Scientific cluelessness and idle threats


That’s what we are getting with a recent string of emails from a fellow who signs off every message as “Kevin the Creationist.” Apparently Kevin called the show in 2012, and since then he’s periodically been sending us email trying to tell us about exciting new evidence for a young earth. The latest round began two days ago.

I decided to answer him, but I hate talking into a fact-vacuum, so I figured — hey, it’s been a while since we had a creationist exchange on the blog, right?

  Well hello again Atheists.  I just wanted to send you once again some fascinating information to bring to you’re attention.  I hope you will all be open to at least check it out and not choose ignorance, because it really is interesting and I would’nt want you to miss out on it.

If you go to bvcsm.com (it stands for Big Valley Creation Science Museum and its in Alberta Canada) and stay on the home page and scroll down to the bottom, it shows a display of scrolls that are from the Lambeth palace in England.  These scrolls have geneology listed on them that trace back from King Henry the 6th all the way to Adam and Eve.

I am just curious as to what you guys think about these scrolls and why they have been preserved for this long, but most of all, how you feel about this evidence that confirms the Biblical account for the origin of life.

When we didn’t answer this first email, he tried again.

Hello again. This message is in relation to the last email I sent about human lineage traced back to Adam and Eve. If you look this topic up on the internet you will find that multiple people can trace their lineage back to Adam and I just wanted to send you guys to one that I read. It is in www.jesusevidence.org/gen.html. It even has every generation numbered for you. It is quite amazing to see that we are only around the 160th generation since Adam in the beginning. Its a young earth after all. Anyways be sure to check this one out, it is absolutely fascinating.
Yours truly

Kevin the Creationist

I decided to take the bait.

Kevin,

I’m seriously not sure why you expect us to be impressed by this thing you’re telling us. What you’re saying is that some people believe that the Adam and Eve story in the Bible was real, and they have written down something that codifies that belief. We already knew that people believe such a thing, despite the fact that it flies in the face of scientific evidence.

I already know that you accept this stuff without question. You reject science and accept what you want to believe on faith. We don’t. You also seem to think that repeating it over and over again will change that somehow. It won’t.

I guess all I can say is that I’m happy for you that you can feel satisfied by seeing somebody write something down that agrees with your assumptions.

Russell Glasser

He replied and I replied back, so I’ll split up the follow-up message into his claims and my responses.

Kevin,

Thank you for your responce Russell.  It is appreciated.  I just want to let you know that the reason I send you guys these emails is to show you that the actual scientific truth regarding the origins of life is Biblical and not in accordance with the evolution doctrine.

I know you’d like to think that, but you’re pretty far off the mark. If you’re talking about the mainstream understanding of scientific reality, as represented by professional scientists who are vetted in peer-reviewed journals, the scientific community is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution. I’m aware that religious fundamentalists such as yourself strongly disagree. But what you’re trying to claim is that creationism is true by religious assertion, and you should not delude yourself into thinking that this is a scientific position.

Evolution is just a theory and has not been proven.

…And we can start with the fact that you don’t even understand the basic terminology of science. A “theory” is a well supported framework that explains known facts and has stood up to scientific testing. It is not “an assumption”. It is not “an incomplete fact.” Ideas that become theories have attained just about the highest level of verification that exists in scientific terms. Like the theory of gravity. Like the germ theory of disease. Please educate yourself before slinging these terms around.

Infact quite frequently scientific data shows evolution and deep time to be incorrect.  For a few examples: “Rocket Scientists” were wrong about the amount of lunar dust they predicted,

No. No, they were not. In fact, this is a creationist canard so bad that many creationist groups have warned their followers not to use it.
The fact that you are still using it shows me that you not only don’t understand the science, but you don’t even do the most basic of research to find out if your own side still supports what you’re saying.

geologists were wrong about the ceolicanth fish being extinct for 70million years,

Correct, but it doesn’t negate evolution.

and paleontologists were wrong about dinosaurs going extinct 65million years ago due to the discovery of red blood cells and soft tissue found by Mary Schweitzer in a T-rex skeleton. These blood cells and soft tissue are known as a limiting factor that indicates some dinosaurs were roaming the earth a few thousand years ago.

