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Dear Emma B

This post from Scienceblogs has been nominated for The Open Laboratory 2011, so I thought I’d repost it here on the new site, just in case it gets accepted.

Ken Ham is crowing over fooling a child. A young girl visited a moon rock display from NASA, and bravely went up to the docent and asked the standard question Ham coaches kids to ask — and she’s quite proud of herself.

I went to a NASA display of a moon rock and a lady said, “This Moon-rock is 3.75 billion years old!” Guess what I asked for the first time ever?

“Um, may I ask a question?”

And she said, “Of course.”

I said, in my most polite voice, “Were you there?”

Love, Emma B

Ken Ham is also quite proud of himself. He’s also pleased with the fact that many people will be dismayed at the miseducation he delivers.

Each time I give examples in my blog posts of children who have been influenced by AiG, the atheists go ballistic on their blogs. They hate to read of instances like this. They want to teach these children there is no God and they are just animals in this hopeless and meaningless struggle of this purposeless existence.

I am angry at Ken Ham, but in this case, I mainly feel sad for Emma B, who is being manipulated and harmed by a delusion. So I thought what I would do is write a letter to her — a letter which I wouldn’t send, because I’m not going to intrude on a family with the actual science, but because this is what I would say if Emma actually asked me.

Dear Emma;

I read your account of seeing a 3.75 billion year old moon rock, and how you asked the person displaying it “Were you there?”, the question that Ken Ham taught you to ask scientists. I’m glad you were asking questions — that’s what scientists are supposed to do — but I have to explain to you that that wasn’t a very good question, and that Ken Ham is a poor teacher. There are better questions you could have asked.

One serious problem with the “Were you there?” question is that it is not very sincere. You knew the answer already! You knew that woman had not been to the moon, and you definitely knew that she had not been around to see the rock forming 3.75 billion years ago. You knew the only answer she could give was “no,” which is not very informative.

Another problem is that if we can only trust what we have seen with our own two eyes in our short lives, then there’s very little we can know at all. You probably know that there are penguins in Antarctica, and that the Civil War was fought in the 1860s, and that there are fish swimming deep in the ocean, and you also believe that Jesus was crucified two thousand years ago, but if I asked you “Were you there?” about each of those facts, you’d also have to answer “no” to each one. Does that mean they are all false?

Of course not. You know those things because you have other kinds of evidence. There are photographs and movies of penguins and fish, there are documents from the time of the Civil War, as well as the fact that in many places you can still find old bullets and cannon balls buried in the ground from the time of the war, and you have a book, the Bible, that tells stories about Jesus. You have evidence other than that you personally witnessed something.

This is important because we live in a big ol’ beautiful world, far older than your 9 years, and there’s so much to learn about it — far more than you’ll ever be able to see for yourself. There’s a gigantic universe beyond South Carolina, and while you probably won’t ever visit a distant star or go inside a cell, there are instruments we can use to see farther and deeper than your eyes can go, and there are books that describe all kinds of wonders. Don’t close yourself off to them simply because you weren’t there.

I’d like to teach you a different easy question, one that is far, far more useful than Ken Ham’s silly “Were you there?” The question you can always ask is, “How do you know that?”

Right away, you should be able to see the difference. You already knew the answer to the “Were you there?” question, but you don’t know the answer to the “How do you know that?” question. That means the person answering it will tell you something you don’t know, and you will learn something new. And that is the coolest thing ever.

You could have asked the lady at the exhibit, “How do you know that moon rock is 3.75 billion years old?”, and she would have explained it to you. Maybe you would disagree with her; maybe you’d think there’s a better answer; maybe you’d still want to believe Ken Ham, who is not a scientist; but the important thing is that you’d have learned why she thought the rock was that old, and why scientists have said that it is that old, and how they worked out the age, even if they weren’t there. And you’d be a little bit more knowledgeable today.

I’ll assume you’re actually interested in knowing how they figured out the age of the rock, so I’ll try to explain it to you.

The technique scientists use is called radiometric dating. It uses the fact that some radioactive elements slowly fall apart, turning into other elements. For instance, a radioactive isotope of potassium will decay over time into an isotope of another element, argon.

One way to think of it is that it’s like an hourglass. You know how they work: you start with all the sand in the top half of the hourglass, and it slowly trickles into the bottom half. If you see an hourglass with all the sand at the top and none at the bottom, you know it was recently flipped over. If you see one with half the sand in the top, and half in the bottom, you know it’s about halfway through the time it will run. And if you look at how quickly the sand moves through the neck of the hourglass, you could even figure out how long until it all runs out.

In radiometric dating, the scientists are looking at how far along all the radioactive potassium is in the process of turning into argon. The amount of potassium is like the amount of sand in the top half of the hourglass, while the amount of argon is like the amount in the bottom half. By measuring the relative amounts of the two elements, and by measuring how fast radioactive potassium turns into argon, we can figure out how long it’s been since the rock solidified.

It takes a very long time for the decay to occur. It takes 1 and a quarter billion years for half the potassium to turn into argon. When they measured those elements in the moon rocks, they found that the radiometric hourglass had mostly run out, so they knew that it was very, very old.

Scientists double-check everything. They also looked at other elements, like how quickly uranium turns into lead, or rubidium into strontium, and they all agree on the date, even though these are decay processes that run at different rates. All the radiometric hourglasses they’ve used give the same answer: 3.75 billion years. None of them say 6,000 years.

I think you’re off to a great start — being brave enough to ask older people to explain themselves is exactly what you need to do to learn more and more, and open up the whole new exciting world of science for yourself. But that means you have to ask good questions to get good answers so that you will learn more.

Don’t use Ken Ham’s bad question, and most importantly, don’t pay attention to Ken Ham’s bad answers. There’s a wealth of wonderful truths that reveal so much more about our universe out there, and you do not want to close your eyes to them. Maybe someday you could be a woman who does go to the moon and sees the rocks there, or a geologist who sees how rocks erode and form here on earth, or the biologist who observes life in exotic parts of the world…but you won’t achieve any of those things if you limit your mind to the dogma of Answers in Genesis.

Best wishes for future learning,

Comments

  1. Randide, ou l'Optimisme says

    Yep. It makes me tear up when I read it on the new site too. An amazing piece of writing, PZ.

  2. Phledge says

    This is probably my absolute most all-time favoritest post from you, Professor. I’m glad it’s getting the kudos it so richly deserves.

  3. Trickster Goddess says

    Ken Ham says the world was created 6000 years ago. So I ask him: Were you there?

  4. Glodson says

    I think it is entirely fitting that my daughter is sitting in my lap while I’m rereading this.

    She’s a bit on the young side to get it, but I am confident that she’s going to grow up in a home where facts have meaning.

  5. Ichthyic says

    Each time I give examples in my blog posts of children who have been influenced by AiG, the atheists EVERYONE goes ballistic on their blogs.

    fixed.

    yeah, that’s right piglet raper, NOBODY THINKS WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS A GOOD THING, except the people who pay you directly to do it.

    now measure the number of people that pay you to lie, against the number of people that are upset about what you are doing.

    Now then, take that number and divide into the total number of people in the US.

    you will find it a MUCH LARGER number than the total proportion of atheists in the US.

    so, conclusion:

    you are unashamedly lying, yet again.

  6. NotAProphet says

    …so you ask the lady if she was there, and she says “no”. Then you ask Ken Ham, was he there, and he says “no”.

    Suddenly that question doesn’t seem so good, because really nobody was there 3.75 billion years ago, any less than they were 6000 years ago.

    Thus Ken Ham is hoisted by his own petard; why should anyone believe HIS account of things: HE WASN’T THERE!

    Bad luck Ken, we’re back to examining the evidence at our disposal for the most plausible solution, because that is almost always the right one.

    When the man with his DNA all over the murder-scene says that actually the holy ghost killed the victim, what do we surmise…

  7. Gregory Greenwood says

    Its a great post and a worthy nominee.

