JoMo Gets Press Coverage in the UK?

It’s been many years since I’d heard anything about Joseph Mastropaolo, an annoying young earth creationist troll who shows up on blogs promoting science, demands that you debate him and then declares you a “debate dodger” (he used to keep a list online) if you don’t. I can’t imagine why the Guardian decided to give him this attention.

A California creationist is offering a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove in front of a judge that science contradicts the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.

Dr Joseph Mastropaolo, who says he has set up the contest, the Literal Genesis Trial, in the hope of improving the quality of arguments between creationists and evolutionists, has pledged to put $10,000 of his own money into an escrow account before the debate. His competitor would be expected to do the same. The winner would take the $20,000 balance.

The argument would not be made in a formal court, but under an alternative dispute resolution model known as a minitrial. Mastropaolo said he would present the argument in favor of a literal interpretation of the creation story once he had found a willing scientist to argue that a non-literal interpretation of Genesis is more scientific.

“They [evolutionists] are not stupid people, they are bright, but they are bright enough to know there is no scientific evidence they can give in a minitrial,” Mastropaolo said.

*yawn* Yeah, we’ve heard this act for a decade now and it doesn’t get any more interesting. Seriously, leave this jerk under the rock where you found him. There’s no reason a major newspaper should be promoting his brand of stupidity.

16 comments on this post.
  1. jamessweet:

    It’s the $10k that makes it newsworthy. Although I’m sure that what would happen if he gets any nibbles is that he will demand more and more onerous requirements, until the mark decides to call the whole thing off, and then he can add another name to his list.

  2. democommie:

    I think one might want to ask the long absent Mastrobozo where, exactly, he was in that period of the early 90′s when Glennie Bek and certain other named and unnamed co-fiends were (allegedly) methodically kindnapping, raping, murdering and eating thousands of young, nubile adolescent girl and (whatever young men are) boy orphans in several upper mid-west and bible belt states while dancing around pyres of burning bibles and chanting in Hebrarabic while wearing sacred Cath-O-Lick liturgical vestments–from the waist up, but otherwise naked.

    I am not pointing any fingers, I’m simply posing the question. If Joe’s got nothing to hide he can just furnish a notarized itenerary (long form ONLY) for the period 1988–well, fuck, now.

  3. Michael Heath:

    I admit I’m intrigued. It seems to be a simple task to:
    1) make a compelling argument for the origin of the universe where the evidence also convincingly falsifies the Genesis account and,
    2) make a convincing argument for the descent of humans from non-hominid populations. (“Convincing” given what we observe in extant human DNA relative to other extant non-human mammalian DNA, like the particular pattern of ERVs which reveals common ancestory).

    Therefore, does this yahoo rig his trial in order to cheat? That’s the only I can imagine him winning or tying such a debate. Victory for science seems obvious if the setting is fair and the people on the science side are competent and literate in both the relevant science and creationist arguments. So why not take him on?

  4. laurentweppe:

    Well, Young Earth Creationists are always good when your sunday edition is a bit empty and you decide to fill the void with some good old US bashing.

  5. unbound:

    @#3 – The problem is that you can’t scientifically prove a negative. Keep in mind that the standard mantra of the creationists is that whatever minor gap remains must have been caused by god. While the creationist claims that the bible is to be taken literally, they will, in fact, switch over to analogy as it suits them. So the Big Bang will simply become god said let there be light and so forth.

    If you try to pin them down in declaring exactly what the bible says about the creation, they will then claim god works in mysterious ways and so forth. Basically, anything and everything that you do not have a definitive concrete answer for (which includes even scientific theories using proper definitions since there is still a chance that they theory could be wrong) will be answered by god in their minds. It is a catch-all answer.

    I don’t think creationists are knowingly lying to people, but they are a very disingenuous bunch and are happy to rationalize to an absurd degree to win.

  6. slc1:

    Re MH @ #3

    if the setting is fair and the people on the science side are competent and literate in both the relevant science and creationist arguments.

    That’s the vise of getting involved in such debates. Namely, most scientists are not literate in the creationists arguments, which explains the success of the late and unlamented Duane Gish. As an example, on Jason Rosenhouse’s blog several years ago, I used the Ken Miller argument that how would a YEC explain the fact that light from distant galaxies took billions of years to reach the earth. A YEC who used to post comments on that blog calling himself JonS replied with a reference to a preposterous theory of one Russell Humphreys involving white holes. I was stumped as I had never heard of Humphreys or white holes. After some investigating, i found out that the theory proposed that there were strong gravitational fields in the neighborhood of the earth which caused a time dilation by a factor of some 200,000, which “explained” the discrepancy between billions of years and 6000 years. Of course, the proposed “explanation” is preposterous because such gravitational fields would cause a massive blue shift in light coming from other stars, which, of course is not observed and also totally disrupt the orbits of the planets in the Solar System. However, had I been in a debate with JonS, I would have been caught very much off guard. As Stephen Jay Gould once advised Richard Dawkins on engaging in debates with creationists, “don’t do it”.

