We get email: another creationist punching bag

So today, there’s a fellow who’s shown up in our inboxes claiming, at different times, to be a “Christian Psychiatrist” (both words capitalized), a neuroscientist, and a physician, though his nick is “risky-kid,” which doesn’t sound like any doctor I want to see. I call bullshit. But maybe the guy got his degrees from Patriot University and that’s how they do things. Anyway, he caught me at the right time, and so if you wish to amuse yourself reading my beatdown, here ’tis. I’m in italics.


Caveat: you are likely to find the tone of this response extremely condescending and rude. This isn’t an apology, merely a heads-up. I’m afraid public displays of smug ignorance bring out the worst in me. It’s not a thing I feel I need to work on.

From:
Subject: RE: I am a thiest I come in peace
To: [email protected]
Date: Thursday, May 13, 2010, 4:37 PM

My approach it an integrative evidence based approach, in which scripture and nature rightly understood always harmonize. If there are apparent contradictions I look for errors in both my understanding of scripture and my understanding of nature. I have found errors in both places over time.

What is your basis for considering scripture valid as evidence of anything in the first place?

I find Darwinian evolution held together only by an insistence on forcing evidence to be interpreted in ways that are favorable to that theory rather than actually letting the evidence speak for itself.

Good for you, but that only shows you fail to understand the evidence for evolution and how it shores up the theory.

The list of scientific evidence which refutes Darwinian evolution is enormous, but this email isn’t a place for me to recite all of such evidence.

Nope. Sorry. You don’t get to show up here and spout the same tired creationist canards without backing them up. And yes, we’re aware that there are loads of creationist websites out there making arguments against evolution that sound very scholarly and scientific. But has any of their research actually been reproduced by other people without an agenda to push? Where are the peer-reviewed articles demonstrating that evolution by natural selection has been refuted? I mean in legitimate, recognized scientific journals, not those the creationists print up to circulate amongst themselves.

Those biased by years of evolutionary education however have failed to see how subjective their thinking has become and instead criticize any interpretation that deviates from the “accepted” norm as “blind” or “faith” based.

Perhaps the “accepted norm” is “accepted” because it’s what the evidence actually supports. Seriously, you started out with basic scientific illiteracy and now you’re projecting the attitudes of creationists onto scientists, and you’re not even trying not to be lame about it.

Sorry, but until you show you actually know a damn thing about evolutionary biology, I see no reason to take any of this drivel seriously. If you wish any credibility for your claim that you have “read widely in the scientific literature”, simply demonstrate that you’re right and that you have the expertise you claim to have. Here is your assignment:

1. Explain endogenous retroviruses using the evolutionary model.
2. Explain the creationist alternative.
3. Demonstrate precisely how the latter refutes the former, with citations.
Extra Credit: Submit your work to Nature and win a Nobel Prize.

But when one has already concluded that creation didn’t happen, and evolution did, then all the evidence is filtered through a bias which prevents real learning.

Yeah, again, you seem to have covered the whole subject of projection pretty well in your training to be a “Christian Psychiatrist”. Of course, it could never be the case that someone who has already concluded there’s an invisible magic man in the sky filters evidence through that preconception, and has “real learning” prevented thereby.

As a physician, and particularly a neuroscientist, I do find the common theory that the brain evolved over millions of years to be unscientific.

Then I’m going to take a wild guess and conclude that you’re either A) not a neuroscientist B) a lousy neuroscientist.

I have never seen one scientific experiment, reproducible, in which any species, by forces of nature and environment grew new lobes onto its brain. This is what is commonly taught in the neuro literature and I ask what evidence to support this – of course there is none.

I thought you were familiar with the scientific literature. It took me precisely 2 seconds to Google this.

But tell me, where are the reproducible experiments that have shown Godidit? I mean, clearly, the scientific literature must be overflowing with them. Or is it that the Big Science Conspiracy has struck again, I wonder?

Really, only three things need to exist for evolution to occur, and they’re all things that we know exist: Sexual reproduction, heritable variation, and selection pressure. Perhaps you have some research that shows none of those things come into play in the process after all…?