    If only Ken Ham himself had the wit to read and understand it, and the integrity to admit that he is in the wrong.

    Unfortunately, expecting integrity from a creationist is like expecting to find ice in an active blast furnace.

  8. Glodson says

    Ken Ham says the world was created 6000 years ago. So I ask him: Were you there?

    Sadly, he’d just say he knew a guy that was there who wrote a book about it.

    Then ask you for money.

  9. says

    I too loved this post the first time I read it, and now I find myself loving it even more. I wish Emma could get this letter, and best wishes on the nomination.

  10. says

    It’s a plausible enough sounding story for a kid, because, of course, the idea is that a great authority figure was there who told us what happened. Since this is close to how kids have to learn the basics in the first place–that is, by believing reliable authorities–it’s a reasonably idea to them.

    The sad thing is that science is about not relying upon authority figures, especially those that have no provenance. Ham wishes to shortcut science education by pretending that his prejudices are all that matter. So the kid who should be learning how not to rely upon unreliable authorities is having those reinforced, instead of having those questioned.

    Glen Davidson

  11. Shemjaza says

    Hmm… Ken Ham _says_ that a little girl named Emma asked a NASA scientist about a moon rock. But the important thing we have to ask is “Was he there?”.

  12. echidna says

    Glodson@9:

    Sadly, he’d just say he knew a guy that was there who wrote a book about it.

    Then ask you for money.

    I’ll confirm this hypothetical statement. I was there when he did exactly this.

  13. CardinalSmurf says

    I love this quote from Ken Ham’s own site:


    Then the rep replied, “Oh, yeah I believe in the Bible too.” But, in the same breath said “Scientists have proven this…yada, yada, yada, blah, blah….”

    This is Emma’s mother recounting the same events to Ken. So this is the mother’s perception. *sigh*

    So sad to hear of brains simply shutting down at the first mention of science. Alas, all too common.

  14. slammo says

    Unfortunately, though the rest of the letter was awesome on a grand scale, this…

    and you have a book, the Bible, that tells stories about Jesus. You have evidence other than that you personally witnessed something.

    ..could have been ommitted, as it is misleading the girl into thinking she has actual evidence. Which is one of our main arguments against the existence of a sky fairie.

  15. TV200 says

    Yes, I still think this is one of your finest moments PZ.
    Young or old, there are so many people that could benefit from this advice.

  16. nooneinparticular says

    Of all the gabillion or so of your superb posts PZ, this one is perhaps your finest.

    Bravo and I hope that by reposting (and winning the Open Laboratory 2011 prize) it gets far wider distribution.

  17. starskeptic says

    slammo @17:

    including that reference to the Bible isn’t misleading in the slightest – an actual “story” isn’t the same as actual “evidence”.

  18. Ben says

    I enjoyed your response. Although it is somewhat disheartening to know it will likely never be read by Emma. At nearly 41 years old, I’ve never quite understood radiometric dating and your brilliant analogy with the hour glass was just what I needed.

    Thank you, thank you – PZ!

  19. kantalope says

    how do we know it was a moon rock? were we there?

    how would we know that was Emma’s mom? were we there?

    how do we know the bible was written by…I guess people that didn’t have free will anymore? God’s own hand? (I never did understand this whole word of god thingy) were we there?

    This whole can’t know something unless ‘you were there’ seems like it would cause a lot of problems.

  20. says

    Mind you, I hope by now that every teacher has it in his or her repertoire to say, “Actually the important question is, ‘How do we know?’” and go on from there with the reasons.

  21. nmmng says

    I wish a cretinist would ask me, “were you there?” so that I could answer, “Yes, as a matter of fact I was.” I would then patiently explain that science, contrary to Ham’s ignorance, is not based on fallible eyewitness accounts (let alone on century-old third-hand hearsay, like the buybull) but on hard, verifiable, repeatable evidence. Once we understand the evidence and see how it fits with the theories, thus strengthening the theories and allowing us to make more predictions which are in turn testable with more evidence, then we gain an understanding which is much more profound and satisfying than the childish just-so stories of the buybull. In other words, science allows us to be there in spirit.

  22. DriveByComment says

    No little girl, I wasn’t there.

    I wasn’t there when you parents f*cked and made you, and yet…

    here you are.

  23. says

    DriveByComment:

    I wasn’t there when you parents f*cked and made you, and yet…

    What an asinine comment, complete with asterisk, as if that makes a difference. :eyeroll:

  24. Peptron says

    Judge: And so, you have been found guilty of murder, being that your DNA was found all over the place and all. Do you have anything to say in your defense
    Suspect: Yes. Where you there?
    Judge: Wait… no actually I wasn’t… How foolish I am… I realised just now that I didn’t witness the actual murder… Release him!
    Suspect: Thank you Ken Ham! Once again you save the day!

  25. Matt says

    “I” wasn’t there, as in me, the conscious being called Matt. But elements that make up my body could have been. See, that is the beauty of life and the universe. I don’t want to sound all hippie when I say this but we are made of stars. We share much of the same stuff that goes into moon rocks. So in a sense, yes, I was there, as were you.

  26. says

    I said, in my most polite voice, “Were you there?”

    Were you there when God/Satan faked the massive evidence we have for deep time and for evolution? Or when anyone else did?

    No?

    Then the forensics wins over the exceedingly flimsy “witness” testimony.

    Glen Davidson

  27. Peptron says

    I just thought about the unintended converse of the “Where you there?” argument. A slightly smart kid might figure out that it means that if nobody can see you do something, whatever you do cannot be held against you.

  28. nemothederv says

    Possibly snarky answers to the question were you there?

    -No, were you?
    -Yes….in a past life. Ask Shirley McClaine, she saw me there.
    -Don’t remember, I must have been busy that day.
    -Yes it was last thursday,don’t you remember?
    - No but I’ll ask the doctor if we can stop by after he finishes with those daleks.
    - How would Jeebus answer that question?
    - Which medication did you forget to take today?

    and finally.

    I’ll have to think about that for awhile before I answer. Until then fuck you.

    I’m sure there are about a million more but, hey, you only need one right?

  29. DriveByComment says

    Hey Cained,

    Some site auto-filter swear words. ESAD.

    And you’re one to talk about asinine comments!

  30. says

    Yes, Caine is one to talk about asinine comments. Like the one you made a little earlier. Which was asinine.

    Your #40 wasn’t much better, dumbfuck.

  31. Brownian says

    You can get awards for writing letters and not sending them?

    That’s crazy! I start things all the time and never finish them! I want some awards, too! Look: books I bought but never read, coupons I clipped but never used, bills I meant to pay—not to mention the potential they always told me I had—Facebook invites! Shirts with missing buttons! Unburied bodies! If abstractions could dance, my life would be

    Anyway, congratulations PZ!

  32. geocatherder says

    I would have answered, “No, I didn’t need to be; the rocks tell their own stories.” Then I would have explained about HOW the rock told me its age (I assume isotope dating, for this example). But then I’m a geologist; I assume all rocks have stories to tell (though most of them need LOTS of, er, encouragement.)

  33. says

    Chigau, it’s not whether it’s a swear word or not or whether it’s used. It’s that DrivebyAsshole decided that would be an appropriate answer to Emma B, who, if I recall correctly, is all of nine years old. Not only did DrivebyAsshole reveal a particularly crude attitude, but managed to be prissy enough to think using an asterisk would make it all okay.

    Altogether, a sterling idiot.

  34. chigau () says

    Caine
    It’s cool, I got it.
    Yeah, that combination of mean, crude and prissy has a certain “charm”. They should grow out of it by 12 or 13, though.

  35. says

    Oh my god (or consciousness I suppose) This article is nothing short of mind blowing! [T]his article is nothing short of inspiring and completely mind bending! Everyone should be aware of this, regardless of age, race, or intellectual pursuits. (Copied and modified from here).

    So true, so true. And, so true (it’s actually good, PZ, just tired of the obsequiousness).

