  5. Exactly correct Frank! I use a similar tactic. I tell them evilution is 100% wrong, Now you tell me about all your experiments and evidence for an alternative that works better? Waiting. Waiting. Still waiting!!!

  6. I would love to laugh at Louisiana. I really would. But unfortunately, those in glass houses can’t throw stones, and my state keeps electing similar imbeciles. *shakes head*

  7. @KaylaSueWho You may as well laugh. Most of the rest of the country is the same way.

  8. Her best answer would have been, “Well, no, Senator, none of these e. coli evolved into a person. The experiment wasn’t funded for a long enough time for that to have happened. Now, if you would like to propose additional funding, we’ll see what we can do.”

    It’s hard to believe that the citizens of Louisiana have entrusted this df to write laws for them to follow.

  9. Frank J: Your suggested response works unless he retorts with some form of “Vee vill esk der kvestions!”, which he would be entitled to do, in that forum. She’s the testator, not him.

    No. If they ask for evidence, the answer is to sigh patiently, and start piling scientific papers on the desk in front of you. “This one shows that e-coli bacteria evolve to take advantage of random changes in the environment.” “This one demonstrates that the hawthorn maggot fly has diverged into different species to take advantage of the introduction of the apple tree into North America”. “This one is about the radiation of mosquitoes to fit conditions in the London Underground”. “Here is a description of the radial diversity of species of cichlid in African lakes”. “Here we have a whole series of papers on the development of the mammalian middle ear structures showing a seamless transition from bones in the reptilian jaw.”

    And so on. They want evidence, evidence we got. Let them ask, and let them see the question blow up in their faces. But for this we need to be prepared. We need to understand that they really are this ignorant. Scientists, science teachers frequently don’t get this. An assertion of virulent ignorance and prejudice like this one often flummoxes them. Well, we can’t be flummoxed.

    To do the lady credit, she wasn’t, at first. But when he came out with “Did they become a person?” her jaw dropped, as did yours, as did mine. But that won’t do. What had to follow was “No, e-coli didn’t. But Homo habilis did, evolving from Homo erectus, and that in turn from earlier forms, and here’s the evidence for that! (Further papers piled on desk).

    That is, if answering idiots is what is required, then be prepared for idiots.

  10. DL is right. When an IDiot or other creacrapper asks for evidence the first thing I point out is that he/she apparently is not capable of googling “observed speciation.” Then I provide five links or so. Of course that doesn’t convince them, but they either get silent or back down.

  11. I’ll bet the science teacher, after having her gob thoroughly smacked, had a rude one of these.

  12. @Con-Tester: Good word!

  13. @Dave Luckett: Good answer. To be even more impressive, as soon as the senator asks for proof, she says, “Why, yes, Senator. Glad you asked!”

    She then waves toward the hearing room door, and a continuous stream of aides enter with handcarts stacked with cartons upon cartons of papers, completely inundating the senator’s desk. She adds, “Let me know if you have any further questions after reading these peer-reviewed papers.”

  14. Dave Luckett: “And so on. They want evidence, evidence we got. Let them ask, and let them see the question blow up in their faces.”

    If by “blow up in their faces” you mean impress some fence-sitters (aka “the swing vote”), that happens sometimes, especially if the interrogator is a trained parrot and not an experienced pseudoscience-peddler. But even some trained parrots sometimes use that evidence to gish-gallop to another misconception, and so on, so that the net effect is that most fence-sitters are more impressed with the misleading but catchy anti-evolution sound bites, and not the technical rebuttals.

    Besides, the perfect retort to “Vee vill esk der kvestions,” is “That question has been asked and answered 1000x, so look it up!” But even if one gives them the undeserved courtesy of an answer some of the time, there’s no need to do it all of the time.

    With a little effort one can always get these people to make the bald-faced lie “dissenting” scientists are “expelled” from developing their alternate “theory.” To which one only needs to say “Howard Ahmanson and other very rich evolution-deniers have deep pockets, go ask them to fund the research.” Sooner or later, nearly everyone who takes the Ten Commandments seriously will see that ID/creationism is a scam.

  15. I often speak of “fence-sitters” or “swing vote” because they constitute up to half of adult Americans, and yet are almost always ignored as if they don’t exist. The rest will already either accept evolution, or deny it regardless of evidence or argument, so nothing changes no matter how impressed they are with the arguments from “their side.” By “fence sitter” I mean not only the growing % that claims to be unsure of evolution (when the poll question gives that option) but also those who “lean” for or against.

    Unfortunately most fence-sitters don’t know, if they vaguely know, don’t appreciate, how science works: Namely, how overarching explanations (like the theory of evolution) and conclusions (like ~4 billion years of common descent with modification, aka the fact of evolution) are “built” on many pieces of evidence, in these cases, from multiple independent lines of evidence, and not “proved” by that “one dramatic piece of evidence.” When someone asks for that “smoking gun” they either don’t understand how science works, or they do, and are in on the scam. Answering such questions are a catch-22. Those in the audience with the time or interest to fully appreciate the answer will almost always already accept evolution. The rest need a sound bite as pithy as those of the scam artists. One that unequivocally shows fence-sitters which side is running a scam.

  16. I vaguely recall a poll which showed that the general public misunderstands the size of the consensus among scientists regarding billions of years of evolution.

    And I also can report by personal observation that there are people who will say things like, “Scientists believe in relativity because Einstein said so”.

  17. There would be no offense in calling the senator a blockhead

  18. Actually, there’d be grave offence to Real Blockheads™ everywhere. You know, those capable of remembering to breathe while they’re walking. 😉

  19. The only case that I am aware of when someone confronted a senator in a hearing, and won, was Joseph N. Welch, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

  20. @ Con-Tester and I will not offend the Real Blockheads. Can I call the senator an ignoramus?

  21. “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
    Mark Twain

  22. Evidence isn’t what they really want. One several occasion when I have patiently explained the flaw in the irreducible complexity “probability” argument and my expertise in the subject, I have been called a liar. They don’t want evidence, they want validation, and anyone who doesn’t give it to them is wrong.