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Dec 05 2012

Ignorance isn’t my ally

It’s so nice of Hank Campbell to share his lack of concern about creationism with us “simpletons”.

One of the silliest tropes in the hyped-up ‘controversy’ over evolution is that all religious people should be conflated with ‘Young Earth Creationists’.

Uh, what? Who does that? You certainly won’t catch the NCSE claiming that; you won’t even find me, rabid militant shrill atheist that I am, saying that. I’m not a fan of theistic evolutionists, but you won’t find me denying their existence.

So what does he base his belief in? Well, the recent news that Pat Robertson is an old earth creationist, a point I mocked myself — but that’s just an old story, and as I point out, this radically literalist bible-believing Christian stuff is relatively recent. But Campbell goes way too far in denial, and builds a case on his personal ignorance.

Granted, anecdotes are not data but I have never actually met a Young Earth Creationist. I know they exist but I know lots of religious people inside and outside of science and I have just never come across one of the true crazies. However, living in California I have come across all kinds of anti-science atheists who are just as creepy and nuts as any religious zealot. Because I am not a science blogger who wants to be a political one, I am not worried about evolution – Young Earth Creationists can’t even convince other Christians they aren’t batty so they are not convincing the country to make a federal standard for education and include religion in the science curriculum. If we just ignored them, they would be patronized and disregarded as harmless cranks, like they are in every civilized country where people have more interesting things to talk about.

He’s never met a YEC? Wow. What kind of bubble does he live in?

The data is available: a little less than half the American population believes that humans were created less than 10,000 years ago. The biggest creationist organization is Answers in Genesis, and I think the second biggest is the Institute for Creation Research; both explicitly insist that the earth is very young. Stroll into your local conservative mega-church and ask the pastor about the age of the universe — you’re most likely going to get a young answer. Check your local school board, and unless you’re in a very liberal region, it’s probably packed with teabaggers and the religious right.

But oh, yes, that sounds like a winning strategy: ignore them and they’ll go away. Right.

The rest of his agenda reveals his true agenda, though: he wants to argue that Democratic anti-science attitudes are worse than Republicans’, and tries to make the case that nobody ever criticizes the Democrats’ follies. Yeah, because I love Tom Harkin and hate those icky vaccinations and think every Democrat is automatically a saint of science.

But oh, no, he’s not a political blogger.

32 comments

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  1. 1
    Sastra

    On “vaccines cause autism”:

    Why aren’t more people calling Democrats anti-science over this?

    Well, you know, the atheist/humanist/skeptic crowd has been gnashing their teeth over this for quite a while — consistently, too, since we rail against all forms of unsupported conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and supernatural beliefs — but perhaps Mr. Campbell has not noticed because he thought we must all have been gnashing our teeth over that teeny, tiny minority of Young Earth Creationists. No. We recognize that the Spiritual Left is often working from the same box of tricks.

    I suspect that the writer also might also think that Old Earth Creationism is the same thing as “God-works-through-natural-evolution” Theistic Creationism. It is not.

    However, living in California I have come across all kinds of anti-science atheists who are just as creepy and nuts as any religious zealot.

    Who and where? Or is Campbell again bringing in the Spiritual Left and confusing them with “atheists” because both groups don’t like the Religious Right? New Agers are not “atheists” — they simply have a less traditional (and more Eastern) version of God, one which is often heavy on the vitalism and/or consciousness.

    Not a good idea to mix up different groups in a post designed to criticize people for mixing up different groups.

  2. 2
    iknklast

    I’d like to invite him to my classroom. Roughly 40% of my class is YEC; 40% is OEC. Only about 15% of the students in this school accept the scientific evidence behind evolution (or global warming, for that matter). In the faculty, that number goes up to around 30-40%. This is a college.

    The one group I pretty much never meet is ID. I have come to realize that ID is a game they play for the media, and it doesn’t filter down into the pews of the church very often. The few people I meet who support ID are those who are liberal Christians, claim to accept evolution, but state that the ID people “have a point, and we should listen to them.”

    My dad is an old-earth creationist; my brother is a young-earth creationist. I decided, as a result of confusion as a youth, to look for myself, and I turned into a fire-breathing, baby-eating atheist early in life.