    Glen Davidson

  36. Ichthyic says

    But elements that make up my body could have been.

    but, they didn’t carry any coherent knowledge of the event.

    so, hippie it is.

    far out, man.

  37. DriveByComment says

    Hey Cained and Whipped. This is way too easy.

    My, your easily agitated.

    You must be female.

    And some sites consider fuck a swear word and block the entire post, the definition doesn’t matter.

    (Are you stupid enough to feed the troll when the troll tells you to stop feeding the troll?)

  38. says

    Someone ought to bring up Ken Ham’s actual standard answer to “Well, Ken, were you there?”

    The answer is that Ham wasn’t there, but God was, so we should trust God over everything and everyone else.

    Never mind the bare assertion that God wrote every word of Genesis. Never mind that no one else was there to see that God was there. Never mind that the whole point of creationism is to argue for God and thus using God in the argument is circular reasoning. It’s Ken Ham’s story and he’s sticking to it, and it gets him a long way with the children that are brought to him.

  39. Father Ogvorbis: It's Good for You. It Builds Character says

    My, your easily agitated.

    You must be female.

    You’re really not the sharpest knife blade in the chandelier, are you?

  40. says

    @DriveByComment
    Yeah, and you know what? You must be 9 years old. How about you go and bother your mommy instead of contaminating this place with your presence.

  41. otrame says

    DrivebyIdiot is the stupid, pathetic kind of troll. Let’s ignore him. My teeth are still nice and sniny from the last few days and he’s B-O-R-I-N-G

  42. DriveByComment says

    At least two stupid enough to feed the troll…

    And no-where does my original post imply it was suitable to say to the little girl.

    Will Cained join you?

    I really don’t believe that the folk here can react this way to an obvious troll.

    I repeat, are you stupid enough to feed the troll when it tells you to stop feeding it?

  43. says

    @DriveByIdiot
    *shrug* Feeding trolls is fun. It’s like putting food in front of a dog and seeing it make a stupid face. Except that dog is probably smarter than you.

  44. Ichthyic says

    I repeat, are you stupid enough to feed the troll when it tells you to stop feeding it?

    Drosera, is that you?

  45. Bob Dubery says

    A good test of a principle is to apply it universally. I hope that when Ken Ham is in Church and the priest talks about Jesus walking on the water Ken will ask “were you there?”

    Also the battle of Jericho, the crucifixion, the sermon on the mount, the battle of Hastings, Little Big Horn….

    It’s possibly the most stupid question of all time, and if applied Ham-handedly to anything that didn’t happen in the last 70 years or so it could render nearly everything we know questionable and rule most of human history invalid. The Civil War? Where you there? Moses bought the 10 Commandments down from the mountain? Really? Were you there?

    They shouldn’t allow this guy anywhere near school kids.

  46. David Utidjian says

    I went to the SciAm OpenLab site and there are a huge number of essays and articles. I read just a few (uh like two of them) and they were all kinds of awesome. Just as good as PZs but for different reasons and on different topics. 721 in all.

    The horrible thing is is that I just don’t have enough time to read them all. Next year there will be a similar number (I hope) of essays to read.

    One thing I am glad of though and that is I got to read PZs ‘Dear Emma B’ post, twice.

  47. Tom says

    Does anyone else find it curious that there is no way to leave a comment or interact with the content created by Ken Ham on his blog? or even the whole network of blogs there?

    … in contrast to this blog of course.

    :-)

  48. echidna says

    if applied Ham-handedly to anything that didn’t happen in the last 70 years or so it could render nearly everything we know questionable and rule most of human history invalid.

    I think that might be the idea. Sow fear about hell, doubt about other sources of information and guilt about being human, and then offer salvation from the hell you have made them imagine, a thread of certainty, and pardon from their imagined guilt, provided they submit to your control, and give you money.

    It works. It’s worked for a very long time.

  49. Frances Macomber says

    Be careful, questioning Caine’s reasoning (which richly deserves questioning) is an instant ban here. Tread lightly.

  50. Ichthyic says

    Frances Macomber

    really?

    seems to me I recall he let his own ego run so far away with him that he ended up being too stupid to realize what would do him in at the end.

    perhaps a very apt nym after all…

    short but happy life indeed.

  51. Frances Macomber says

    “What would do him?” Sure, that’s what I was talking about.
    I’ve watched a lot of people disappear after criticizing Caine, regardless of the argument being made by either party.

    Oh, BTW, cheers and +1 to the fishy one for being the first to get the reference.

  52. says

    Be careful, questioning Caine’s reasoning (which richly deserves questioning) is an instant ban here. Tread lightly.

    Oh, the power, I’m giddy! :eyeroll: I’m afraid you’re delusional. Tsk. I’ll repeat Ichthyic’s question, though.

    is that you again, Drosera?

  53. Frances Macomber says

    See, my posts don’t appear. Monkey help me, why? For saying that Caine’s posts should be questioned? Or is it that I am not a part of the hive mind? Mind you, the application is long, ignorant and full of vitriol. I have none of these traits, so i guess I’m gone.

  54. Ichthyic says

    I have none of these traits

    no, it’s because of the traits you DO exhibit:

    pretension and tediousness.

    in short, while others might find you offensive, you just boring the fuck out of me with your endless whinging.

    *shrug*

  55. says

    I’ve watched a lot of people disappear after criticizing Caine

    I don’t disappear people, Cupcake. People come and go, and the only people who are dungeoned are those who go against the standards and practices PZ has laid down. I expect you know that though, because of your idiotic use of “fishy” when referring to Ichthyic. One of the former dungeon dwellers used it all the time.

    Come up with a new shtick, Cupcake. You’re terribly boring.

  56. Frances Macomber says

    Well, I was wrong, my apologies. My posts did eventually show up.
    No I am not (hold on, scrolling up to see the accusation) Drosera. I’m a longtime lurker that tends to ignore comments, aka smart internet reading, considering comments here are nothing more than vitriolic idiocy.
    I realize that you think you are brilliant, good for you. How about backing it up for once? Not that I’ll read it; you have nothing new to say. Shall I call you Polly? That’s a common name for a parrot, right?

  57. Frances Macomber says

    Last comment on this thread: I never said that you did. You don’t own this blog, but you do seem to have PZ’s favor which means that nobody can question you.

  58. Frances Macomber says

    Well, rumptopf has proven me a liar because I have to answer his question. No, I was wasn’t defending Fucknuts by any stretch of the imagination, I was warning him of the fact that those who question Caine in any way are quickly banned by PZ. Whether this is absolute fact or not, I don’t know. I have seen it happen though.

  59. echidna says

    Frances Macomber,
    I don’t care who you are, will you stop yapping and say something pertinent?

  60. says

    No I am not … Drosera. I’m a longtime lurker that tends to ignore comments, aka smart internet reading, considering comments here are nothing more than vitriolic idiocy carbon-copy.

    FTFY

  61. Frances Macomber says

    Damn, that’s the problem with comments. Nobody reads what is actually written, they only read what they want to see. I was not attacking anybody. I was stating something that I have observed. Perhaps vilifying somebody based on very, very little evidence is a bad thing. I said nothing against Caine, I merely stated that her opinions should be challenged. Shouldn’t everybody’s viewpoints be treated the same? Ugh.

  62. Ichthyic says

    Nobody reads what is actually written

    *looks to see if you actually HAD any content to your posts other than whinging*

    right, so long as we’re clear then.

    boring-ass troll says what?

  63. says

    Frances Macomber

    My sincere apologies. Here was me thinking you were moaning about ‘vitriolic idiocy’. Forgive me for taking your own words literally. Next time I’ll use telepathy.

  64. says

    Rorschach:

    [citation needed]

    I think what’s actually needed is a brain inside our empty-headed whiner. DrivebyAsshole said straight up that it was trolling. That’s a banning offense and what a surprise, it was banned! How in the fuck does that all work, anyway?

  65. says

    Alethea:

    Wait, can’t we call Ichthyic “Fishy”?

