Easter Weekend Free Fire Zone

This being a holiday weekend, the creationists are quiescent. News of The Controversy is virtually non-existent — at least so far.

Well, we did find one letter-to-the-editor, but it doesn’t qualify for our collection. It seems to have been written by a 12-year-old, but who knows? It appears in the Olney Daily Mail of Olney, Illinois (population 8,631), known for its population of white squirrels. The letter has no title, other than Dear Editor. The newspaper has a comments feature, but although the letter showed up about 24 hours ago, there aren’t any comments yet.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Max. His letter speaks for itself, so there’s no need for us to add any bold font or the usual Curmudgeonly commentary:

I do not believe in the “big bang theory” that says we all evolved from the big bang that created the earth. Then a single cell which evolved into the ocean, into a little creature, that evolved legs and climbed out of the ocean and all creation (both human and animal and all products of evolution), evolved. I don’t believe that at all!

I believe the Bible, that tells how God created the earth and all creatures. And created all the species of the earth both living and dead (such as fossil species, etc.)

I believe the Bible, both King James and the NIV. It is the infallible word of God.

After some bible quotes, the letter ends like this:

My sins have all been washed clean by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.

Saved by grace,
[Max’s name]

P.S. I have read the Catholic version of the Bible some, and I also believe that the words in the Catholic Bible can lead you to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s all we could find, so we’ll have to entertain ourselves. Therefore, we hereby declare another Intellectual Free-Fire Zone. We’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, or even astrology, theology, mythology, and sociology — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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29 responses to “Easter Weekend Free Fire Zone

  1. I often read it’s not worth debating with creationists in the wild. I disagree. remember: these are voters, and America is in a place where national politicians daren’t mention evolution (unless to disparage it), and people with all kinds of weird anti-scientific opinions stand for election to school boards. I don’t think I’m about to convert anyone, but it’s important they realise it’s NOT all perfectly simple that 1. evolution and anthropogenic climate change are a grand atheist/satanic conspiracy, 2. teaching evolution leads to school massacres, 3. us regular folks know better than people who study these technical subjects professionally. We all can and should marshall facts that amply refute these all-pervasive myths.

  2. Seen From Space: “I often read it’s not worth debating with creationists in the wild. I disagree.”

    Depends on what you mean. If you accept a challenge to “debate” a skilled anti-evolution activist in the venue of his (it’s never a her) choice, it’s at best a waste ot time. As SC says, you’ll be “bringing a slide rule to a knife fight.” Trying to change the mind of a committed Biblical literalist one-on-one is very different, but also usually time wasted, Best you can do there is politely remind them that other Biblical literalists have very different belief than they do regarding the age of life, who’s related to what, etc.

    What’s best is to politely ask questions of an apparent evolution-denier, with an audience present. Ask detailed “what happened when” questions about their “theory.” Do not dwell on correcting long-refuted “weaknesses” of evolution, and never, ever say that there’s no creator or designer (ultimate causes are unfalsifiable). In particular, don’t let them get away with the common false dichotomy (either God did it this way, or nature did it that way). With that approach you’ll quickly find whether you’re dealing with an activist (or one “in training”) or just one who has been confused by years of catchy, but misleading sound bites. Either way, most apparent deniers these days are trained to keep the subject on “weaknesses” of evolution, and away from the fatal flaws and embarrassing contradictions of the popular pseudoscientific alternatives. And most will eventually show that their real objection to evolution has nothing to do with perceived lack of evidence, and everything to do with their fear of what would happen if the “masses” accept it. The audience will soon see which side is trying to hide something, and trying to play a “heads I win tails you lose” game.

  3. Let’s forget about science for a moment; it’s baffling the number of people who have such a terrible understanding of history that they don’t realize the connection between Christianity and Catholic Church.

  4. @ Mark G.

    Terrifying isn’t it?