  7. stuartsmith:

    Seems like it should be pretty easy.

    1 – Science is tied inextricably to materialism. It does not allow for supernatural causes, under any circumstances.
    2 – A literal reading of the bible posits supernatural causes for material events.

    C – Science is incompatible with a literal reading of the bible.

  8. Michael Heath:

    unbound to me:

    The problem is that you can’t scientifically prove a negative. Keep in mind that the standard mantra of the creationists is that whatever minor gap remains must have been caused by god. While the creationist claims that the bible is to be taken literally, they will, in fact, switch over to analogy as it suits them. So the Big Bang will simply become god said let there be light and so forth.

    You’re not appreciating that Mr. Mastropaolo is constraining himself by establishing the text of Genesis as a key factual premise in his argument. The text of Genesis provides an order regarding the creation story which has been falsified [1]. In addition the 2nd chapter’s creation narrative contradicts the 1st chapter’s narrative; so we have lots of material to work with here.

    1] RSV Genesis:

    2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

    We know that earth’s waters didn’t come before light. I’m careful in my description here by framing this in a certain way given that scientific methodology can falsify hypotheses while science always holds theories provisionally; even those theories that have effectively convincing evidence and is held monolithically and confidently by the relevant experts.

  9. gshelley:

    The Guardian is usually excellent on science, but occasionally makes odd choices. It could be related to their stance on religion, where they often give space to people to troll atheists

  10. Michael Heath:

    Me earlier:

    if the setting is fair and the people on the science side are competent and literate in both the relevant science and creationist arguments.

    slc1:

    That’s the vise of getting involved in such debates. Namely, most scientists are not literate in the creationists arguments, which explains the success of the late and unlamented Duane Gish.

    That was once true, but is hardly true today. The Dover trial is a perfect example of science providing experts who aren’t merely conversant in science, but also capable of refuting creationist arguments.

    Jerry Coyne and Daniel Fairbanks’ books on evolution are also presented within the context they don’t merely make the case for evolution, but also falsify the major premises creationists rely on to make their case. Dr. Coyne was especially brilliant at introducing the biogeographical evidence Wallace and Darwin found that effectively crushed the argument from design explains extant life on earth.

    There is no defensible ground for creationists anymore. None; as long as the venue is fair and the participants on the science side are qualified.

  11. slc1:

    Re MH @ #10

    The problem is that it is unlikely that Jerry Coyne or Daniel Fairbanks or Ken Miller for that matter had ever heard of Russel Humphreys either and would have equally been caught off guard. That’s the problem of biologists using astrophysical arguments to confront YECs. Although, in fairness, most astrophysicists might not have done better. I certainly didn’t.

  12. Michael Heath:

    slc1,

    I never insinuated one person should take the science side. A fair venue would allow many experts per side. In fact that’s exactly why I referenced the Dover trial though they relied on a mere few people rather than many.

  13. stever:

    My guess is that Mastropaolo will insist on a particular judge (or one of a set of judges that he knows about) who is a YEC, but has been careful not to say so publicly. Genesis contradicts itself between chapters 1 and 2, rendering the Biblical literalist argument invalid on its face, so nothing short of Orwellian doublethink on the part of the judge would prevent the whole thing from being laughed out of court. And that’s before we even get to the whole Noah nonsense.

  14. flyv65:

    He didn’t just get coverage in the UK: he got it here in the states, too. The story hit about 3 days ago in the “Odd News” section of Yahoo news, and I’ve been trolling for creationists off and on ever since…it’s tremendously entertaining, and cheaper than going to the movies.

    Bryan

  15. kantalope:

    PZ covered it on the 28th: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/28/no-i-will-not-ever-debate-joseph-mastropaolo/#comments

    There are even some examples of Mastrrrr…’s arguments….ugh.

    “By the way, Mastropaolo’s debate challenge is rigged, anyway. He’s got the judges all picked out, and anyone who wants to debate him has to put $10,000 of their own money up front first…and he’ll pocket it when his kangaroo court declares you a loser.”

  16. Nemo:

    I’m struck by this wording: “…a willing scientist to argue that a non-literal interpretation of Genesis is more scientific.” Not “to argue that Genesis is irrelevant to scientific questions,” notice.

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