You’re incorrect. “Red blood cells” were not found in dinosaur bones, and mainstream science still holds that dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. Religious apologists disagree, but again, we’re talking about science.

Every time the scientists you put your trust in are wrong like in these instances; the instance never goes against the young earth biblical doctrine.  They always fit just fine. Now thats scientific don’t you think?

No, I don’t think that. All of the examples you cited indicate that you aren’t familiar with the process of discovering scientific facts. Mainstream science holds that the universe is ~14 billion years old, and the earth is ~4.5 billion years old. Creationist literature is famous for cherry picking quotes from scientists and claiming that a major upheaval is occurring, but if you ask people who actually have relevant credentials and work with earth sciences or biology, you will find that fewer than 1% of them think that the earth is as young as you say.
“They always fit just fine” is a gross error that relies on actively denying passages in the Bible that most definitely do not comport with science as we understand it. Genesis claims that God created light before he created the sun, which is the earth’s light source. It also claims that plants existed before the sun did. Deny the science all you like, but please don’t pretend that this is really something that scientists agree to.

I just feel for you guys because I know Hell is real and the more you help to leed more souls there, the more you build up the level of torment you will receive.  The Bible is clear on the fact that for some it will be more tolerable on judgement day than others.

You’re resorting to making threats, when you obviously know that atheists regard them as empty. This goes back to what I said in my previous message — that repeating something confidently does not make it true. You claim to “know” that the Bible is true, but obviously what you mean is that you believe it to be true, and you hold this belief really, really strongly. That isn’t good enough for me to recognize it as knowledge on your part. You need to get a better understanding of the nature of persuasion through evidence if you want me to agree that your knowledge is anything more than someone’s very fervent belief in Allah, space aliens, or Santa Claus.

And again the reason I believe this is because the Bible has been correct over and over again for the world to see, not only in science but in prophecy fulfillments as well.

I talked to a guy who was pitching prophecy last Sunday. IMHO, it didn’t go well for him. I asked him to give me his best prediction of a specific event that would happen on a specific date in the future. He couldn’t. All the presumed “prophecies” were either retrofitting events that had already happened, speculating that events which haven’t happened yet will still happen in the future, or shoehorning incredibly vague or obvious claims into things in unspecific time frames. To say the least, I’m not impressed with claimed prophecies; I haven’t heard one yet that requires a supernatural explanation. But if you have a favorite example, you’re welcome to bounce it off me.

And just like I asked you and Jeff on your show before you hung up on me, is it wise to take this chance through disbelief just to find out the Bible was right once again when you wake up in Hell on the “flip side”. Anyways I won’t drag this on anymore.  I know all you guys at the Atheist experience are smart people.  I hope you all will be smart enough to consider this reality.

I would be happy to consider your beliefs as reality, as soon as you present some credible evidence for them instead of offering idle threats.

The real icing on the cake, though, was when I checked back for earlier correspondences with Kevin, and found one that I had replied to back in December. Kevin used the moon dust argument back then, too, and I sent him the exact same response — that the argument is so bad that other creationists denounce it.

Back then he replied:

Anyway the dust arguement isnt a big deal to me, I just happened to come across this video and thought i’d share it with Matt. And Russel says this video is outdated but i believe that if you were to ask Kent Hovind today what he thinks he would say the same thing and I agree with him.

And I’m mystified. Supposedly the moon dust argument “isn’t a big deal” to Kevin. But he keeps using it, without bothering to acknowledge that it was already addressed.

Comments

  1. Bruce Peterson says

    It is amazing (and extremely sad) how deluded some people can be, and the worst part is that a lot of these people hold offices of authority in some way or another.

    Did you see the story about the Iranian cleric that claimed women who didn’t cover themselves up were responsible for earthquakes?

  2. Carol Lynn says

    geologists were wrong about the ceolicanth fish being extinct for 70million years,

    Why should *geologists* care that ceolicanth fish were thought to be extinct? And why should we care that those rock guys were wrong about a fish?