  5. “it’s not worth debating with creationists in the wild”
    Depends on what you want to get of it. I agree with FJ it’s a waste of time if you want to convince the other side. That’s not going to happen, neither on stage nor on internet.
    But I disagree that it’s best to politely ask questions. Not that I dismiss this strategy; there is a place for it as well. But what I want to get out of it is fun. Nasty fun, sure, but fun. So I think it’s best to make them look as stupid as possible and then mock them mercilessly. Indeed, ao thanks to several suggestions of our very own SC, I’ve got many a BWAHAHAHAHA! from internet debates.
    Of course that’s not a good idea on stage; the audience will take side with whom they perceive as the underdog. I share many, but not all objections SC and others have made. But if you feel the urge to do it you should take Bill Nye as your role model. Ie you must not be a scientist (that would give such a debate an undeserved respectability). but in general understand what you’re talking about. Then basically neglect what the creacrapper says, explain the scientific method, some relevant concepts (especially the Big Bang and evolution) and show how science has drawn some conclusions. SC’s objection is that Ol’ Hambo now brags about the debate, but I yet have to meet the first creationist who claims he won. At the other hand I’m afraid that Lawrence Krauss (first mistake: he’s a scientist) against Stephen Meijer was a setback. According to PZ the latter understood the discussed topics better than the first.
    In my view the basic problem is this. Scientists are trained to be intellectually honest. Creationists are trained to be intellectually dishonest, which gives them an advantage. So anyone debating a creationist must be prepared for it and know in advance how to expose that intellectual dishonesty. As it’s not part of a scientific training I suspect that’s why it prepares them so badly.

  6. And how recent are the beliefs that they take for granted, and how few the number of Christians who agree with them. Such as: The Bible doesn’t say anything about unchanging species.

  7. As Cdesign Proponentsists favour using analogies for their arguments (largely because they have no data to offer instead), I have been trying to come up with a suitable analogy to illustrate the absurdity of another form of argument so beloved by creationists, viz., the Teleological Argument.

    Specifically, I want an analogy that shows how a telelogical perspective simply ignores the expanse of deep time, and how terribly recent is the appearance of H. sapiens on this planet. To suppose that 3,800,000,000 years of life on earth–during the course of which, 99.9% of species have gone extinct–was somehow guided by an Intelligent Designer for the sake of bringing forth humanity 200,000 years ago seems quite a stretch. We’ve only been around for 0.005% of the lifetime of the earth and–given our history–it would be a brave gambler who’d wager on our species still being here in another 200 years, never mind a further 200,000.

    The best analogy I’ve come up with so far (but I am hoping that among the readers of this blog will be an author of a better one): imagine an intelligent being equipped with an inexhaustable supply of sandpaper, but lacking any other tools. Suppose that being were to climb to the top of the tallest sequoia redwood tree (some 75 meters tall) and began to diligently apply the sandpaper, wearing it down by abrasion.

    Someone else may be able to calculate how long it would take, using sandpaper alone, to reduce the redwood tree to powder–except, that is, for the last little piece, at ground level, which the intelligent sander proudly holds aloft and proclaims that making this toothpick was the end purpose of all these labours…

  8. Did you realize that creationism can save the planet? Read Human excrement can fuel developing world.

  9. From the Wall Street Journal 3 March 2016 “At Its Heart, Science Is Faith-Based Too. Scientists held firm to their belief that they’d find gravitational waves from deep space.”

    More goodies:

    “In such a context, it isn’t blind belief that fuels the search, any more than scientists blindly pursued the implications of Einstein’s theory. Rather, it’s a belief informed by credible reasons, nurtured by patient trust, open to revision. When I profess my belief in God, for example, I rely upon not only the help of the Holy Spirit. I also rely upon the Einsteins of theology, thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas, whose use of reason to express and synthesize theological truths remains one of the great achievements in Western civilization. Aquinas’s “Summa Theologica” is a LIGO for the Christian faith.”

    “And if the combination of faith and reason can deliver the sound of two black holes colliding over a billion light years away, confirming a theory first expressed in 1915—what is so unthinkable about the possibility that this same combination could yield the insight that God became man?”

    Talk about science envy!

  10. Another example of creationist foolery in the book, Dismantling the Big Bang, by Alex Williams and John Hartnett PhD (2005)

    This is supposed to be about the scientific weaknesses of the Big Bang. In fact most of it is silly Bible talk and just plain blather. For example p. 243 they quote Psalms 19:4-6

    “In the heavens He has set a tent for the sun, which come forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber; and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.”

    And what do they say it means? This:

    “A “tent” for the sun. A dwelling place. The wind can be violent and unpredictable, the rain can deluge the land and destroy it; the thunder can shake the foundation of all man’s achievements,…”

    They go on like this for over a page blathering about air conditioning and heroes and whatnot. That’s it. Their “explanation” of what it could possibly mean for the sun to have a tent is:

    “Thus the Creator’s provision of a dwelling place for the sun, a home base from which it conducts its daily activities, is a sure sign of civilized intelligence.”

    Intelligence? How would they know?

  11. Your real problem, Max, is you are American. Most Americans are loony nut cases; obese fruitcakes with a gun violence problem; God believing loud mouth useless retards; racist nutters that kill and incarcerate black people with a psychopathic zeal; invade, bomb and spread torture and terror globally; greedily consume the earth’s resources leaving a trail of pollution and irreversible environmental destruction.