    Sure we can. I just remember (vaguely) an idiot a while back, before the move, who kept calling Ichthyic ‘fishy’ and ‘the fishy’, thinking it was a clever insult.

  66. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    Let’s see. I had an going arguments with many of the people that got the banhammer on the SB site. A few of these people truly had a vendetta against me. I got one person banned when I did some digging and could prove he was a neo-fascist. One person was banned after one post that called for my death and eternal torment. Gee, PZ must be out to protect me from all of the mean people who show up.

    Or it could be that Frances Macomber takes his dislike of Caine and invents a story that PZ is Caine’s defender. Don’t worry, PZ will not drop the banhammer on you for a while. And it is not because you are bravely questioning Caine. It will because your act will be played out.

    Foolish fuckface. I will sit back and enjoy reading Caine’s teasing of you.

  67. Ichthyic says

    Wait, can’t we call Ichthyic “Fishy”

    it’s close enough to what the name actually means.

    I have no real objections.

    …so long as the word “cute” also appears somewhere nearby.

    because I am.

    especially with my beard.

  68. says

    Janine:

    Or it could be that Frances Macomber takes his dislike of Caine and invents a story that PZ is Caine’s defender.

    Hee. The whole thing is beyond stupid, in an amusing way. Are we supposed to imagine PZ in chainmail atop a white charger* now? I think not. Not enough tentacle.

    *Maybe if it were a triceratops…

  69. Jeremy says

    Beautifully put PZ. I really hope she gets to read it one day. All she needs now is a copy of RD’s new book, but I guess that will be on her parents’ banned list.

  70. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    I said nothing against Caine, I merely stated that her opinions should be challenged. Shouldn’t everybody’s viewpoints be treated the same?

    Foolish fuckface tries to lie about what he just said.

    No, I was wasn’t defending Fucknuts by any stretch of the imagination, I was warning him of the fact that those who question Caine in any way are quickly banned by PZ. Whether this is absolute fact or not, I don’t know. I have seen it happen though.

    You made a clain that Caine’s point of view was protected by PZ even though you do not know if it was true. We can read, shit for brains, and what you wrote was garbage.

  71. Frances Macomber says

    Once again I prove myself wrong by answering bullshit. I think that PZ’s post is amazing. Fuck, I had my 8 year old son read it. Yep, I’m a horrible person. I’m out to destroy your reputation, you random stranger. I’m trolling you because?
    I guess the vitriol comment I made was true. There has been no response that wasn’t angry. Hell, I wasn’t even talking to those who wigged out.
    In short, you are not special, you’re just another person that hates anybody that is different than you. Well done with that. Grow up.

  72. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    Fuck it all, Caine! Now I have Mick Jagger’s spoken word part of Emotional Rescue play in my head. I see Mick charging across the desert on Ken Ham’s triceratops.

  73. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    You have proved nothing, fuckface. You drop in with a bullshit story, people call you on it and you claim that proves your fiction.

    Logical thought is not your strong suit.

  74. Ichthyic says

    Once again I prove myself wrong by answering bullshit.

    omnomnom….

    some people just don’t know when to stop.

    can I have some intestines over here?

  75. says

    Janine:

    I see Mick charging across the desert on Ken Ham’s triceratops.

    Hahahahahahahahaha. Oh, I’m sorry!

    In the water is wet news, I see our dimwitted whiner doesn’t know the first rule of holes. Ah well.

  76. Frances Macomber says

    Inane is right Janine. You have nothing to say that isn’t angry and violent. You should seek help.
    Oh wait, that was wrong. That was supposed to be this: FUCK YOU!! You’re an idiot because I disagreed with one sentence!!!one111eleventy!! I long for your capacity for reason and to possess the depth of your intelligence. You truly astound me.

  77. says

    Frances Macomber

    You made a very simple claim:

    Be careful, questioning Caine’s reasoning (which richly deserves questioning) is an instant ban here.

    Surely you can back that claim up?

  78. Frances Macomber says

    Wow, you call me stupid while you lack reading comprehension? How I proved myself wrong was by posting again in a thread I said I was done with. Damn, if I had your intellect I could look forward to cleaning restrooms at McDonald’s. You are truly fucking impressive.

  79. says

    Daz:

    Surely you can back that claim up?

    Well, it’s a fact. It just might not be an absolute fact.

    Thinking doesn’t seem to be Cupcake’s forte, especially as it’s a little difficult to refute what you said when it’s right there in black and white. Gee, PZ hasn’t even gotten himself up out of bed to rush to my rescue! White Knights aren’t what they used to be, eh?

  80. jackrawlinson says

    The other way to illustrate the stupidity of the “Were you there?” question is to simply turn it against the beliefs of the person using it.

    “Do you believe Jesus existed/died on the cross/was resurrected?”

    “Yes”

    “Were you there?”

  81. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    Once more, your are mistaken, foolish fuckface. I am not angry and violent. I laid out an argument, one with more substance then your claim, that PZ is my White Knight. And you refuse to call me PZ’s favored member of the horde. You hurt my feelings. When PZ gets up, the firth thing he will do is ban you. The second thing is that all of your comments will be disemvowelled.

  82. says

    Daz:

    Must be your superhuman PZ-summoning powers slipping, Caine.

    Mmm, yes. I see my power to summon cupcakes is still strong though, it works even when I don’t want one.

    jackrawlinson:

    “Do you believe Jesus existed/died on the cross/was resurrected?”

    “Yes”

    “Were you there?”

    The problem with that, which has been pointed out, supra, by others, is that a theist, especially a Hammite creationist, will point to the bible as absolute, inerrant proof. “God was there and wrote it down, therefor, goddidit.”

  83. Frances Macomber says

    Here comes the stupid from Caine. She can lay it on thick.
    Examples? Not necessary when one’s tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. If you insist though, tohellwithyourturtle is a good example of somebody being banned for fucking with Caine’s gold-plated ass after making a joke that was missed by those who were OH SO SERIOUS.
    It’s obvious that dissent is actively discouraged here, no matter how slight the disagreement may be.

  84. Kieran says

    What is Ham’s response to the “where you there” question when applied to the bible?

  85. says

    Janine:

    I laid out an argument, one with more substance then your claim, that PZ is my White Knight.

    I’ll take this opportunity to point out that you were here before I was, and slaying Cupcakes and other assorted douchecakes long before I got in on the act.

  86. says

    Kieran:

    What is Ham’s response to the “where you there” question when applied to the bible?

    God was there, God had it written down, it’s absolute proof, therefor God and Goddidit.

  87. ohnhai says

    I think PZ needs to write his own book for children. perhaps even call it “letters to Emma B”

    and because he said asking questions was good, I have one that came to me while reading the letter.

    I though ‘Hang on!! What if there is some of that argon isotope already in the rock when it cooled, how would that screw up the data?”

    I know there are many different radiometric clocks out there that all overlap and offer checks and balances and give a strong measure of confidence in their results. But… are the isotopes that these clocks decay into only ever found as a result of these clocks running out?

    In other words do these isotopes occur naturally, or once formed do they get included into newly formed rocks? THis would ‘artificially’ boost the amount of – for example – argon in the sample and make it look far older than it actually is? Or do they get destroyed in the process of melting and re-forming? I’m assuming the latter as it would be impossible to ‘reset the clock’ otherwise?

    Stephen.

  88. says

    I think PZ needs to write his own book for children. perhaps even call it “letters to Emma B”

    Yes, that’s a great idea, I have been thinking about that after reading Hitchens’ “Letters to a young contrarian”, which I would recommend to everyone.

  89. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    Caine, did the foolish fuckface just claim that you are to blame for tohellwithyourturtle getting hit with the banhammer? This is getting seriously silly.

    Hello!

    My name is Frances Macomber!

    You banned tohellwithyourturtle!

    Prepare to die!

  90. says

    Just been reading the turtle’s comments. There’s a certain ‘you’re not as clever as you think you are’ similarity to Frances’. Anyone want to place a small bet on Frances’ previous nym?

    I second, third, whatever, Letters To Emma B. Great title.