    Correct, but it doesn’t negate evolution.

    Oh, oh! I know this one! Just in the last few days PZ had a entry on the evolution of ceolicanths! The ceolicanths show the effects of allele change over time just like every other organism! Wow! Yet another instance where evolutionary theory makes a correct prediction! Take that, Kevin!

  3. says

    I just want to let you know that the reason I send you guys these emails is to show you that the actual scientific truth regarding the origins of life is Biblical and not in accordance with the evolution doctrine.

    This line of reasoning amuses me to no end, because it is in itself an admission that the Bible is not enough. Religious belief is not enough; science is necessary to arrive at a correct worldview. If he felt otherwise, he wouldn’t feel the need to hijack science to justify his anti-scientific worldview.

    It’s just like that old chestnut, “Atheism is just another faith!” My response is always, “Well, no, but I’m glad we can all agree that ‘faith’ is a bad thing.”

  4. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile says

    I have a very good friend who lives in Houston and it very science-minded. He tells me that this city is just crawling with idiots like Kevin, and it is very frustrating for him as a resident that they have so much influence

  5. Lord Narf says

    Cool, I always enjoy these, Russel. Some of the guys on here complain about us holding up people to ridicule, but I guess I’m a mean-spirited, evil, little bastard … so keep ‘em coming.

  6. Matt Gerrans says

    Yeah, Sally, I have noticed that when theists say “atheism is another faith” or “you have to have more faith to be an atheist” they mean it in a very snide way and clearly recognize that faith is not a good way to support belief. They don’t seem to get the irony.

  7. stever says

    I once heard an encounter between a cosmologist and a preacher. When the cosmologist spoke of sheets of superclusters of galaxies, something in the poor preacher’s brain went –Sponnng!– and he lapsed into babbling incredulity. The cosmologist, seeing that he’d lost his audience, asked “What’s the matter? Am I making God too big for you?” Bible-thumpers like to throw infinities around, but they aren’t really much beyond “One, two, three, many.”

  8. busterggi says

    As citing actual science and scientists doesn’t work you may have to resort to saying, “Oh, yeah?”. It won’t accomplish anything but its at his level of understanding.

  9. says

    This guy seems to really believe this stuff, it’s a shame he doesn’t seem to be absorbing what you are telling him at all. The fact that he is repeating an argument that he basically conceded previously shows that. I guess that kind of thing is why they will often make a caller admit an argument has failed before they will allow them to move on.

  10. Kurt Helf says

    “Geologists were wrong about the ceolicanth” was all I needed to read. What is this guy trying to accomplish? He obviously couldn’t care less about what you guys think regarding the scrolls (or grammar, spelling, and punctuation).

  11. Michael B says

    I recall watching the youtube video with “Kevin” from Ontario, and I recall thinking that he sounded a lot like venomfangx.

  12. L.Long says

    And I seem to recall there is a small book just out that shows all the errors the mad monk ‘whatHisName’ used to get the 6000yrs number.
    But even so we are sure that the monk was correct because he used the buyBull which is the word of gawd and so cannot possibly contain any errors or skipped generations.

  13. unfogged says

    But he keeps using it, without bothering to acknowledge that it was already addressed.

    It often seems to me like the hard-core believers simply can not process concepts that contradict what they already “know”. For Kevin the point wasn’t already addressed because that has been safely sealed away where it can’t possibly infringe on his thoughts ever again.
    Besides, what evidence would you need beyond the fact that some random web page has a list of 160 names going all the way back to Adam? Nobody could have just made that up. It’s Science!

  14. says

    I hope this guy’s a troll.

    The alternative is a person brainwashed to the brink of divorce from reality.

    Btw, I’m confident you’ve noticed how Christians love to boast numbers of adherents and growth rates when they think they will impress someone, but suddenly deny all ties and responsibility when embarrassingly diseducated fundies like Kevin, gay-murdering extremists (aka mainstream believers in some parts of the world), or confused superstitionism-bandwagon passengers show up and raise their hands. As soon as the critical atheist leaves the room, they’re at each other’s throats again. It’s almost as if this whole religion thing was mainly an instrument of vanity. Could it be…?