  3. 3
    holytape

    The guy is comparing apples and oranges. Yes there are anti-science Democrats in congress. But can any one name a pro-science republican? The anti-vax democrats are troubling, but the democrats have yet to make their anti-science a party of their party platform and party identity, like the republicans do with global warming, evolution and basically any other reality based decision.

    The black rider

  4. 4
    Sastra

    Sorry. In #1 I meant to write “God-works-through-natural-evolution” Theistic Evolution, not creationism. We’re supposed to be just thrilled with theistic evolution.

    Technically, though, this IS a form of creationism — but usually not blatant enough to interfere with the textbooks or research. Theistic evolution is nice. It’s so fine. It’s merely a dishonest form of compartmentalization which violates the consistent findings of modern science and cuts the razor and hides the supernatural causation discretely in obscure corners and mystical handwaving … until it feels safe enough to POP OUT somewhere! You never know when or how! Look, the atheists are gone! There’s the Templeton Foundation! Spiritual, not religious! Materialism inadequate to explain consciousness! Random chance can’t explain US! You need God to explain morality! Science without religion is lame! Woo, woo, woo!

  5. 5
    madscientist

    Black is white and up is down. Four legs good, two legs baaaad! I think Campbell must have come straight out of Animal Farm.

    I wonder what the split is between Old Earth and Young Earth creationists. When Pat Robertson was young, the Old Earth creationists dominated. George McReady Price was having fits because christians were believing too much of that science stuff so he revived the Young Earth. In reality the Old Earth creationists weren’t accepting enough science – it was already known that the earth must be billions, not millions of years old.

  6. 6
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Why aren’t more people calling the Dems anti science over the antivax thing? Maybe because the entire Democratic Caucus hasn’t devoted all of their time to ranting about the evils of vaccines and how we need to outlaw them post haste, which they would have to do to reach the level of anti-science jackassery that the Republicans embody.

  7. 7
    congaboy

    I guess this guy didn’t pay any attention to the Republican presidential primary candidates and their agonizing series of debates. Perry, Bachman, Paul, and Santorum outright denied evolution. Gingrich and Romney waffled on the issue pandering to the crazies in the party. Only Huntsman said that he fully accepts evolution–of course he is a Mormon, so he probably believes that his god had a hand in the whole thing.

  8. 8
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Technically, though, this IS a form of creationism — but usually not blatant enough to interfere with the textbooks or research. Theistic evolution is nice. It’s so fine.

    James Rachels, in Created from Animals, nicely does away with theistic evolution. He points out, rightly, how central human dignity is to all resistance to a full acceptance of the reality of evolution. It really is the sticking point, and people will cling to almost anything in desperate attempts to avoid letting it go.

    Yeah, because I love Tom Harkin and hate those icky vaccinations

    Back when I was reading Orac’s blog regularly, I would click on his links to the antivax sites and read the comment threads. There were quite a few religion-based statements and arguments mixed in.

  9. 9
    freemage

    holytape: I have actually met pro-science Republicans, or at least conservatives who haven’t quite gotten around to bailing from the party yet (granted, a significant percentage of them have switched to being Democrats for the time being).

    Where the equivalence claims really fall down is here:

    Can anyone name a national Democratic elected official (ie, in Congress) who is as visibly anti-science as Michelle Bachmann, Todd Aiken and their ilk? Sure, Jenny McCarthy, Rosie O’Donnell, Charlie Sheen, Penn Gillette, Bill Maher and Woody Harrelson have all given support to hideously anti-skeptic, anti-science viewpoints. But these people, at the end of the day, are entertainers, or at most pundits–we don’t give them the keys to power.

    The GOP, OTOH, insists on electing to the highest offices they can manage the worst anti-science twits they can find.

  10. 10
    rbh3

    He’s never met a YEC? Keerist. Would that he was in the audience for the 38 days of hearings on John Freshwater’s termination. I was, and 90% of that audience was YEC from Freshwater’s congregation.