  91. says

    Janine:

    Caine, did the foolish fuckface just claim that you are to blame for tohellwithyourturtle getting hit with the banhammer?

    Huh? Who? :looks in dungeon, clicks link, searches: Oh, I see. PZ used one of tohellwithyourturtle’s responses to me when he banned the moron:

    tohellwithyourturtle: I love how my reply is delayed which allows cupcake, I mean Caine, to imagine victory. Try harder sweet muffin; as if you can.

    PZ:

    Try harder sweet muffin; as if you can.

    [OK, will do. To hell with tohellwithyourturtle; banned. --pzm]

    That seems to mean that PZ was defending me. :eyeroll: I’ll note that I replied to turtleidiot all of twice, and xe was busy insulting many other people between me and PZ’s response.

  92. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    You typed out only two comments to tohellwithyourturtle? And tohell had disagreements with other people. Truly this is proof that PZ is defending you.

  93. says

    Well, this has been fun, but I need to get to sleep, you know how it is, things to do and people to disappear. In reality, we’re headed to town tomorrow, Kamaka is going to be in a gallery show, so it will be Pharyngulite fun.

  94. says

    Janine:

    You typed out only two comments to tohellwithyourturtle?

    Yep, then I killfiled them and went on to other discussions. Some people, their brains don’t work so well.

  95. Ichthyic says

    How I proved myself wrong was by posting again in a thread I said I was done with.

    I changed my mind.

    Instead of Lord Jim, you should call yourself Pete Puma.

    How many lumps do you want?

  96. Mus says

    “(…)and you have a book, the Bible, that tells stories about Jesus. You have evidence (…)”.

    This is the only thing i don`t agree PZ.

    The “Bible” is as much evidence to the existence of God (Father, Son or Holy Ghost…)like the “Iliad” proves the existence of the olympian, ctonic and sea gods.

    But, except that, whata wonderful letter.
    I really hope Emma will read your letter and start to think and make questions… good questions!

  97. Mark says

    When everyone has finished with the inane bickering is there any chance of someone answering the question in #117? I was thinking the exact same thing myself. I know there have been mistakes made previously in carbon dating due to there being carbon present from an outside source which effectively skewed the data. Creationists have attempted (unsuccessfully) to use this to discredit carbon dating altogether. Does argon naturally occur in rocks or do we know that it’s only there as a result of the deterioration of potassium isotopes?

  98. Ichthyic says

    I know there have been mistakes made previously in carbon dating due to there being carbon present from an outside source which effectively skewed the data.

    this is why it is so important to make sure there is no outside contamination when doing c14 dating.

    c14 is constantly being produced in the atmosphere, and from other sources (though mostly the atmosphere).

    so to properly date something it’s obviously important to make sure it isn’t contaminated.

    most of the other dating techniques actually don’t have this issue.

    for example, argon is non soluble and non bindable, so if you found some, in a crystal say, it really is extremely likely to only be from the products of decay.

  99. moggie says

    Kids have an almost insatiable appetite for learning about the world, and this is to be encouraged. Part of this encouragement should be helping them to learn to distinguish between good and bad questions. But Ken Ham doesn’t want that. He’d prefer to sabotage a child’s ability to learn by substituting pointless snark like “were you there” for genuine questions. Standing in the way of a child’s learning – worse, actually getting the child to shut down their own learning – that’s a disgusting way to treat kids.

  100. caesar pingus says

    I understand that you dont want to send this letter to the girl in question, but would it be worth sending it to her parents? I know they are probably creationists but there is a slight chance that one or both of them will have very reasonable doubts about their beliefs and decide to think a little deeper about what they’re allowing this man to do to their daughter. you never know they might even read it to her

  101. Robert Tobin says

    Whenever I see the name Ken Ham I am ashamed to admit that he is from my country, Australia.

  102. says

    I’m a longtime lurker that tends to ignore comments, aka smart internet reading, considering comments here are nothing more than vitriolic idiocy.

    So you plunge into the comments with vitriolic idiocy yourself?

    Mind you, the application is long, ignorant and full of vitriol. I have none of these traits, so i guess I’m gone.

    Self-awareness is not one of your strong suits.

    Last comment on this thread

    Followed by 6 more comments.

    You aren’t working towards getting banned because you disagree with Caine; you’re at risk of banning because you’re a pretentious asshole who has all the classic symptoms of the usual lame, boring troll.

  103. StevoR says

    PZ, I think this is your best (re)post ever. :-)

    Thanks, just thought I’d let you know. (Raises beer to good science & good science spokesfolks.)

  104. StevoR says

    @Robert Tobin :

    Whenever I see the name Ken Ham I am ashamed to admit that he is from my country, Australia.

    What you mean the space Shuttle pilot? The guy who flew the first “Return to Flight” mission after the ‘Columbia’ was lost – a flight that also included Adelaide born astronaut Andy Thomas among its crew?! That Ken Ham … ?

    But, but, wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Ham ) says he was born in New Jersey!

    What’s that about another Ken Ham you’re talking about? There is NO other Ken Ham! ;-)

  105. Ichthyic says

    Whenever I see the name Ken Ham I am ashamed to admit that he is from my country, Australia.

    Yeah, and Hobbiton has the dubious distinction of having birthed Ray Comfort. I’ve often wondered who is worse.

    but one thing is sure…

    they both realized they could only sell their BS in America.

  106. David Marjanović, OM says

    tohellwithyourturtle was boring and annoying. If anything, PZ waited too long before banning it!

  107. David Marjanović, OM says

    (And its name made me wonder if it was an attack on ChasCPeterson or Audley Z. Darkheart.)

    they both realized they could only sell their BS in America.

    Joke:
    Which part of Austria is the smartest?
    Upper Austria, because it sent Hitler to Germany, Krenn [conservative bishop] to Lower Austria, and Haider to Carinthia.

  108. StevoR says

    @ NotAProphet : (3 October 2011 at 11:22 pm)

    …When the man with his DNA all over the murder-scene says that actually the holy ghost killed the victim, what do we surmise…

    He’s going for an insanity plea defence? ;-)

    ***

    (Okay if I use emoticons here? Please?)

  109. Carlie says

    Cyberguy @72 – nice, thanks!

    Be careful, questioning Caine’s reasoning (which richly deserves questioning) is an instant ban here.

    Were you there?

  110. Louis says

    Dear All,

    I am a long time reader, commenter and lurker on this blog and you have offended me/have offended someone else/are mean/are an echo chamber/are all as irrational as the people you are combating/are rude/are ugly/are feminazis (delete as applicable).

    Due to my massive sense of personal outrage, sanctimony and entitlement I shall now troll the comment section of this blog in high dudgeon. Of course I shall/shall not (delete as applicable, depends on mood) admit I am trolling and when I am banned I shall use that event as a piece of evidence in favour of whatever claim I am making, despite the fact that it is almost certainly minimally relevant at best.

    If you are very lucky I will complain about some slightly relevant real problem, like for example male circumcision or racism against white people, which whilst genuine, is actually vastly less problematic in comparison to the larger problems under discussion. Of course when it is pointed out to me that whilst this problem is real it’s at best minimally relevant, diversionary, and vastly less serious I will claim persecution and have a tantrum. If at all possible I will, during my tantrum, throw around as many sexist/racist/ablist/homophobic/transphobic words and insults as I believe I can get away with.

    Depending on how imaginative I am feeling I will either change my pseudonym and claim the lurkers support me in email, run a series of sockpuppets, or run off to my own/another blog and complain bitterly about the claimed prejudice and vitriol of the commenters/blog owner/women/racial minorities/disabled people/homosexual people/trans people as humanly possible. It is possible I will be sat in my mother’s basement masturbating whilst wearing her wedding dress as I do this. I may in fact simply do all of these.

    What I will be very unlikely to do is present a coherent argument. There are a variety of reasons for this, perhaps I am simply incapable, perhaps the fact that two dozen rightly pissed of people are currently stomping on my head and I have no idea which pair of boots to address first is the problem. The chances of me coming up with links, articles, hell, even some facts, to back up any claim I make are small. However I will be declaring victory early and often.