  12. /\ /\ /\
    Bigotry, lies, hate speech, and deliberate misrepresentations like this give creationists ammunition. Thanks.

  13. Reggie Rolltide

    Can anyone help answer my question: I listened to a podcast of a liberal Dean at a liberal Jewish seminary. He professes his belief in Darwinian evolution and I know of no reason to doubt him. He then says, however, that one shortcoming of Darwinian evolution is that it is not “predictive.”

    I’m a student of theology much more than biology. But my hunch is that Dean Rabbi is confusing two different meanings of “predictive.” Namely, the theory of evolution cannot predict what will happen to a particular species, let alone to a particular organism. So evolution is not ‘predictive’ of WHAT. But evolution does explain HOW changes occur. In fact, once you know the theory the prediction seems rather simple: The organisms that will best adapt to the ongoing and changing environmental circumstances will be the ones that survive and reproduce in the greatest numbers.

    For good measure, Rabbi/Dean proclaims Darwin to be circular: “That the most adaptive organisms survive is proven by the fact that the survivors are obviously the most adaptive.”

    My question is, Who can help me best articulate the objections to this critique of Darwin?

  14. @ Reggie
    Darwin wasn’t trying to “prove” that the fittest survive, why would he? Instead he was examining the evolutionary consequences of this common sense principle.

  15. Reggie Rolltide

    Hi Ted — Yes, that is my understanding. And what I’m asking is, Doesn’t this mean — in contrast to the scholarly rabbi’s assertion — that Darwin’s theory IS predictive?

  16. http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2012/10/04/scientists-students-receive-awards-exploring-big-questions-about-universe

    See this gem at the above link:
    It’s about the Templeton foundation which pays scientists to say nice things about religion. Also to do research.
    Here’s what they say:

    College students were invited to submit essays addressing “What is the origin of the complexity in the universe? The college essay winner “A Letter to My Dearest Newborn Baby Brother.” wrote:

    “I will not attempt to describe or explain the chaos and structure of love, because I do not know what it is. And yet, I know that, for small, finite creatures such as ourselves, the staggering complexity and unbearable vastness of our world are bearable only through love.

    “Welcome to infinitely complex life in an infinitely complex universe.

    “Welcome to beauty.”

    Good sound scientific research!

  17. I suspect that our genial host’s conjecture that Max is quite young is correct. If so, I think that there is a good chance that in a few years he will come to his senses and abandon his god. He apparently has already read at least parts of three versions of the Bible, so we may hope that he will continue his studies and read the whole thing not just in the KJV but in more intelligible modern translations, boring though they generally are. He will then see that his Sunday school teachers and preachers have been naively misrepresenting the bible, or downright lying about it.

  18. Reggie Rolltide asks about an alleged shortcoming of Darwinian evolution — that it’s not predictive.

    First, it’s obvious that creationism predicts nothing, nor (unlike evolution) does it have a verifiable explanation for anything in the past. As for evolution’s predictions, this is addressed at the TalkOrigins Index to Creationist Claims, right here. My favorite prediction is the discovery of Tiktaalik.

  19. Evolutionary biology predicts that there will be the evolution of new strains of flu virus each year, that there will be evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (that’s the reason that one is cautioned to keep taking the prescription even after your symptoms go away), evolutionary theory predicted the changes in the Galapagos finches in the observations of the Grants. Check the ongoing experiment on E. coli.
    Evolutionary biology predicted that there would be transitional fossils to be found between reptiles and mammals WRT the middle ear, of location of eyes between “normal” fish and flatfish, etc.
    When the structure of the gene was discovered, evolution predicted that the details of genes would fall into the same pattern, the “tree” of taxonomy.

  20. Reggie Rolltide

    To Curmudgeon, Thanks so much for answering. Your links are very elucidating to me and very helpful.
    Likewise, TomS — thank you very much indeed.

  21. mnbo: But I disagree that it’s best to politely ask questions. Not that I dismiss this strategy; there is a place for it as well. But what I want to get out of it is fun. Nasty fun, sure, but fun. So I think it’s best to make them look as stupid as possible and then mock them mercilessly.”

    I say “polite” – and add “firm” – because the first thing we need to determine – for ourselves and for any fence-sitters in the audience – is whether the “creationist” is an anti-evolution activist who has memorized many word games and knows just enough science to trip you up, or just a rank-and-file denier who has not given 5 minutes’ thought past the catchy sound bites. Or a rare “transitional” that tends to write amusing letters-to-the-editor. Once you have determined what “kind” of evolution-denier, it may be fun to make them look stupid or ignorant, but it’s more productive to show (n the case of activists) that they are deliberately playing games, and can be reasonably suspected of not even personally believing what they want the audience to infer. As for rank-and-file deniers, it’s fairly easy to get them to admit that their belief has nothing to do with the evidence.