Another equally resonable intepretation of the evidence is that a designer built and expanded His design to create variations on a theme. When we consider all the vehicles on the road from carts, to carriages, to bicycles, to autos, trucks etc. We can see various elements in common to all and order them from simple to complex, yet none would argue that these vehicles evolved on their own, all would rightly realize that designers included elements that are essential to the function of each (wheels) etc.

Yeah yeah yeah. And if you found a watch on the beach…

Honestly, there are 18-year-old biology freshmen who could explain selection to you. You’re making the basic creationist fallacy of comparing artifacts to natural organisms. The development from simplicity to complexity in evolutionary science really is Biology 101 stuff, and very widely understood by those, unlike you, actually versed in the field. Seriously, your remedial education begins here.

If that doesn’t interest you, then demonstrate, please, that the concept of a designer is scientifically falsifiable. What would a non-designed lifeform look like?

Therefore, I do not believe science has provided reasonable evidence to conclude a naturalistic explanation, and rather I find the weight of evidence for a designer

Huh? Then where is that evidence? All you’ve shown us is what you consider “reasonable interpretations” of evidence you haven’t even convinced us you understand at a baseline level. (Indeed you’ve shown pretty unambiguously that you don’t.) And all you backed that up with is whining about how you think scientists are all biased and subjective for not seeing your god in everything. You also seem to think that “integrating” modern scientific evidence with the writings of a Bronze Age holy book produced by an ignorant, pre-scientific, and primitive culture that barely even had indoor plumbing to be a valid approach to researching this vast and complex field. Which, frankly, makes about as much sense as figuring out how to get a girlfriend by integrating your actual interactions with women with the experiences of Archie and Peter Parker in comic books. In other words, you have something of a credibility deficit here.

and in fact find two antagonistic principles at play throughout the entire earth ecosystem – what I term the law of love, which is the principle of life, and the survival of the fittest principle (fear and selfishness) which is an infection which damages and brings death. Viruses, as I see it are examples of the infection to creation which damages and destroys, their very function is merely self replication and take without giving, and results in destroying the host and
itself in the end. This is exactly what sin is and does, selfishness, taking, destorying and dying.

Well I guess I have gone on long enough.

Long enough for me to conclude you are either not being truthful about being an actual neuroscientist widely read in the literature, or that academic standards for people in your profession have crashed through the floor. Perhaps you got your degree from Patriot University?

Irony meter explosion in 3…2…1…

Okay, so that preposterous, demented d-bag Mike Adams has noticed all the ridicule he’s been getting online, and has, like most deluded narcissists, taken it for validation of his awesomeness. In a new post, he offers the following observation, which deserves an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in Clueless Projection. Now, remember this is the guy who wrote a trillion-word attack on skeptics that led Orac to call him “a pyromaniac in a straw man factory”… Salient hypocrisy boldfaced.

[Skeptics] also tend to jump to false conclusions about what people are really saying. In my previous article, for example, I never stated whether I believed in God, or whether I was an athiest [sic], or whether I followed organized religion and yet people read the article and they leaped to conclusions, assuming I was promoting organized religion, for example, or that I was condemning atheism.

Actually I never stated my position on those matters in the article at all, but the skeptics leaped to the conclusion that I did. This speaks to their tendency to warp all incoming information and restructure it to conform to the beliefs they already carry about the subject at hand.

ROTFL! You silly little bitch.

Beatdown! Fractally-wrong altie pulls a Yomin over losing Twitter “award”

This post wins the internet!

A little context: Recently an alt-med wackaloon called Mike Adams — who runs the antiscience site NaturalNews.com and calls himself the “Health Ranger” — was in the lead for something called the Shorty Award. It’s the sort of thing where people vote for their favorite person in a certain category, by tweeting. It’s not an actual award, just a Twitter popularity contest.

But to Mike, it must have been like the Nobel. Because when he lost the award to DrRachie, an actual cell biologist, he also totally lost his shit!