  15. trj says

    Not only is the Bible infallible, but any interpretation of it is infallible as well, provided that interpretation supports your own preconceptions.

  16. says

    The problem, as I see it, is a complete lack of understanding of what constitutes justification for a claim. Personal experience, the testimony of ancient books (including genealogical records), so-called “prophecy,” etc. are seductive, but fallacious justifications for belief.

    Even more frustrating is a general ignorance of all things relating to informal logic – the meaning of words like “claim,” “justification,” “fallacy,” etc., the recognition of arguments, and an understanding of fallacious reasoning.

    How can we even enter into a meaningful conversation with someone if they don’t understand what a “claim” is? Or can’t tell the difference between a red-herring or a non-sequitur? (How many times have bewildered callers confused an objection to an “argument from ignorance” for an insult to their intelligence?)

    Modern pedagogy has completely missed the mark, equating thinking with critical thinking. (Take a look at any number of the teacher’s editions to contemporary textbooks for the “Critical Thinking” modules.)

    Students (and most adults) should be taught informal logic and at minimum basic Aristotelian logic (i.e. the syllogism).

  17. says

    Russell, first of all you are to be commended for your patience in dealing with lunacy. As one who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, it’s hard to be civil in these instances. Arguing over the Bible is like arguing over the veracity of the National Enquirer; you’ll never get anywhere with anyone who truly believes that stuff. And yet, it really is worth the effort. Sometimes there’s a delayed reaction; your words may just provide the tipping point to trigger someone else’s baby steps towards rationality.

    Religion by definition starts with a rigid, immutable “truth” and fully expects every future scientific finding to validate their doctrines. By contrast, true science starts with a blank slate and gradually works towards a truth that is always understood to be fluid and provisional until the next discovery.

    By the way, I always ask anti-evolutionists to explain away the fact whales have vestigial hind legs in their skeletal systems if all creatures just popped into existence in their final form. And if God has a direct hand in bringing everything to life, why do males have to create literally millions of sperm when they ejaculate? All we’d really need is one “super sperm” for Him to direct towards one “super egg”.

    And to say atheism is a faith or religion is like saying “off” is a TV channel or that not playing golf is a sport. And don’t get me started on “free will”!

  18. Aaroninmelbourne says

    There are two issues I think this email exchange brings up about theistic word usage: ‘evidence’ and ‘Truth’.
    The problem is that many people do not understand the difference between ‘evidence’ and ‘story’ or ‘claim’. How many times have we heard a story that is presented as ‘evidence’? The other problematic use of a word is ‘Truth’ which seems to be a word that theists use to mean “I want to avoid having to show evidence so I’ll try to circumvent that by claiming, in essence “Oh, you don’t need evidence of that claim, because it’s the Truth!”
    For something like these scrolls, they’re not evidence, because they’re stories. Just like the Bible is an anthology of stories (or claims for those who believe it to be factual). Just like Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” is not evidence (it is claims, but unlike the Bible it’s based on evidence, not more stories).

  19. Matt G says

    Accepting something as true with evidence, let’s call that knowledge. Let’s call something accepted as true without evidence belief. What would you call accepting something as true in the face of evidence to the contrary?

  20. wholething says

    geologists were wrong about the ceolicanth fish being extinct for 70million years,

    Scientists had evidence of the coelacanth existing long ago but no evidence that they still existed. As soon as they had evidence that they still existed, scientists changed their minds. Provide good evidence for creationism and scientists will change their minds. The same can’t be said for creationists when provided evidence for science.

    The species of coelacanth we know from today are not the same species we know from fossils. Maybe there is an extant species that is the same as a species known from fossil or an ancient fossil yet to be found. We’ll believe it when there’s evidence for it.