    Thank you all for reading, I shall now begin by calling the nearest woman a bitch.

    Louis

    P.S. How did I do?

  111. Louis says

    Damn I forgot to flounce, fail to stick to it, re-flounce and return ad nauseum.

    I shall do so now. ;-)

    Louis

  112. Louis says

    Oh and yes, the Emma B letter, as good now as it ever was.

    Yeah, flimsy attempt to stay on topic! I’ve been dying to take the piss out of the recent crop of trolls for days.

    Louis

  113. A.T. Pritchard says

    To me, this letter makes ‘accommodationist’ criticism of Prof. Myers look very hollow indeed. There are times when a non-confrontational style is needed to engage with the ordinary victims of misinformation, and here – not for the first time – a sometimes aggressive interlocutor demonstrates the obvious fact that he understands this. In tackling creationism, furthermore, it might sometimes be counter-productive to attack people’s basic religious convictions; here, P.Z. duly adheres to the science. As far as I can tell, most of the accommodationists’ contentions seem to reduce to these two truisms; if so, one of their favourite targets here gives them little cause for complaint.

    Or maybe the accommodationists are asking for more than this? After all, P.Z. takes a different tack with the liars and with the wilfully obtuse, Ken Ham being an obvious example; would his critics advocate that such clowns also be gently informed of the facts (which they’ve heard before, and dogmatically rejected)? To do so would not only be unrealistic, but would also give the lie to the claim that accommodationism seeks to promote ‘subtlety’ and ‘nuance’ in debate: promoting a single template for every dialogue simplifies and flattens.

    Of course, P.Z. also doesn’t contaminate a science lecture with avowals of the niche theology that treats science and faith as logically compatible. To ask him to do so – by an appeal not to that theology’s supposed rational soundness, but instead by one to short-term strategic expediency – would be tantamount to demanding that he abandon his intellectual integrity, and with it the precious tradition of honesty in debate. More prosaically, it would be to ask him to inject basically irrelevant arguments into the discussion of science, which, to say the least, is uncomfortably close to creationism.

    Most of this has already been said, notably by Prof Myers himself and by Jerry Coyne, but I don’t think there’s much harm in reiterating it.

  114. DLC says

    It was good then, and it’s good now.
    for the people saying the bible isn’t evidence of a deity’s existence – to us, no, it isn’t. To them, it’s all the evidence they need. That and for some charismatic person to tell it to them when they’re young, vulnerable and susceptible to blather.
    Of course, to anyone who’s looked at the bible with a critical eye, the thing’s full of lies, inconsistencies and poorly rendered recollections — anecdotes, not data.

  115. greame says

    I repeat, are you stupid enough to feed the troll when it tells you to stop feeding it?

    LOL! You must be new around here.

  116. says

    A.T. Pritchard:

    To me, this letter makes ‘accommodationist’ criticism of Prof. Myers look very hollow indeed. There are times when a non-confrontational style is needed to engage with the ordinary victims of misinformation, and here – not for the first time – a sometimes aggressive interlocutor demonstrates the obvious fact that he understands this.

    The argument PZ makes against accomodationism isn’t about their own approach. It’s about their criticisms of the “New Atheists.” He has specifically stated he believes everyone should approach theism as they see fit, and that it takes a group effort, including the soft-spoken, reasonable tones of those who are less strident.

    He calls out accomodationists who claim that Dawkins and Hitchens and Myers are hurting the cause by being more vocal, more insistent on the application of logic. He doesn’t call them out because they are milquetoasts.

  117. A.T. Pritchard says

    @nigelTheBold, yes, you’re quite right. To clarify, by “‘accommodationist’ criticisms of Prof. Myers”, I meant arguments made against P.Z. in the name of accommodationism, not criticisms voiced by him against accommodationists. I.e., I contended that P.Z.’s letter makes much criticism of the ‘New Atheists’ look hollow.

  118. passerby says

    Wow, this place got nasty quick. Why is it that these really awesome threads seem to simultaneously attract the best and the worst of the crop for comment?

    As for the letter: If Emma B. is real, I don’t think she’ll get to see this letter. Saying as her experience is relayed through her mother, then filtered by Hambone up there, I don’t think that anything coming the other way would get through the derp shielding in place.

    As for the nomination, it’d be great to have the letter distributed farther outward, and to have some more recognition come to Pharyngula. This blog is one of my favorite places to visit, and the Emma B letter is a sterling example of how to teach children about science and skepticism.

  119. Tim DeLaney says

    Letters to Emma B is an awesome suggestion for a book. My suggestion for a subtitle: How Do You Know That?

    Please give it serious thought, PZ. Maybe children’s books are not what you had in mind, but you have an amazing talent that could have a significant impact on education in this country.

  120. moggie says

    passerby:

    As for the letter: If Emma B. is real, I don’t think she’ll get to see this letter. Saying as her experience is relayed through her mother, then filtered by Hambone up there, I don’t think that anything coming the other way would get through the derp shielding in place.

    As I recall, this was covered over on Sb back in June. Here’s a quote from Emma’s mother:

    I had to tell you that my friend wrote on Ken’s Facebook page that she knows Emma and some guy… sent my friend a PRIVATE message blasting Ken and Emma (how sweet). I didn’t see the message because I didn’t want to…

    (this refers to PZ’s “letter”)

    Yep, Emma B’s mother doesn’t want to be exposed to any message which might shake her worldview, and it seems likely that she protects her child from inconvenient facts.

  121. Glodson says

    @156

    Yep, Emma B’s mother doesn’t want to be exposed to any message which might shake her worldview, and it seems likely that she protects her child from inconvenient facts.

    That made me groan. It hits a little too close to home for me. My little brother and his wife are homeschooling their 3 children, and I have no doubt they will shelter their kids from such “inconvenient facts.” I’m not sure how to broach the subject with my brother, as he’s been getting a little wonky with his religious beliefs over the last few years.

    I do hope that I’m able to get him, and his family, to just accept reality into their lives. I don’t care if they want to continue be religious, but for the love of fuck, accept that the world is a bit older than 6000 years old.

    I mean, what’s a few billion years between family.

  122. says

    My, your easily agitated.

    You must be female.

    Great, we still have the misogynists.

    “Guys, please don’t do that.”

  123. Carlie says

    I repeat, are you stupid enough to feed the troll when it tells you to stop feeding it?

    We like to watch them pop when they get too full. Makes the loveliest sploochy sound.

  124. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    Damn, that’s the problem with comments. Nobody reads what is actually written, they only read what they want to see.

    Shiny mirror.

  125. says

    I remember reading that, it was either around the time I started following this or I read it posthumously[???].
    If someone–anyone–ever asked me that, I would probably respond, “Yes, I was there. But I’m not allowed to talk about it. Classified, hush-hush, etc.” I don’t even care if it was a young kid who doesn’t understand what I mean by classified.

  126. Inane Janine, OM, Conflater Of Arguments says

    The trolls are force fed until they explode. From the wreckage of the bodies, the bloated livers are extracted and an exquisite pâté is made. It is one of the delights of the OM initiation orgies.

  127. anchor says

    That one was indeed a good one, as are most all of them PZ! I would be tempted to say it was one of my favorites or a particularly memorable post, but there are SO MANY that satisfy those criteria that its quite impossible to mark out distinction in such an exceptional and constant standard of quality in a written body of work devoted to rational thinking.

    Can’t wait for your book to come out!

  128. bobenyart says

    I’m having fun posting over at PZ’s blog calling me and Will Duffy idiots, so I don’t think I’ll be following up if any comments to this are posted. But:

    As a biblical creationists, I think that PZ’s letter to Emma is extremely well done. Ken Ham’s question has built in assumptions and presuppositions that get lost in a child’s repeating it. So Ken’s question easily comes across as rude and argumentative, whereas PZ’s question, while also incorporating assumptions and presuppositions, shows more humility in the one asking, and opens up rather than shuts down dialogue.

