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Spin, spin, spin

Now the Discovery Institute is trying to spin the Darwin on the Palouse event.

Hosted ironically by an outfit calling itself the Palouse Coalition of Reason, the event included Daniel Dennett and PZ Myers with the latter doing basically a standup comedy routine mocking Darwin-doubters. “He never interacted with a single argument,” our friend reports. Not once.

Well of course not.

Hmmm. I don’t even know what this bozo means by “interacted with a single argument”. I gave a talk in which I pointed out the absence of evidence for intelligent design creationism’s claims, showed that they pad their résumé and are pseudoscientific, and then talked about how young earth creationism was a greater threat because it was far more popular, despite being even more ridiculous. They don’t have a credible argument!

Dan Dennett and I then had a joint Q&A session; it was a little on the short side because of time issues, but we both interacted with the audience and answered questions. Most of the questions were legitimate and relevant. There was one fellow who was clearly from the local creationist camp who asked one rambling, near-incoherent question about the source of morality, trying to imply that we need some external source to impose it, and somehow drifting into something about aliens, which the world-class philosopher sitting next to me took charge of answering. That questioner was reduced to mumbling something about “What if there were more aliens?” in rebuttal. It was a little weird.

But I even complained later that the creationists did not say much of anything at my talk; they waited until the next day, at Jen and Fred’s, to open their mouths. And now they’re complaining that I didn’t interact with their arguments?

The next night, Jen McCreight and Fred Edwords spoke, and there were at least two creationists in the audience who did ask questions. These were people from New Saint Andrews College, a 17th century throwback and bastion of right-wing extremism, founded by the odious Doug Wilson (money quote: “They voted for Bush; I’d vote for Jefferson Davis”; he’s so right-wing, he openly argues for the blessings of slavery). That’s who our cheerful correspondent to the Discovery Institute is: a follower of the New Confederacy, a liar for Jesus, a narrow-minded bigot who was puffed up with the volume of his own ignorance. And also willing to misrepresent.

A followup event at the University of Idaho the next night starred Darwin defenders Fred Edwords and Jen McCreight. In the Q&A, our friend alluded to some challenges to Darwinian theory and offered the view that “Good scientists are masters of the method; they aren’t identified by which paradigm they pledge allegiance to.”

“I was interrupted by someone and then PZ Myers chimed in (he was there as an audience member). He turned around and said to me, ‘That’s crap science.’” And so there you go: argument over.

Wow. That makes it sound like I was disagreeing with the importance of the scientific method, because he left off what I was objecting to. His “challenges to Darwinian theory” was a stupid argument about an instance of rapid deposition which can’t be used as an argument for Noah’s Flood (it was a collection of whale fossils that had been buried in diatom blooms in a sheltered shallow bay), and which certainly don’t challenge evolutionary theory, and my outburst was to tell him that he was cherry-picking his stories — that was the crap science. He’s no master of the method, he’s an ideologue mangling the evidence to support his paradigm.

Then the Intelligent Design creationists gloat.

You can’t reason with these people — you really can’t. What made it worthwhile for our correspondent was the conversations afterward. Chatting with people from the audience, he got a chance to recommend good books to folks looking for further and better information and got into one conversation that went on over beers till midnight. That kind of human interaction is almost invariably worth the effort.

I’d like to know what those “good” books were; I suspect they were more dishonest nonsense from the DI and young earth creationists. I’m not at all surprised that he found a few deluded souls to evangelize to — when all they’ve got is fairy tales and fluff and distortions of science, it’s pretty easy to spin up bar conversation, I’m sure.

They were also rank cowards. I’m reasonably up-to-date on all of the creationist arguments (hey, I knew of the obscure paper on South American paleontology the guy was citing), and Dan Dennett of course is an arch-Darwinian, so they waited until the graduate student and the Coalition of Reason activist were on the stage to ask the questions that better matched our expertise.

And then they have the gall to complain that I didn’t interact with their arguments. They were afraid to make any!


  1. says

    LMAO at this:

    You can’t reason with these people — you really can’t.