  21. says

    These are the definitions I typically use:

    Belief: Accepting a claim as true (I believe the moon exists)
    Knowledge: A claim you accept as true that’s demonstrably true (I know where my keys are)
    Faith: Accepting a claim as true without sufficient evidence, or in the face of contrary evidence (I have faith God exists)

    Note that with knowledge, it’s the “demonstrably true” part that’s critical. I can claim that I know where my car keys are (kitchen counter) until I’m blue in the face… but if we go check, and they aren’t on the kitchen counter, I in fact, didn’t know where they were. I was mistaken about knowing.

  22. garnetstar says

    I’m sorry that I have to write the following from memory, but I can’t find the book I read it in (published in 1981).

    The first estimate of how much dust might be falling in space was made in the late 1950’s. The researchers knew that any measurement made on earth would be a huge overestimate, since on Earth so much dust is kicked up into the atmosphere and falls again.

    So they went up to the top of a mountain in Hawaii, one of the highest elevations and the most remote from cities and such that would be putting particulates into the atmosphere. They measured the dust-falling rate there, and published it, warning that it was an overestimate. That’s why NASA, in planning for the moon landing, considered it, but knew that of course, it couldn’t be that large.

    When satellites started to be put up, it became more important to know how much dust they’d encounter in space, to determine how much protection from it the satellites would need. So they measured the rate of dust falling in space, this time using a satellite that actually was in space. That rate, multiplied by the age of the moon, gave about 10 centimeters on the moon’s surface, right about the amount the astronauts found.

    And, I just wasted a lot of time posting this, since Kevin and any other creationists won’t be moved by it in the slightest.

  23. Matt G says

    If you are looking at your keys on the counter and claim that they aren’t there, that is faith by your definition?

  24. says

    If you accept the claim as true (i.e. you aren’t merely stating an assertion, but actually believe it), then yes.

    I suppose “denial” would also be an accurate word.

  25. Lord Narf says

    And yet, it really is worth the effort. Sometimes there’s a delayed reaction; your words may just provide the tipping point to trigger someone else’s baby steps towards rationality.

    It’s also worth it, for the sake of the observers who are less dogmatic. Seeing guys like this can help less insane believers shake off their childhood indoctrination.

    And for the rest of us, it’s great entertainment.

  26. Lord Narf says

    And, I just wasted a lot of time posting this, since Kevin and any other creationists won’t be moved by it in the slightest.

    I’d bet on double-down-and-repeat, yeah.

  27. Margaret says

    That’s a great story. It makes me think of the Carl Sagan quote: “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?” Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”

  28. gralgrathor says

    My standard response to bold and nonsensical unsubstantiated assertions is “Really? That’s nice.”

    It’s kind of a conversation-stopper, but then I cannot honestly be bothered anymore to drag out the rebuttals to these creationist canards for the hundred-millionth time. Perhaps I should write an AI to do it for me.

    Or perhaps we should just improve basic education to the point where 60% of the American people is not scientifically illiterate.

  29. Margaret says

    And, I just wasted a lot of time posting this, since Kevin and any other creationists won’t be moved by it in the slightest.

    It’s not wasted time. You just have to realize that your audience for such information is not the willfully ignorant like Kevin but those like me who like to know but had no real science education because most American voters are as willfully ignorant as Kevin. Thank you.

  30. Randomfactor says

    if you were to ask Kent Hovind today what he thinks he would say the same thing

    Of COURSE he would. The man lies for a LIVING. (Well, he did until they caught him at it…)

  31. mike says

    I love that response! I’m going to steal it, if you don’y mind, – “Well, no, but I’m glad we can all agree that ‘faith’ is a bad thing” -awesome!

  32. Houndentenor says

    People can “prove” direct lineage from Adam and Eve? Really? Based on what. Even if we accept the biblical genealogies as accurate (that’s not an admission, btw), far more recent ancestry is difficult to substantiate. I have found distant relatives who claim descent from royalty in the middle ages. Many of those links are dubious at best. Just because something is written in one old dusty book doesn’t mean someone didn’t make it up to make themselves sound more important than they are.

    There was obviously a lot more wrong with that post, but other people are far more qualified to address the science. I do know a little about genealogy, though. Fabricated genealogies are common. Unless something can be independently verified, it should not be assumed to be true. History of course leaves us with much that is poorly documented or not documented at all. We just have to admit that there are things we might never know.