    However, PZ’s form of the question would have harmed the inquisitive inclinations of a child who asked scientists committed to Plato’s geocentrism, “How do you know that the Sun orbits the Earth?” (Which was a scientific commitment to Plato and Ptolemy, not to biblical creationism, which was only used as a pretext to uphold a platonic cosmology. And btw PZ, you must get a kick out of the fact that the president of the Flat Earth Society believes in evolution. No?)

    PZ chose his form of the question to teach the child to submit to current conventional scientific claims: “How do you KNOW that rock is billions of years old?” Instead, a more scientific question would be: “Why do you claim that rock is billions of years old?” or “Why do you claim the Sun revolves around the Earth?” rather than, “How do you KNOW the Sun revolves around the Earth.”

    Even accepting the question “Why do you claim…” shows a humility and an openness to scientific inquiry and so its form leads to more open scientific investigation.

    I reject the mantra of creationists and atheists that science cannot reveal absolute truth. If science can’t reveal absolute truth, then there is no reason either to believe that it can bring us in the general direction of truth. The universe does not revolve around the Earth every 24 hours, and if that is not absolutely known, then science simply cannot point us in the direction of any bit of reality whatsoever.

    Of course, to justify science at all, we must accept the presuppositions of the validity of logic and reason, and all the preconditions of intelligibility, including that of consciousness and memory. And it is on these presuppositions which Ken Ham’s question depends for a sincere asking. Whereas it is PZ’s inability to justify these presuppositions which exposes his question as assuming a circular answer, and thus, insincere.

  129. Judy L. says

    @17

    The part about “you have a book, the bible” as evidence for your belief that Christ was crucified 2000 years ago isn’t problematic. It demonstrates that we rely on different kinds of evidence, beyond our own unaided perception and observation and experience, to form our knowledge and beliefs. The next step that a more complex analysis demands is evaluating the merit of the evidence. When we subject the bible to any kind of scrutiny we run up against all kinds of problems with its factual basis and its completeness, consistency, authenticity, and authorship. Just because it’s “evidence” doesn’t automatically make it GOOD EVIDENCE for the assertions and beliefs that followers of the Abrahamic religions claim. It is in fact very bad evidence on which to base one’s moral beliefs and is truly useless and dangerous as guide to a scientific approach to knowing the natural world.

  130. ChasCPeterson says

    over at PZ’s blog

    as opposed to, like, over here?

    As a biblical creationists

    yeah, you’re an idiot, all right.

  131. Rey Fox says

    The admitted troll DriveByComment is now in the dungeon.

    Wow, usually one has to be a Stormfront Nazi to get banned so fast. But trolling is trolling, and drivebys are a form of trolling to me.

  132. Ichthyic says

    I’m having fun posting over at PZ’s blog calling me and Will Duffy idiots

    although you in fact, ARE an idiot, Bob, that’s not what we’ve actually been calling you out on.

    Instead we label you as you provably are:

    BOB ENYART IS AN IGNORANT LYING CHILD ABUSER

    which is not slander or libel, since these things are in clear evidence, everywhere you go.

    just ask Google.

  133. says

    I’m having fun posting over at PZ’s blog calling me and Will Duffy idiots, so I don’t think I’ll be following up if any comments to this are posted. But:

    Oh good, fucking idiot. What must really hurt is that you’re exposed as the ignorant moron that you functionally are.

    As a biblical creationists, I think that PZ’s letter to Emma is extremely well done.

    As a plural myself, I think it was well done too.

    Ken Ham’s question has built in assumptions and presuppositions that get lost in a child’s repeating it. So Ken’s question easily comes across as rude and argumentative, whereas PZ’s question, while also incorporating assumptions and presuppositions, shows more humility in the one asking, and opens up rather than shuts down dialogue.

    And yet you don’t learn any humility, or why some “assumptions” are legitimate, but then some really are unteachable.

    However, PZ’s form of the question would have harmed the inquisitive inclinations of a child who asked scientists committed to Plato’s geocentrism, “How do you know that the Sun orbits the Earth?” (Which was a scientific commitment to Plato and Ptolemy, not to biblical creationism, which was only used as a pretext to uphold a platonic cosmology.

    Uh huh, dumbass, the Bible was the primary text to which the Inquisition was appealing. Because while it doesn’t make a statement about the earth being fixed, it certainly operates within such a cosmology.

    And btw PZ, you must get a kick out of the fact that the president of the Flat Earth Society believes in evolution. No?)

    You must get a kick out of illogic and non sequiturs. No?

    PZ chose his form of the question to teach the child to submit to current conventional scientific claims: “How do you KNOW that rock is billions of years old?”

    Guess, what, fuckwit, translating to the vernacular for the sake of a child is not illegitimate.

    Instead, a more scientific question would be: “Why do you claim that rock is billions of years old?” or “Why do you claim the Sun revolves around the Earth?” rather than, “How do you KNOW the Sun revolves around the Earth.”

    No, you’re an idiot and an ignoramus. The proper scientific terminology would be something like “What is the evidence that supports the conclusion that the rock is billions of years old?” Your tendentious nonsense is intended to disparage what is not realistically in question.

    Even accepting the question “Why do you claim…” shows a humility and an openness to scientific inquiry and so its form leads to more open scientific investigation.</blockquote

    Which is proper prior to the establishment of working facts, like that the earth is around four and a half billion years ago. No one asks "Why do you claim that F=ma" because that has been established beyond reasonable doubt. Same with evolution and deep time, not that a fucking idiot knows anything about it.

    I reject the mantra of creationists and atheists that science cannot reveal absolute truth.

    I reject your pathetic lack of understanding of epistemology.

    If science can’t reveal absolute truth, then there is no reason either to believe that it can bring us in the general direction of truth.

    Said like an absolutist idiot.

    Anyway, shithead, we don’t claim to be getting to “truth,” rather to human constructions that allow us to reliably deal with the world. Unlike your appalling stupidity and lies.

    The universe does not revolve around the Earth every 24 hours, and if that is not absolutely known, then science simply cannot point us in the direction of any bit of reality whatsoever.

    It is known beyond any reasonable doubt, at least within the realm of intersubjective soundness.

    And again with the idiotic non sequitur, said as if it truly were a logical consequence, not your prejudice.

    Of course, to justify science at all, we must accept the presuppositions of the validity of logic and reason, and all the preconditions of intelligibility, including that of consciousness and memory.

    No we don’t, moron, we just have to understand these according to their possibilities and limitations. If you had a clue you wouldn’t claim “absolute knowledge” about anything.

    And it is on these presuppositions which Ken Ham’s question depends for a sincere asking.

    No, cretin, the problem with Ham’s “question” is that it denies the possibility of knowledge without direct experience, or, bizarrely, the eyewitness of someone with direct experience. Eyewitnesses are not especially reliable, let alone the Bible, which isn’t an eyewitness or even witness to much of anything. Aside from that, nothing’s especially wrong with the question.

    Whereas it is PZ’s inability to justify these presuppositions which exposes his question as assuming a circular answer, and thus, insincere.

    You don’t know philosophy, lackwit. There’s nothing circular about dealing with evidence save the intersubjective nature of shared knowledge. And that’s legit because there’s no claim for absolute truth, rather it involves consistent interpretations and models. Unlike your inconsistent BS.

    Glen Davidson

  134. Ichthyic says

    I reject the mantra of creationists and atheists that science cannot reveal absolute truth.

    strangely, not even scientists claim science reveals “absolute truth”.

    you so poorly understand what science is, Bob.

    it is of course, why we call you IGNORANT.

    as well as a LIAR.

    the CHILD ABUSER part is just a reminder.

  135. amphiox says

    And btw PZ, you must get a kick out of the fact that the president of the Flat Earth Society believes in evolution. No?

    Good for him! That means he is right on one more aspect of reality that you are.