  22. SC: “First, it’s obvious that creationism predicts nothing, nor (unlike evolution) does it have a verifiable explanation for anything in the past.”

    Actually it does have several mutually-contradictory potentially verifiable explanation for the past. But the probability that any one will be verified is near zero, and getting smaller as the evidence keeps converging on mainstream science’s account (the what happened when) and explanation (the hows). It’s “Intelligent Design” that deliberately avoids a potentially verifiable explanation for anything in the past. That’s because peddlers of that scam know that it would be indistinguishable from that of mainstream science. And that would undermine their strategy to get the audience to infer whichever of several mutually-contradictory alternatives they find most comforting.

  23. @Frank J
    One of the rare times that I disagree with you:
    Yes, they have several mutually contradictory statements to make. (Often enough, they are self contradictory.) But I wouldn’t call them explanations. (And, BTW, let’s remember that evolution is not exclusively about the past. Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.)
    It is rare to see an evolution-denier show interest in explaining anything. When they point to what they see as a fatal flaw in evolution, they are in the practice of negative advertising, not suggesting what does happen so that life behaves as it does (rather than any of the countless other possibilities). An appeal to an ineffable agency does not begin to tell us “why this rather than that”.
    They have no interest in defining or describing “creation” or “design”. If they would spend a moment in exploring monotheistic creation, they would find that it has nothing to do with the relations between species of life. (And that evolution has nothing to do with the relation between the individual and one’s creator, sustainer and redeemer.)

  24. You’re real problem, Melly Smuff, is that your prejudiced bigotry makes you exactly look like the loony nut cases you describe.

    MNb
    Totally non-American.

  25. @Reggie: perhaps its helpful to understand where you rabbi comes from. My guess is Karl Popper.

    http://ncse.com/cej/6/2/what-did-karl-popper-really-say-evolution

    “I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme—a possible framework for testable scientific theories.”
    This view is unsurprisingly often minequoted.
    Evolution Theory does make predictions and is testable. To keep it simple (the more technical stuff is too difficult for me): Evolution Theory predicted where Neil Shubin could find Tiktaalik. Find a Cambrian rabbit fossil and you have neatly falsified Evolution Theory.

    Your rabbi also has taken over Popper’s other mistake (see the link again).

    “That the most adaptive organisms survive is proven by the fact that the survivors are obviously the most adaptive.”
    Evolution Theory is not about survival. It’s about getting fertile offspring. Neither does it talk above “most” adaptive. It talks about natural selection, which is one of the mechanisms that describe which inheritable features will passed on or disappear. So the correct formulation becomes something like

    “Some features of species increase the probability of getting fertile offspring, others decrease it. The first will be inherited by descendants, the second will disappear, eventually causing species becoming extinct. Mutations will cause features of species to change if they increase the probability of getting offspring.”
    No circularity here; the evidence consists of the fossil record (ie no Cambrian rabbit), mutations found in labs and observed speciation.
    Btw this shows that two favourite creationist clunkers, the crocoduck and the dog giving birth to a cat, actually would falsify Evolution Theory. But that has nothing to do with your rabbi.

  26. @FrankJ: “the first thing we need to determine is whether the “creationist” is an anti-evolution activist ”
    I always do that before I start to mock. Mockery doesn’t work when aimed at a strawman.

    “it’s more productive to show (in the case of activists) that they are deliberately playing games.”
    Perhaps it’s more productive for you.
    It isn’t for me, because your polite approach doesn’t yield me the product I want: nasty entertainment. The product I want to get out of debating creationists is to make them look as ridiculous as possible – by making saying them the stupidest thing I can wrestle from them. And I’m pretty good at it. At the other hand I don’t have the patience for your politeness.
    Again: I don’t dismiss your approach. If it works for you, by all means keep up the good work. I just disagree that what works for you is the standard for everybody on internet. It isn’t for me.

  27. Cnocspeireag

    ‘I do not believe in understand the big bang theory. There, fixed it for you.

  28. Techreseller

    Axiom 1: The Bible is inerrant.
    Axiom 2: King James Bible is inerrant
    Axiom 3: NIV is inerrant
    Axiom 4: Catholic Bible is inerrant.
    Fact: The three bibles in the axioms above are different. How can they all three be inerrant, yet have different versions of the exact same events?

    What do you say Max?