You know how we feel about debating creationists, which we explained in Debating Creationists is Dumber Than Creationism. It warms our Curmudgeonly heart to see that the tactics against which we warn have a long history.
Take a look at this article in Scientific American: Wallace’s Woeful Wager: How a Founder of Modern Biology Got Suckered by Flat-Earthers. It’s not only a delight to read, it’s also very educational, because the experience of Wallace in dealing with flat-Earthers is pretty much what one can expect today if he is foolish enough to have any interaction with creationists.
We know you’re going to read the entire Scientific American article, so we don’t need to provide many excerpts. Here are just a few, which will encourage you to click over there. We added some bold font for emphasis:
In January of 1870, Alfred Russel Wallace found himself on a collision-course with a group of creationists who fervently believed the earth is flat. The father of biogeography, co-discover of the theory of evolution by natural selection, seems an unlikely sort to be mixed in with religious fanatics on a question of geography settled since the 3rd century BC. Why was such a venerable 19th century man of science accepting wagers from flat-earthers regarding the shape of our planet? Simply put: It looked like easy money.
So it begins. Then we learn about Samuel Birley Rowbotham:
Known as Parallax, he was a Biblical literalist, young earth creationist, and quack who believed in a flat, disc-shaped Earth. The North Pole stood at its center, and that was it; in his cosmology, there was no such beast as a South Pole. He backed his contentions with bad math, bogus experiments, and Bible verses. He revived the ancient flat-earth idea and gave it a modern patina of “science,” then used the result to stir up controversy for cash.
Through a series of Rowbotham’s disciples, we come to John Hampden, about whom we’re told:
Like our modern creationists, John Hampden looked on in horror as the masses slurped up all the science they could hold, including the round-earth heresy. He made it his mission to eradicate such ideas from the public consciousness, even when his bombastic techniques horrified his flat-earth grandfather Parallax. Sounding like the Borg of Hampden, he declared that spherical earth theories had to go: “All further resistance is useless.” And he was willing to wager his money on it.
He published the terms of his wager (we’ve seen creationists do the same thing), and then:
Poor Wallace, like [Sir Charles] Lyell, thought that Hampden only needed to be shown some proof in order to accept the plain fact that the earth is round. He knew nothing of Hampden and his ilk, or he may never have accepted the wager. But in addition to wanting to win a cool £500, he believed “that a practical demonstration would be more convincing than the ridicule with which such views are usually met.” He was about to find out that practical demonstrations have absolutely no effect on these truest of true believers.
And that’s when the fun begins. Except for the motivation of winning £500, Wallace’s naïveté reminds us of Bill Nye. Surely you see the analogy.
We’re not going to tell you any more about it, because we know you’re going to read the article for yourself. It’s the best thing we’ve seen in a long time on the subject of debating with charlatans and maniacs.
Also, as you know, because Wallace went crazy near the end of his life and wrote some stuff that seems congenial to the idea of an intelligent designer, the Discoveroids have adopted him as their intellectual founder (see Klinghoffer: “Alfred Wallace Is Ours!”) Poor Wallace — it seems to have been his unfortunate destiny to be abused by intellectual charlatans. He was scammed by flat-Earthers in his lifetime, and he gets no rest even now.
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