There are awesome articles by PZ, Orac, and Phil Plait discussing the side-splitting melodrama. (For one thing, it was found that Mike was violating the Shorty rules by getting votes from brand new Twitter accounts created just to tweet a vote for him. However it was done, by Mike himself sockpuppeting or some of his fans doing it too, it was against the rules, and didn’t help him in the end anyway.)

Mike has just been “pulling a Yomin” over and over at his site. In addition to threatening to sue people, he’s now posted an absolutely hilarious “exposé” of skeptics. Apparently we’re “agents of death” who don’t even believe we’re alive. I won’t link to the article, because there’s no need. The very first link in this post goes to a magnificent demolition of Mike’s endless rant over at Dubito Ergo Sum. It’s truly epic in every way. Mike Adams is a person so completely divorced from reality it’s a wonder he can tell up from down. He doesn’t build a straw man in his lunatic screed. It’s a whole straw army. Mike Adams makes Ray Comfort sound sensible. Think about that.

Don McLeroy’s idea of a real science book

The intrepid crew at the Texas Freedom Network inform us that the reliably moronic Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist who’s devoting his career to painting a bullseye on the educations of millions of Texas students, has found a worthy book on the subject of evolution. What might it be, you ask? The Ancestor’s Tale? Why Evolution Is True? Or Ken Miller’s perennially assigned Biology textbook?

Uh…no. How about: a book-length histrionic rant self-published by a frothing anti-evolution crank named Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.

Johnson is a wackaloon’s wackaloon, a West Point graduate whose pet projects have included tortured reinterpretations of Greek mythology in an effort to show they’re simply variants of the Adam & Eve story. Yes, it’s bizarre to try to prove your myths have some veracity by referencing other myths; seriously, the guy’s position is that Athena is really Eve, therefore, the Bible is true! But that’s how nutcases like Johnson think. And nutcases like Johnson think the same way monkeys drive trucks.

Johnson’s “thinking” on evolution, which impressed that cretin McLeroy enough for him to refer to the book as “unique,” “insightful” and “important,” includes such gems as the following.

Creationists do not want to bring religion into the classroom… Creationists simply want the God hypothesis brought back into the science classroom, and recognized for what it is—a scientifically valid hypothesis.

What are they doing coming into all of our elementary schools, all of our junior highs, and all of our high schools with a disguised demand that our children embrace their evoatheism? What are they doing teaching our children that they are descended from worms and reptiles? What are they doing imposing their atheistic religious faith on our children when we’re not around? What are they doing sowing atheism in our schools?

The obvious problem here is that it is simply not possible to be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word, and at the same time, embrace the tenets of atheistic evolution.

What kind of monster parents teach their children that they’re descended from rodents and reptiles?

Come on in, everybody, especially you kids, and join the great evolutionary festivities! Learning about your descent by chance from worms and reptiles will strengthen your faith in “a creator,” with a small “c,” whoever he is.

So you see the kind of “science” textbook McLeroy thinks “deserves a hearing”: a bombastic, hysterical, spittle-flecked tirade by a throughly scientifically illiterate moron, who, like Ben Stein, bases his whole overwrought screed on selling the idea of “Big Science” as some monolithic entity with stormtrooper-like enforcers (the first chapter literally opens with an absurd men-in-black scenario) out to quash dissent.

The egregiousness of all this cannot be condemned forcefully enough, and I encourage everyone far and wide to shine as much light on McLeroy and his pet cockroach Johnson as possible. Bring the absurdity and emotionalism of the creationist anti-science crowd right out into the open, and correct their angry lies with calm, sober scientific facts (which, contrary to Johnson’s ravings, do exist to support evolutionary biology in its totality). Let ridicule and derision drive them back into the obscure darkness of their own superstitious fears, where they belong.

Liars, Lunatics, Lords, Legends and Lemmings…

I’m starting a bit of a tradition here. Whenever Ray Comfort posts about atheists (he’s rather obsessed with us, some might claim it’s to the point of protesting too much), I write a response and as he’s not always keen about posting dissenting views, I copy it over here to our blog.