    Perhaps they’re having some problems in this area because they are entirely unfamiliar with the concept of, you know, reason?

  2. says

    your adversary the [creationist], as a roaring [liar], walketh about, seeking whom he may devour

    There. I just improved Peter 5:8.

  3. DLC says

    “you can’t reason with these people? ” – projection. They don’t want to reason with people, they want to proselytize. They haven’t had a new argument for design since 1980, if then.
    It’s all the same thing, in slightly new clothes. Creationists cannot “reason”. If they ever did allow logic and reason to penetrate their skulls, it would directly challenge their faith in magic, and their little Tinkerbells would die. Then they’d be left with nothing but reason. Of course, they might just realize that there is more real happiness to be had from exploring reality than there ever will be from exploring a single 2000-ish year old fantasy.

  4. says

    PZ’s observation about a creotard’s “rambling, near-incoherent question about the source of morality” isn’t exaggeration. I thought the audience did well to contain their disgust with the questioner, as it was a long, pointless monolog- not a question really at all, in the sum of it.

  5. Sastra says

    What made it worthwhile for our correspondent was the conversations afterward.

    Oh yeah? Enough of these ‘conversations’ and your correspondent may eventually find it very worthwhile indeed.

    The surest path out of pseudoscience is for someone who is sincerely convinced that they’ve really got science on their side to then try to make their case to skeptics. That’s why they so often either try to change the topic (‘hey, this is about morality!’) or try to shut down the debate (‘look, this will never get us anywhere!’) They start to recognize that they’re not the threat. On the contrary, they’re the ones in dangerous territory

    It’s also why many of them decide to stop going through the evidence from the ‘other side’ (scientific experts) and confine themselves to riffling through the productions of the echo chamber. But for those who don’t …. keep it up. Keep broadening your investigations. Come onto our ground and try to prove us wrong. It’s all about truth, right?

    Push comes to shove, creationists nare going to have to choose between worldly truth and religious Truth. Which really means that they’re going to have to admit to the possibility of being wrong — or not. Genuine humility doesn’t lead where they think it does.

  6. billyeager says

    That we repeatedly encounter dishonesty, half-truths and outright lies from theists as they desperately scrabble around to post some nausea inducing bit of back-slappery about just how clever they were when the evil atheists tried to challenge their distorted pseudo-science, is becoming tiresome.

    Don’t they know that their invisble man in the sky doesn’t approve of lies? Oh, yes, of course, silly me, it’s ok to bullshit everyone as long as its serving ‘the holy cause’.

    I wrote the following paragraph in response to weasel-worded mumbo-jumbo on an Islamic blog, whereby they bitterly complained that it was wrong to require rational objectivity and evidence in their theist argument:

    You see, the difference between rationalist perspective and theist dogma is that the rules of objective reasoning are an equal-opportunity device for proposing hypothesise and theory, in that they can be used by both sides to argue their case. Theist dogma, on the other hand, is entirely rooted in bias for it’s own case and serves only the side that is refusing to apply objective reasoning, because it cannot survive critical analysis.

    Their response? Well, no surprises unfortunately, it just resulted in the triumphal declaration that skeptics were entirely in the wrong to require scientific argument for the existence of their god and that they insisted we switch to ‘philosophical’ argument!

    So you see PZ, it doesn’t matter whether you are being reasonable and rational or, indeed, truthful, they aren’t and they never will be, because they absolutely cannot be. Theism cannot withstand critical analysis, you know that and they know that. So they have to lie, for god’s sake.

  7. Sastra says

    ivarhusa #6 wrote:

    I thought the audience did well to contain their disgust with the questioner, as it was a long, pointless monolog- not a question really at all, in the sum of it.

    To be fair, this problem isn’t just with creationists. Most atheist/skeptic/humanist gatherings have had problems with people in the crowd coming up to the microphone and waxing eloquent while the audience gets confused and the speaker tries to squeeze out something to respond to. My guess is that most public talks — especially those of a philosophical nature — encounter the rambling philosophizers.

