Creationist Wisdom #610: A Bold Challenge

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa. It’s titled Put evolution theory up for debate. The newspaper has a comments feature, and so far the letter hasn’t been doing very well.

We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), but we have an exceptional situation here. The letter-writer is Steve Brouard, described at the end as having some association with the Quad-City Creation Science Association. We’ll give you a few excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Sid Machalek’s Aug. 16 letter mentions two court cases to justify the rejection of intelligent design for public schools.

He’s probably talking about this: Keep science in schools; creatonism [sic] in church. The two court cases it mentions are Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, and also McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education — a 1981 case challenging a “balanced treatment” law which mandated that creationism should be taught in public schools along with evolution.

It’s not surprising that creationists are furious whenever the courts apply the Constitution to preserve the separation of church and state, because creationists don’t like the Constitution. They prefer theocracy, so that Oogity Boogity is the law of the land, and it must be taught in schools. Okay, we know what has upset today’s letter-writer. This is what he says about it:

First, why does a scientific theory hide behind judges and the threats of lawsuits to justify itself? Free and open debate is what advances science and learning, by discussing the meaning of available evidence.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! There is so much wrong with that paragraph. First, science isn’t “hiding behind judges and the threats of lawsuits.” It’s perfectly capable of standing on its own, based on the evidence. It’s creationists who are trying to legislate their nonsense into places where it doesn’t belong. And of course, “free and open debate” is what science is all about — but because creationists have no evidence, there’s no reason to waste time in science class with their nonsense.

That was Steve Brouard’s first point. Let’s read on:

Second, the idea of a creator is not detrimental to science, but has been a benefit throughout history. Consider the following disciplines of science founded by creationists: Physics – Isaac Newton; Biology – John Ray; Microbiology – Louis Pasteur; Chemistry – Robert Boyle; Genetics – Gregor Mendel; etc.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! There is nothing — absolutely nothing — about Genesis or creationism in the scientific work of those men. Yes, they were religious, but their belief in the supernatural was irrelevant to their science. That was Steve Brouard’s second point. His letter continues:

Third, I agree science should be taught in science class. But, we should leave out falsehoods, including Haeckel’s fake embryonic drawings; Vestigial organs and junk DNA, now known to be active and useful; the debunked 98.8 percent similarity of chimp and human DNA, based on small fragments of DNA; and homology which is circular reasoning.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We’ve discussed all of those clunkers before — except “homology which is circular reasoning.” Wikipedia says that Homology refers to “the existence of shared ancestry between a pair of structures, or genes, in different species. … Evolutionary theory explains the existence of homologous structures adapted to different purposes as the result of descent with modification from a common ancestor.” Where’s the circular reasoning? Is it less circular to declare that such similarities are caused by an imaginary common designer?

That was Steve Brouard’s third point. Here’s more from the creationist letter-writer:

Fourth, evolution is a basis for theology – the religion of atheism. By faith, atheists believe the first cell popped into existence by itself and a jellyfish-like creature morphed into a T-Rex. There is no science for these beliefs – only speculation.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! But of course, there’s lots of scientific evidence for the doctrine that life and all of its genetically-linked variations were magically poofed into existence during Genesis week.

The creationist’s final point is in the last paragraph of his letter:

Fifth, as a defender of faith in evolution, how about a public debate? Enlist a professor from a local college to help. Eric Hovind will be in the Quad-Cities on Nov. 22-23. We formally challenge you to a public evolution/ID debate. Contact us at [phone number].

Oooooooooooooh — a challenge! Is anyone brave enough — or foolish enough — to step into the lion’s den? Probably not. So the Quad-City Creation Science Association will declare victory. And rightly so!

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #610: A Bold Challenge

  1. One argument that never seems to be made (or a question asked of IDers): if the universe is intelligently designed, how was it created? Now we know that their actual claim is that it was created via magic, but I don’t think they want to go down that path so it will be interesting to see them squirm on this hook. They keep telling us we don’t know how life started, we don’t know what caused the Big Bang, etc. Let them display the mechanisms by which their designer(s) implemented His, uh, the design. All they ever talk about is their “conclusion” of design and never address the mechanism of creation. I think they should teach this controversy! (C’mon, gang, let’s put on a show!)