Ray’s latest post is partially correct and partially incorrect – but it’s worth offering some commentary. Give it a read and enjoy the response below…

Ray,

I care very little about whether or not any of these individuals were atheists or not. The truth of a concept is not at all influenced by the number of people who accept it, nor their popularity, nor the strength of their conviction.

It’s very telling, though, that you do seem to care – as if you’re bound and determined to show the ‘truth’ of Psalm 14:1 (the second, lesser-quoted half of that verse, in particular).

I’m not surprised that you’d want to make veiled appeals to authority, but it seems very dishonest of you to point out reasons why these people weren’t atheists when it is clear that they weren’t believers in anything remotely resembling the God you believe in…which makes them atheists with respect to your God, just as you’re an atheist with respect to Zeus.

That said, there is a slight bit of anachronism and selective quoting going on here. You seem to overlook many things, not the least of which is that a human life can’t be summed up in a simple quote. People change. People represent themselves differently, at different times, to different people. People express ideas using the conventions of their contemporaries – and people, for various reasons are not always comfortable publicly expressing their most private thoughts. The common views about gods during the lives of the individuals you cite were very different from those of today and it is a disservice to misrepresent this.

For example, you may be able to find quotes from me from when I was a Christian. You may even be able to find people who knew me during that time, and quote their assessment of my thoughts and beliefs. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m an atheist now. Additionally, I find it curiously hypocritical that you might claim that I was never “really” a Christian – as evidenced by my eventual apostasy – and yet you attempt to twist the views of the individuals above in order to make them appear less atheistic.

I have no reason to debate whether or not these individuals were atheists, agnostics, deists, Christians or whatever – because it doesn’t matter. We can’t know what was in their minds (or hearts, if you prefer), we can only take the information available and make a reasonable guess at what they believed, or disbelieved. By picking and choosing quotes from different eras of their lives, one could easily make a case for any number of beliefs.

I’m curious though, do you think any of these individuals were Christians when they did their greatest works? Do you think they believed in the ‘one true God’ you believe in? If so, how do you explain their clear contempt for Christianity and the God of the Bible? If not, what Biblical basis do you have for holding them in a significantly different light from atheists?

As far as I can tell, the Bible is pretty clear about which God is real and how Jews and Christians are expected to view the character of those who reject that God in favor of other gods or no gods.

If the individals in question are all, according to your belief, given over to a reprobate mind and destined for hell – why would you bother to attempt to venerate them and reclaim them from the ‘atheist’ label?

Despite that, here are some quotes and comments on the individuals above, just to stretch the point. I am not claiming these people as atheists, I am simply providing reported quotes that give us more information about what they did or didn’t believe. Additionally, these quotes may not be correct as the internet (as evidenced by this blog source) is cluttered with good information and bad:

Thomas Edison:

“My mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it.”

“I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God.”

“I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul…. No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life — our desire to go on living — our dread of coming to an end.”

About Col. Ingersoll (The Great Agnostic), Thomas Edison wrote:

“I think that Ingersoll had all the attributes of a perfect man, and, in my opinion, no finer personality ever existed. Judging from the past, I cannot help thinking that the intention of the Supreme Intelligence that rules the world is to ultimately make such a type of man universal.”

—–

Mark Twain:

“There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him–early.”

“If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be–a Christian.”

“The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive…but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born.”

“I am plenty safe enough in his hands; I am not in any danger from that kind of a Diety. The one that I want to keep out of the reach of, is the caricature of him which one finds in the Bible. We (that one and I) could never respect each other, never get along together. I have met his superior a hundred times– in fact I amount to that myself.”