    Sometimes MC’s or moderators can help by either breaking in to drag the questioner back to the issue or making a speech upfront on the topic of “What is a Question?” The Randi conventions have gotten very good at this. Do not start out by saying “I think…” Do not take over 3 sentences to get to your question — which will be recognized because it will end with a question mark. And so forth.

    It’s hard to break into incoherent non-questions, however, when the questioner is either 1) an outsider 2) deeply emotional 3)very young/very old or 4) another expert on the same topic. One must be brutal, though.

  8. Zinc Avenger says

    How telling that they can’t tell the difference between highlighting the inadequacies in their “reasoning” and stand-up comedy.

  9. Sastra says

    billyeager #9 wrote:

    Theism cannot withstand critical analysis, you know that and they know that.

    No they don’t. They don’t know that. That is, they go back and forth — and even when they try to immunize their beliefs from criticism by thinking of them as values they still believe their beliefs are reasonable, or make sense. Even fideists have some sort of case, a rationalization for the value and reliability of faith.

    Theism fails in the area of philosophy as badly as it does in the narrower realm of science. What those Muslims wanted was not philosophy, but theology and apologetics. And any good philosopher will tell you those are not equivalent.

  10. kantalope says

    “Good scientists are masters of the method; they aren’t identified by which paradigm they pledge allegiance to.”

    Hehe – right

    Mendel is known for his expert handling of anthers
    Georges Lemaître and Edwin Hubble known for their breakthroughs in eye relief
    Einstein renowned expert in graphic equation presentation…

  11. nopeter says

    That “collection of whale fossils that had been buried in diatom blooms in a sheltered shallow bay” repeatedly referred to by creationists is a very odd study.
    It is published in a bona-fide journal: Brand et al Geology 32 (2004) 165-168. Reading it, one will not have the slightest suspicion of creationism – unless one looks at the affiliation of the authors: Loma Linda University and Geoscience Research Institute, Loma Linda. Seventh Day Adventists.
    The first author, Leonard R. Brand, does not give any indication on his webpage about creationism. (http://resweb.llu.edu/lbrand/research-pisco.html ). The Department of Earth and Biological Sciences of Loma Linda University (http://www.llu.edu/science-technology/ebs/index.page) might not subscribe to creationism – that is not clear.
    The second author, Raul Esperante, is from the Geoscience Research Institute, Loma Linda (http://www.grisda.org/research/). This seems to be a creationist institution. From its website: “Although not all the conflicts between scientific interpretations and the Bible have been resolved, the staff finds sufficient evidence from its research and from the scientific literature to reinforce faith in the biblical account of origins.”

    No surprise then this whale-tale became known to creationists: it might be their own research. But if the authors are creationists, they did not indicate so in the paper.

  12. robro says

    He’s right, they really “can’t reason with these people” because they don’t understand rationality. You can’t reason when you hold to such irrational thoughts and are unwilling (or unable) to reason. There does come a point where discussing things with irrational people is just wasting everybody else’s time.

  13. unclefrogy says

    And then they have the gall to complain that I didn’t interact with their arguments. They were afraid to make any!…..

    this is not new or different.

    reason, it is a word that they use in argument not a thing that they actually do.

    uncle frogy

  14. says

    You should be flattered by this writer, who imitates your cadence and writing style (not substance). His post-event description of going out after the event for beers sounded exactly like any number of descriptions of evenings you’ve spend in conversation and cameraderie with atheist groups around the country. He want’s to be a cool kid too. Creotards are pitiful and now, totally unoriginal.

  15. Cyranothe2nd says

    You know, I’m surprised that more of Wilson’s godbots didn’t show up at your and Dennett’s talk, PZ. I think maybe the size of the audience dissuaded them. Also, lol at the anonymous correspondent saying he talked to a lot of people afterward, to recommend books and such. I watched him the entire time we were there (until we left with the speakers to have drinks) and he had corralled one guy (the same one he’d been sitting with) and didn’t talk to anyone else. Maybe he did all this evangelism to the UI employees after we left? (more likely, he did it in his own head.)

