I had a strange and twisted conversation with Billy Hallowell, a writer for Glenn Beck’s lunatic site, The Blaze, and and also the creator of that poll we pharyngulated the other day. He was not happy. He was also more than a little obtuse. He has now posted a rather fragmentary and unrepresentative version of the interview on his site.
I had to explain to him more than a few times that these online polls are utterly pointless — they are just exercises in back-patting among the commentariat, where they give themselves a false sense of confidence that they really are the majority with skewed numbers generated from their own ranks, and that all we do is show up and demonstrate that there are other views out there, and their numbers go all wacky. I even told him the situation would play out the same if I were stupid enough to put up a poll, and Beckian microcephalics showed up en masse…I don’t do these open polls because you learn nothing from them.
It’s a measure of their insularity that Hallowell seemed quite shocked that their poll could be shifted around so much; he says I “ignited a mini-firestorm”! My post was a “battle-cry”! No, I casually put up a quick link to a bad poll, as I often do, and suddenly the creators of that poll were distressed to see that they didn’t have the comfortable majority they expected.
He’s now claiming that we were making an “effort to prevent Blaze readers from participating in the Adam and Eve poll”. You naughty, naughty Pharyngulistas. Were you visiting wingnut homes and slapping the mice out of their hands? That wasn’t nice.
He also has a bit of a blind spot.
Whatever happened to making a solid case and fairly proving it? What was the point of these atheists’ time-sucking exploits?
My point exactly. Why is The Blaze substituting a stupid poll for making a solid, substantive case? It’s empty of facts, and is only an opportunity for people to cheer for their side in a complete absence of evidence.
One thing that didn’t really make it into his article, though, was his insistence that everyone had a right to their own opinion and their own beliefs. When we discussed the subject of his poll, I pointed out that there actually is a right answer in it, one that is selected by virtually all intelligent, educated adults who are familiar with the evidence, and it doesn’t jibe with the one his readership selected. He was persistent in his belief that that didn’t matter: there are creation scientists, he said, who disagreed (I explained that any large group of people will have a tiny fringe of crackpots, and that’s who he was talking about), and that surveys show about 40% of Americans believe in creationism (scientific truths aren’t settled by popularity contests), and by golly, his people had a right to believe whatever they wanted.
And of course they do. They have a right to be wrong. We have a right to show that they’re wrong.
People can disagree in their interpretations of the evidence, and I went out of my way to explain that theistic evolutionists, for instance, try to have beliefs that are consonant with the facts, but also add their own peculiar explanations, like the ensoulment of humans, that aren’t contradicted by the facts, but also lack actual evidence supporting them. The literalist interpretation of the book of Genesis, though, is something different: that’s an explanation that ignores the majority of the evidence, and is even contradicted by that evidence. That his readers largely opted for the counterfactual claim is evidence that they are ignorant of the science, or willfully defying the evidence because it does not prop up their ideology.
He was happy at one thing, though. I told him that I had readers who loved exposing stupidity, and his site looked like a rich vein of inanity, so he could expect a few new readers who’d be looking over his nonsense with a critical eye. He just likes the idea of more traffic, I guess. But sure, have fun; the comments to his article are just full of blinkered Christian bigotry and foolishness.