———-

Robert Frost reportedly became more pious in his later years, although…

“Elinor Frost, his wife, thought he was, like her, an atheist. In 1920 (the couple had then been married twenty-five years) Frost confided to Louis Untermeyer:

‘Elinor has just come out flat-footed against God conceived either as the fourth person seen with Shadrack, Meshack, and Tobedwego [sic] in the fiery furnace or without help by the Virgin Mary. How about as a Shelleyan principal or spirit coeternal with the rock part of creation, I ask. Nonsense and you know it’s nonsense Rob Frost, only you’re afraid you’ll have bad luck or lose your standing in the community if you speak your mind.'”

———-

With regard to Susan B. Anthony, I have no reason to doubt that she was a deist. Her continual references to Providence and the God of Providence represent the common language of deists in her time.

———–

Finally, it’s curious that you acknowledge Hemmingway’s atheism only to use it as a tool to imply that this is a testimony to the truth of the words of Jesus and the perils one finds in a life lived without a personal relationship with Jesus – yet, you just finished pointing out that these others were also lacking this personal relationship, yet they didn’t suffer the sad fate of Hemmingway.

You go from implying that belief in some sort of deistic god is enough to justify good works, and then spin the final assessment as testimony to the futility of a life without Jesus.

This is the grand lie. This is hypocrisy at its finest. It’s this self-righteous, selective thinking that you engage in to malign those who don’t share your views. It’s transparent and pathetic. And while you ma
y not print this, it doesn’t change the fact that while some atheists may have misrepresented these historical figures as atheists (a charge that may or may not be accurate depending on the quotes used and the definitions involved), you’ve made an accusation of intentional falsehoods – while presenting a convoluted mess of misrepresentations that either represent the grandest lie or an intellectual laziness of staggering proportions.

Which is it?

On civility and its boundaries

Okay, I want to say a few words to both Martin Wagner and Yomin Postelnik, but the main thrust of the message for both parties is: stop acting like children.

Yes, I chatted with Yomin on the phone last night. He tried to get in touch with Martin first, couldn’t find him and then looked me up as the other main posting personality around here. Yomin wanted me to give him Martin’s contact info, but I said I wouldn’t invade Martin’s privacy unless Martin told me he wanted to talk. Martin declined.

I told both Yomin and Martin my take on the situation, and now that they’ve both decided that this would be best aired in a public forum, let me repeat it for the whole class. Yomin is an obscure conservative columnist. He does not write primarily about atheism, but in this case he did write something that was chock-full of basic misunderstandings about both philosophy and science. Martin wrote a lengthy response to this, of which I feel that the content was spot-on. Yomin and I did not discuss the content at length.

At the same time I feel, as I have in the past, that Martin does not make this blog look good by engaging in, IMHO, excessive trash-talking. In my opinion, the original post would have been vastly improved by the omission of words such as “ignoramus,” “assclown,” “tards,” “verbal diarrhea,” etc. I am not saying this to appease Yomin in any way. It is something that I think in general. It’s a matter of presentation, not substance, but I think it’s important.

“But Kazim, you raging hypocrite!” I hear you cry. “You guys use that kind of language on The Non-Prophets all the time, and you actively defend this behavior when people write to complain about it!” That’s a fair point, but in all seriousness, I think the difference is largely a matter of context and degree. If you search through my own posts, you will notice that I almost never use that sort of language here on the blog. You’ll also notice that we try to avoid that sort of thing on the TV show.

What’s the difference between the TV show and the audio podcast? Simple: the former is intended to be for a general audience, while the latter is preaching to the choir. Even on the Non-Prophets, if somebody writes to us personally and we know that they’re listening to the show, then we will usually go out of our way to be at least a little bit polite even when they’re saying things that are clearly clueless.

Same applies in spades to the TV show. Remember this infamous clip of me and Matt fielding the question of why we don’t get electrocuted in the shower? A lot of people have accused us of being rude or condescending. Even so, note that while we joked about what he was saying, we never really called him names. If the Atheist Experience is our attempt to promote positive atheism, we don’t want to hinder that goal by saying something overly emotional that is begging to be yanked out of context.

So, that’s the end of the “Kazim scolds Martin” section, which I present in the spirit of respect and constructiveness to my good friend. Now let me turn back to Yomin.