    Also, just a note about Wilson–we screened his and Hitch’s movie at WSU and asked Wilson to come to a Q&A afterward. I had the honor of being a panelist for the “atheist side.” Wilson basically said that babies were little bundles of sin (he literally said that) and was forced to defend his pro-slavery views. It was good times. The community was NOT. AMUSED. [I should point out that Moscow, Idaho (U of I) and Pullman, Wa (WSU) are sister cities.]

  16. markw says

    This bit:

    got into one conversation that went on over beers till midnight.

    If I got into a conversation over beers with a creationist at one of these things, I’d be tempted to take one for the team and keep him talking to me. That way he wouldn’t be able to preach at the people his evangelism might work on. Mwa-ha-haaa!

    Who knows, maybe that’s what happened that night.

  17. magg says

    Oh Barf!

    Really hilarious. I was at the first talk of Darwin on the Palouse and laughed the whole time, but not at the creationists. P.Z. is an embarrassment. Anyone can stand up and mock an opponent. Most children do that quite nicely. Many can use derogatory language and make an audience of 400 people laugh. But like P.Z. said, most people aren’t educated. So it doesn’t take much to make them laugh. My high school history teacher referred to them as the “mass ass” and he was right. So we are glad “they” are on your side. It was an New Saint Andrews student (creationist) who could read the Darwin fish acrostic and the same one who asked the first question (even Dennett said it was a good question). We can easily send our students to an atheist event and yes, they are capable of seeing through a false argument but they didn’t need to. There weren’t any. P.Z. was all ad hominem. So carry on P.Z. You are resembling the men who begot you.

  18. Therrin says

    So carry on P.Z. You are resembling the men who begot you.

    Someone missed an important biology lesson.

  19. says

    When the say “you can’t reason with these people” I think I can understand what they mean. What they’re imagining is a scenario where the two sides are starting from a position of mutual respect and acceptance that either side could be right. They want to talk back and forth, and then slowly come to the obvious systematic problem with all research that leads people to disbelieve young earth creationism. Then the scientists will have a “Eureka!” moment and skip off to start teaching intelligent design.

    It’s the fact that no person whose education wasn’t tainted by constant infusions of dogma will ever start from that point of considering their mythos a valid point to discuss that shocks them. So to them they’re point is still valid and fully scientific, but the atheists are just so unbelievably rude that they won’t take it seriously.

    This is being generous and assuming they aren’t just being fully disingenuous about there being any scientific element to their arguments for dogma at all, of course.

  20. says

    So magg – your first post was a typical creotard script. Since then you’ve said nothing of substance.

    How about saying something real, and in your own words for once?

  21. janine says

    magg says:

    Anyone can stand up and mock an opponent.

    magg says:

    “PEE ZEE”, “NA ZI”

    Hello, anybody. Godwin much?

  22. dogsareandwillbe says

    Creationism is just that,they create a concept in their minds,from others that manipulate,to believe that what is
    said is true,i.e. the bible. Rag-Tag individuals from the
    past wrote down various hear-say into a book that the weak
    minded will follow. Me, I took my thumb out of my mouth years

  23. magg says

    myeck waters says “How about saying something real, and in your own words for once?”

    I’m all for it. But I have noticed with this blog that if a creotard asks a question,the only response is “crap science” or some such remark.

    Take Dr. Brands paper in Geology journal.

    “Yes, Brand is a creationist, and it is creationist research. Not to be trusted at all.”

    So legitimate peer reviewed research is no research at all. Where is the refutation of this research? Why do you listen to Dr. Myers? I agree with the person who said “argument weak, shout louder” Saying that Leonard is a creationist and therefore we can’t trust him. Is that scientific? There is no interacting with you all and this is how you want it. This is an evolutionists blog but don’t think it is intellectually honest. Wake up!

    PS I am done!

  24. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    PS I am done!

    Why should you have even started? Nothing but confused drivel. Typical of those delusional fools who believe in imaginary deities and mythical/fictional holy books as being inerrant.