  2. Asking Hovind questions might put him on the spot, but you have to be prepared as a group, with follow-ups. You have to be aware of the shifts, lies, prevarications and falsehoods that he’s used before, and have evidence to contradict them ready to hand.

    Will he use Daddy’s lie that the continent of Africa was scaled down 30-40% to make it fit South America, and thus provide evidence for tectonic plate theory? What about his nonsense about kangaroos retreating to Australia to get away from lions, on account of they’re more timid than gazelles? Will he try the same canards as Dad did about C-14, and hence, all radiometric dating?

    How about a flat statement of when Haeckel’s drawings were withdrawn from textbooks, to be replaced with equally convincing photographs – oh, fifteen, twenty years ago. Perhaps this moron’s ignorance of what constitutes vestigial structures, or what “junk DNA” actually means, and why the concept or its implication hasn’t been falsified, could also be tackled.

    Or Prof. T’s questions might be asked.

    But it requires ten or a dozen people prepared and organised.

  3. Creationists are always so confused. No one is telling them that they can’t believe whatever they like. If they want to believe that the tooth fairy is real, and want to tell their kids that, fine. What isn’t fine is for them to try to force schools to tell other people’s kids the tooth fairy is real. Why is that so difficult to understand?

  4. @Steve Ruis
    I gather that you are drawing attention to the fact that the only design that we know about is not enough to produce something. I can design a ten-mile high building, but that design does not result in any construction.

  5. I often tell the design adherents, OK, you have a designer; who was the builder?

  6. If I was a famous biologist, I would have an assistant contact them and dangle the possibility I would be willing to debate but that I’m concerned about a few issues. When they bite, you say privately say “your claim [choose one of their biggest whoppers] is obviously wrong. As long as you continue to make that claim we can’t talk about a debate. Make a public statement about why it’s wrong and we can talk about a debate.”
    If they’ll make that change, do it again… and again. This is all handled by assistants and back-channels so you never need to soil your good name. In the end you never need to engage them but you might be able get something out of them.

  7. AR. says: “If I was a famous biologist, I would have an assistant contact them and dangle the possibility I would be willing to debate …”

    The traditional response to a debate challenge is: “I don’t debate astrologers, or flat-Earthers, or UFO probe believers, or [etc.] and I don’t debate creationists either.”

  8. I agree with you, Curmy. In their audience’s view, nothing, NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING trumps their Bible. Furthermore, if they were educated enough to understand the science supporting evolution that a rational debater would present, they wouldn’t belong to the Quad-City Creation Science Association.

    But you have already, many times over, stated the best reason not to debate creationists — creationism is a religious belief, not swayed by debate. And science is furthered by evidence, not debate.

    Perhaps asking them to view with you Your Inner Fish about the discovery of tiktaalik, and then opening the session to a discussion would be beneficial. But a debate? Nope. Don’t play their game in their court with their referees.

  9. Crum> The traditional response to a debate challenge is:

    You misunderstand my post. You don’t debate them, you don’t even discuss it. You ask them for public concessions before you would even consider the idea of a debate. If they give one, ask for another, and another. Until they give up.
    You give nothing, and may get something.

  10. @Douglas E
    There are a couple of observations by Cicero, which are to that point – see Wikiquote.org article on Cicero, Academica 2.27.87 and De natura deorum 1.19

  11. 1. Facts aren’t open to free and public debate, 2+2=4 and no amount of debate is going to change that.

    2. These people are under the illusion that their misunderstanding of science is somehow science.

  12. This Steve Brouard character is resorting to the original tactics used by Henry Morris and Duane Gish; they want to pique scientists into a public debate in order to leverage the respectability of the scientists and get free publicity and money from ticket sales.

    Not one ID/creationist in the history of this movement has ever lifted a finger to learn the science or to do the hard work of developing a viable research program to test their own claims. They want to toss out truckloads of garbage, taunt scientists, and have everyone else running around in circles explaining why the garbage ID/creationists toss around is pure garbage. For every refutation they receive, they toss out another truckload of garbage.

    It’s a socio/political tactic attempting to get visibility, fame, and money by exploiting the scientific ignorance of their sectarian base. We are seeing similar baiting tactics by the county clerks and their lawyers in Kentucky at the moment. Nobody is discussing what the responsibilities of a government official entails when they take an oath of office and why they have those responsibilities. They still think that holding a government office empowers them to foist their religion onto others; they can’t separate their sectarian beliefs from their civic duties as a public official.