  136. says

    keep it up bob.

    surely there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

    However, Bob is likely not so much interested in converting anyone to his appallingly ignorant little bit of nonsense as in claiming to be the champion of idiots. That is to say, he’s probably more out to peel away morons and their donations from Ken Ham and William Dembski than he is in trying to convince anyone who knows anything.

    With that as his goal, he may very well be helping his pocketbook and status as the leader of fools by “taking us on.” Sure, it’s a mess of stupidity, deliberate bypassing of every demand for evidence for creationism, and pathetic whining. But that works on any number of naive buffoons who think that, at worst, he’s fighting the evilutionists–no matter that he’s likely interested in doing nothing but playing the “righteous.”

    These people aren’t strong on analysis (to call that an understatement is an understatement), but they do have a knack for getting donations and praise from people who know no more than Will Duffy does. What Bob is doing may well be working for him, and increasing the number of the ignorant he’s cozening.

    Glen Davidson

  137. Ichthyic says

    That is to say, he’s probably more out to peel away morons and their donations from Ken Ham and William Dembski than he is in trying to convince anyone who knows anything.

    Oh, I most certainly agree.

    Which is exactly why I want those potential donors to be aware of just how much of a LIAR bob is, and just how IGNORANT he is of what he is talking about.

    I mean, would you want to give your money to someone who shamefacedly is a proven LIAR and CONVICTED CHILD ABUSER?

    I know I wouldn’t.

    ;)

  138. says

    bobenyart

    nstead, a more scientific question would be: “Why do you claim that rock is billions of years old?”

    Wow. You even get that wrong.

    “Why?” is a teleological question. It could be answered quite accurately by, “The evidence leads inexorably to that conclusion.” You are asking for the motive of the claim, and so is not scientific at all (unless you were studying the psychology of belief).

    “How do you know?” is a much better question. “What is the evidence that supports your hypothesis, and how was your hypothesis tested?” is an even better one. This could, of course, be shortened to, “Citation, please.”

    I reject the mantra of creationists and atheists that science cannot reveal absolute truth. If science can’t reveal absolute truth, then there is no reason either to believe that it can bring us in the general direction of truth.

    What a ludicrously simplistic statement!

    The problem is your fixation on “truth.” Science doesn’t give you truth. It gives you facts, and a model in which to interpret those facts coherently. The model is a collection of theories and hypotheses which represent reality.

    As we gain new data, and try to fit it into the current model, we occasionally find parts of the model that don’t fit the new data.

    Epistemically, that can happen to any piece of the model. And that’s why scientists claim you can’t know anything with absolute certainty. If new data arrived that showed we are just a simulation on a big computer, that’s what our model would have to reflect.

    You can determine the probability of the correctness of any part of the model, certainly. Some things approach certainty. Our model of gravity, though woefully incomplete, is one of those things. What we know, we have judged to be about as correct as you can get.

    Evolution is another of those things which is effectively certain.

    Of course, to justify science at all, we must accept the presuppositions of the validity of logic and reason, and all the preconditions of intelligibility, including that of consciousness and memory. And it is on these presuppositions which Ken Ham’s question depends for a sincere asking. Whereas it is PZ’s inability to justify these presuppositions which exposes his question as assuming a circular answer, and thus, insincere.

    Presuppositionalism (in which you engage here) is fundamentally flawed. It is a tautology, a question-begging assertion. It relies on the reification of logic, the platonic ideal of logic.

    There is no platonic ideal of logic. The reason logic works is because we live in a mathematical universe. 1 thing + 1 thing will always equal 2 things. Two things can’t occupy the same space. And so on.

    Science is predicated on three things: that the universe is objective, that it is observable, and that it is consistent. That’s all. Those three things, taken together, give you the necessary epistemic foundation for science.

    What are the presuppositions for God, on the other hand? What are the epistemic ramifications of the God assumption?

    Ham’s question is not sincere, and you know it. It’s a prideful, arrogant question. “Were you there?” dismisses all knowledge as futile, and substitutes authoritative assertion in place of knowledge.

    The fact you consider it a sincere question when put in the context of religious belief demonstrates your readiness to abandon any pretense of scientific interest in favor of your presuppositions. It also demonstrates your arrogant and authoritative attitude towards knowledge.

  139. Nathaniel says

    Just to dogpile on bobenyart (following Nigel, who did an excellent job):

    Of course, to justify science at all, we must accept the presuppositions of the validity of logic and reason, and all the preconditions of intelligibility..

    As Nigel says, the first part of this is simply justified by demanding consistency of the universe. We find that one apple plus one apple makes two apples, no matter who you are and where you do it, so we’re pretty sure of arithmetic that follows those laws. It’s quite possible to come up with other forms of arithmetic or logic.

    The point of intelligibility is similarly flawed. Every study quantum mechanics? Evidence was found that light was both a wave and a particle. This doesn’t make any sense at all – it’s unintelligible in the sense that one cannot imagine it at all. But it turns out to be true. We can develop a way to make it work, to understand how to make predictions. But it’s deeply confusing, particularly to the newcomers and the first discoverers.

    To my mind, this is an essential part of religious thinking: that things should be understandable. Some basic sense has to be made of basics, even if motives remain fuzzy, and so give a sense of completeness. It shares the trait with conspiracy theory.

  140. M Groesbeck says

    I look forward to being given a “how do you know?”/”were you there?” questions — because, as it turns out, we have millions of millions of witnesses regarding the age of the materials making up the Earth and the minerals formed at various times. They’re called Uranium nuclei. And while individual uranium or lead atoms in crystalline structures which can incorporate uranium (but not lead) in their formation might not tell us much — much like human eyewitnesses! — once we have a big enough “crowd” we actually develop a very reliable account (unlike with human eyewitnesses).

    Yes, it takes nuclear physics to really figure out how to “listen” to all these “witnesses” — but that’s an observation in favor of studying nuclear physics, not an argument against radiometric dating.

  141. duncan says

    I’m glad you posted this open letter twice, for two reasons

    1) It thoroughly shits on Ken Ham’s awful ‘were you there?’ question.

    2) It treats the child (in this case Emma B) who is encouraged to ask that question with a degree of respect and trust that Ken Ham and his followers do not show to her. In your letter you made it explicitly clear that Emma had the option of listening to the woman’s explanation and rejecting it and still agreeing with Ken Ham. Ken Ham (and some (if not most) of his followers) would disallow agreement with the ‘millions of years hypothesis’ and sometimes censor it.

    Basically, the fact that Ken Ham and his ‘creationist’ audience are more willing to practice censorship than the ‘evolutionist’ people is indicative that the ‘evolutionists’ are more honest, which is a reasonable first test as to which of these is right and wrong.

  142. says

    Hey PZ I gotta disagree on one point. I liken the teaching of creationism to child abuse. I disagree with you about not sending the letter to the family. Presuming you have the information to send it to her then you should do so. The parents have already allowed her to be put out there by posting her letter to Ken Ham. So she should be allowed to hear a different point of view.

  143. marksparrow says

    I think an effective retort would be:

    Teacher: “Were you adopted?”

    Kid “No”

    “Teacher “Were you there?”

  144. anchor says

    Whenever I see that idiotic question, “Were you there?” I can’t resist a chuckle: It’s actually quite an old trick, and I always hear it delivered with the passionate intonation of Richard Burton’s character in “The Robe” (about a certain bewitched towel) whenever his character got the heebie-geebies just thinking about a certain crucifixion, like this: “WERE YOU OUT THERE???”

    It becomes increasingly hilarious as Burton’s character repeats it.

    The extra ironical hilarity of it is that the novel and movie explicitly invite the reader/audience to imagine themselves BEING THERE.

  145. Lola says

    I’ve loved this post so much. It’s genuinely stirring. Makes me happy to be a faithful reader.

  146. Matt says

    This may be my favorite post of yours ever.

    It’s a remarkably high-road response to the troll-like behavior or Ken Ham – and taking the high road, while more difficult, is often preferable, because it promulgates ideas which might take root.

    Thanks again for a great, very heartening post.

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