When your name is “Yomin Postelnik” and you don’t already have a strong presence on the internet, one attention-getting post making fun of you is very likely to jump way up in the search engine. That’s just an obvious fact about how search engines work. A Google search for Yomin’s name now has Martin’s post at spot number two, right after Yomin’s Wikipedia page, which he mostly wrote himself. Further down the list, we see a variety of other columns and debates that Yomin has engaged in, many of which make sweeping generalizations about atheists, liberals, journalists, and other groups.

Yomin is afraid that Martin’s attack is going to hurt his business by generating bad publicity when potential clients search for him. I might even say he has a point. But as Matt correctly remarked to me, if I were in Yomin’s line of work then I’d already be concerned about hurting my own business by writing public rants with so many basic errors about science in them. Those are ALSO out there for potential clients to see.

So okay, I sympathize with the fact that a search for your own name yields a highly visible page that calls you an assclown. I wouldn’t like that either. But I wish you would listen to me when I say that threatening the guy who mocked you with a lawsuit is not, in any way, going to clear up your image problems. I have never heard of a case where this (a) succeeded, or (b) didn’t make the instigator sound ridiculous. And as with Martin, I say this to you with respect and constructiveness, and I wish you’d have taken my damn advice in the phone call.

Let me give two illustrations that show how I know this. As exhibit A, I present Penn Jillette speaking about his popular show, “Bullshit”:

“You’ll notice more obscenity than we usually use. That’s not just because it’s on Showtime, and we want to get some attention. It’s also a legal matter. If one calls people liars and quacks, one can be sued and lose a lot of one’s money. But ‘motherfuckers’ and ‘assholes’ is pretty safe. If we said it was all scams, we could also be in trouble. But BULLSHIT, oddly, is safe. So forgive all the bullshit language. We’re trying to talk about the truth without spending the rest of our lives in court because of litigious motherfuckers!”

Then there’s exhibit B, a humor site that I occasionally enjoy called “Something Awful”. SA derives some of its humor by making fun of other people and web pages, and therefore they get legal threats all the time. What do they do with them? Why, they post the letters for all their readers to enjoy, thereby turning the instigator of the threat into an even bigger joke. And as far as I know, no one has ever actually managed to sue them. They don’t have a case.

Calling somebody names is an opinion, and therefore not actionable. It is not something you can prove or disprove in court, although I’d love to watch you try. (“Your honor, the evidence will clearly show that I am not a motherfucker.”)

On the other hand, calling somebody a child molester IS a malicious statement about a subject of fact, and it CAN get you sued, and you probably WILL lose. Ask your lawyer about that while the two of you are trying to draft scary letters to Martin. Pay some freakin’ attention to what you’re trying to accomplish, will you?

My polite assessment about the matter is that both parties should have STFU several posts ago. Getting in a mud-slinging match on the internet doesn’t make either party look good, it just covers two people in mud. Publicly threatening to sue somebody who hurt your feelings will make you look more ridiculous than before. And finally, getting involved in Wikipedia edit wars is flat-out childish. (Although, for the record, I have reverted Yomin’s edits from Martin’s page, and will take the matter to the moderators pronto if he keeps trying to make them. I have some experience in this territory, and the policy for dealing with Wikipedia vandals is pretty well established. So get a clue.)

The internet is a silly place, Yomin. The only real insurance against conflict is obscurity. The more popular you ge
t, the more people will openly disagree with your opinions. What are you going to do? Sue them all? And anyway, aren’t conservative writers always complaining about evil lawyers who bring frivolous lawsuits? Do you want your friends to see you as that kind of person?

And Martin, whether it is “official” or not, this blog is a public face of the ACA — people at least have the perception that posts come from our organization. I am not in the least bit scared of getting sued by angry commenters. I am interested in making the blog another example of positive atheism. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mock articles that are wrong. It just means that I feel you can do it better by talking about the content of the article alone, without adding personal remarks.

This has been Kazim’s own opinionated and ill-informed rant for the day. Over and out.