    These sectarians are totally ignorant about all sorts of things; including science, history, the US Constitution, the laws, and the fact that they are but one of thousands of sectarians within hundreds of religions that have been warring among themselves for centuries. Arguing with them is useless because all they rely on is the propaganda and erroneous information promulgated among themselves by their preachers and the echo chambers in their communities.

    Little do they understand what their freedom of religion actually means; who feeds and protects them, and the society that shields them from the rest of the world. Maybe if they could be scooped up and plunked down defenseless in the thick of the conflicts in the Middle East they might gain some appreciation of what they actually enjoy rather than constantly kvetching, in their characteristic maudlin fashion, about how mistreated they are.

  13. When you see a direct reference to a specific creationist salesman that also provides a date, it is reasonable to suspect that letters such as this are little more than an attempt to hijack a public forum for use as free ad space.

    The letter contains nothing that hasn’t be claimed or demanded before.

  14. By faith, atheists believe the first cell popped into existence by itself and . There is no science for these beliefs – only speculation.

    There isn’t even that, since no evolution supporter thinks the first cell “popped into existence” (there is a great deal of research going on as to how cells developed from the emergence of a symbiotic relationship among simpler structures–the mitochondria, for instance, even have their own DNA), let alone that “a jellyfish-like creature morphed into a T-Rex.” The latter sounds more like something out of the David Duchovny movie Evolution, not actual evolutionary theory.

  15. Whenever the name Hovind pops up I am reminded of

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/rosetta-stones/wallace-8217-s-woeful-wager-how-a-founder-of-modern-biology-got-suckered-by-flat-earthers/

    Different names, different faces, different times, same scams.

    SR insults me: “One argument that never seems to be made ….”
    Whenever someone pulls off a variation on Pailey’s Watchmaker I always ask which means the Grand Old Designer (blessed be His/Her/Its name) used and which procedures He/She/It followed. And as I’m a thoroughly unoriginal guy I got it from here:

    http://www.amazon.com/God-Age-Science-Critique-Religious/dp/0199697531

    Mutatis mutandis this applies to every single supernatural entity that is supposed to interact with our natural reality.

    TomS gets creative: ” can design a ten-mile high building”
    That won’t turn you into an immaterial entity no matter how hard you try.

  16. Our Curmudgeon, considering a challenge to debate Creationists, wonders

    Is anyone brave enough — or foolish enough — to step into the lion’s den?

    The metaphor here is seriously wrong: a gathering of Creationists can in no wise be likened to a ‘den of lions.’

    At best, they’re a ‘bowel of tapeworms’

  17. On reflection, other possible collective nouns for a group of Creationists can be proposed, viz.:

    an overweening pride of antlions

    or

    an iniquitous den of dungbeetles

  18. Feeling a bit dirty having Hovind within 150 miles. I need a shower.

  19. The theory of evolution has been and is being debated but creationists have no role in the process because scientists use evidence in these debates while creationists like evidence about as much as vampires like garlic.

  20. How come the debate topic proposed is always evolution? What about debating the positive evidence for and in favor of some form of special divine creation? Oh, wait, I know why…

  21. It has been proposed by FrankJ that, if they want to have a debate, that they first have a series of debates among to anti-evolution advocates to determine what sort of position is to be debated as the alternative: Young Earth, Old Earth, Intelligent Design, Omphalism, Geocentric; whether they are anti-:
    Big Bang, Cambrian Explosion, origin of life, natural selection: whether they accept evolution of species, families, classes, superphyla …; whether the important issue is the Ark and global flood, or morality, or the Bible, or human relationship with the rest of life, existence of God, …
    It is clearly unfair to expect a debater to touch on all varieties in a limited debate.

  22. Christine Janis

    “What about his nonsense about kangaroos retreating to Australia to get away from lions”

    Not gonna help —- the marsupial lions were much, much worse!

  23. @Christine: thanks, that’s scary. I’m surprised the kangaroos didn’t petition Noah to pick them up and take them back to Africa!

  24. TomS brings up an excellent idea;: “It has been proposed by FrankJ that ….”
    Oh, how I’d love to watch this. The Attack Gerbil vs. Ol’ Hambo, a classic! With Dawkins as moderator of course.

    @Abeastwood is surprised: the kangaroos did, but only got two signatures.