  33. Houndentenor says

    That was not a waste. I didn’t know any of that and I’m sure I will encounter the “moondust” fallacy many times in my life. That was interesting and a good example of how science works.

  34. garnetstar says

    Thanks so much to both of you, it’s so good to hear! When you talk to creationists, after a while you realize that you might as well be shouting to an empty room. So thanks for saying that.

  35. says

    I recall Moon Dust guy–he reminded me of an ex-fiend fo mine who was a a big conspiracy theorist. The friend in question was more than a little bit of fhis rocker. Kevin is no exception.

  36. hypatiasdaughter says

    #22 garnetstar, I came across this blog just the other day by a young Malaysian skeptic who dos a thorough refutation of the moon dust claim, citing the original paper: http://warforscience.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/moon-dust-refuted/

    #12 Michael B, Hmm, VenomfangX is from Ontario, and he got all of his bogus scientific claims from Hovind. Some of the things he said in his early videos were direct quotes from Hovind’s “Age of the Earth” videos – he even used the same speech patterns while quoting them.

  37. escuerd says

    That always amazes me too. Apparently a lot of scientifically illiterate people are impressed by Kent Hovind.

    I suspect that it’s all in the presentation. He makes lots of claims in a confident and authoritative manner (and has fake credentials attached to his name too). For someone who doesn’t know anything about science, and doesn’t particularly desire to, the way they judge a source’s reliability is probably mostly on the confidence they project when they make their claims. Hovind is good at that, and since well-educated people are not his target audience, it doesn’t matter if his “facts” are true or his arguments sound. All that matters is that they sound plausible enough to his actual targets and confirm their prejudices.

    If someone raised to believe in creationism hears scientifically erudite people arguing that evolution occurs, it creates cognitive dissonance, and they might be motivated to either write off science as inherently evil or actually learn something about it. The former is not attractive since the benefits of science via technology are too great to ignore. The latter will tend to lead people away from the True Faith.

    Hovind’s schtick is to relieve that cognitive dissonance by playing the part of an “expert” who can sit and confidently argue back against these pushers of godless science. “Wow, look at this guy. He’s so confident and never fazed by anything his opponents say. He must really know what he’s talking about, and since he’s confirming God’s word, he must be the one supporting true science.” Thus they can feel okay about ignoring scientific conclusions without nominally writing off science altogether.

    See? There’s a totally-not-moronic “expert” on my side. No need to delve further, because this guy obviously knows what he’s talking about, and the only possible reason people would oppose it is resistance to God.

  38. Peter J Knight says

    I think this sums it up really well. I think the problem is that creationist and their ilk have very tiny minds, and very little in the way of imagination. Shrinking everything down to their intellectual size is what they attempt to do. They want the cosy, the small, the easily graspable. Often it seems to me that they are very child-like, and so very afraid of things that they can’t (or in some cases don’t want to) understand. They need the universe to be “storyable”, with God as the ultimate story-teller, and we the tales told.

    Also, I can’t imagine an after-life worse than the one they describe: an eternity with their god, or a worse evil than an eternity of torture. These are tales to frighten and console children, not adults.

    I admire your patience, I find arguing with Young Earth Creationists to be too frustrating and annoying for words these days, and think that perhaps ignoring them is the best thing to do.

  39. Jim Pearson says

    This dude has been to the Big Valley Creation Science Musuem? The place is a complete joke, and even the town barely tolerates it. I’ve seen the scroll he talked about it and it total bullshit…. yeah.. they royal family is a direct decendants from Adam and Eve….. RIIIIGGGHHHTTT!

  40. says

    Puleeeze tell me Kevin is just trollin’ — no one can be this clueless. I bet he thinks all the DaVinci Code books hold an element of truth as well. Conspiracies–they are everywheeeere. *sigh*

  41. PaulieP. says

    I am amazed by and proud of your patience in dealing with this schmuck. I admire you but don’t wish to emulate that quality. These people are funny and sad at the same time. Keep up the good work.

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