  11. 11
    timgueguen

    The number of believers in Young Earth Creationism doesn’t matter, their influence does. Even if Campbell never encounters any they’re out there influencing science curricula and the content of science textbooks. And even if they aren’t doing that they;re causing problems for people like iknklast, who has to deal with the incorrect beliefs of his students.

  12. 12
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    You know, for a long time I found that really hard to grasp, that the U.S. was half-packed with people who believe in YEC woo. My mind just recoiled at it, because to this North-of-the-49th-paralleler the U.S. is a land of scientific innovation and excellence. JPL, NASA, NOAA, etc.

    Then I came across a few YECists and my perspective of the U.S. was forced to grow up. Then I saw more of them. It was a bit like John Carpenter’s movie They Live, and I had suddenly found the special glasses and these weird fucking aliens who looked like you and I were everywhere.

    OBEY. CONSUME. CONFORM.

  13. 13
    Argle Bargle

    I have never actually met a Young Earth Creationist.

    What a sheltered life he’s led. I work with at least three and I live in “sophisticated” New England.

  14. 14
    cervantes

    Who says Tom Harkin is an atheist? How is he supposed to be relevant?

  15. 15
    nohellbelowus

    I know they exist but I know lots of religious people inside and outside of science and I have just never come across one of the true crazies. [...] If we just ignored them, they would be patronized and disregarded as harmless cranks, like they are in every civilized country where people have more interesting things to talk about.

    Hank Campbell has probably never met any Muslim “crazies” either. So let’s just ignore Hamas and Hezbollah. They will just be patronized and disregarded as harmless cranks.

  16. 16
    jonjermey

    Campbell’s basic point is valid, though. Creationism is not a ‘belief’ in any meaningful sense: it’s a badge that people wear to show how crazy they’re prepared to be for their faith. When scientists try to reduce belief in Creationism by showing that it doesn’t match the facts and the evidence, that’s like parents telling their teenage child ‘don’t get a tattoo because that’s not what responsible adults do’. Not matching the facts is the whole point. If Creationism actually made sense, then it wouldn’t work as a way of showing how profoundly Christian you are.

    And the reason why the chosen ‘badge belief’ is Creationism — apart from pissing off biologists like PZ and Jerry Coyne? Because it’s a belief without consequences. It doesn’t involve any personal risk or financial loss. Creationists are no real danger to anyone; they’ve demonstrated that by choosing to endorse the one major belief from the Bible that has no impact on their daily lives. Now, if they were proclaiming their belief in witch-killing, or trying to get seafood banned, that would be a problem.

  17. 17
    Gregory Greenwood

    Granted, anecdotes are not data but I have never actually met a Young Earth Creationist. I know they exist but I know lots of religious people inside and outside of science and I have just never come across one of the true crazies. However, living in California I have come across all kinds of anti-science atheists who are just as creepy and nuts as any religious zealot. Because I am not a science blogger who wants to be a political one, I am not worried about evolution – Young Earth Creationists can’t even convince other Christians they aren’t batty so they are not convincing the country to make a federal standard for education and include religion in the science curriculum. If we just ignored them, they would be patronized and disregarded as harmless cranks, like they are in every civilized country where people have more interesting things to talk about.

    I can’t help but imagine Campbell making a similar argument about religiously motivated anti-choicers…

    Granted, anecdotes are not data but I have never actually met a pro-lifer. I know they exist but I know lots of people who are uncomfortable with women exercising their bodily autonomy while pregnant inside and outside of science and I have just never come across one of the true crazies. However, living in California I have come across all kinds of anti-science pro-choicers who are just as creepy and nuts as any religious zealot. Because I am not a science blogger who wants to be a political one, I am not worried about abortion rights – pro-lifers can’t even convince other Christians they aren’t batty so they are not convincing the country to restrict women’s access to abortion rights, contraceptives and proper medical care during pregnancy. If we just ignored them, they would be patronized and disregarded as harmless cranks, like they are in every civilized country where people have more interesting things to talk about. Such as Ireland.

    Ignoring religiously motivated nutbaggery does not make it go away – it simply creates a space for it to fester unchallenged until it grows strong enough to threaten fundamental freedoms.

  18. 18
    nohellbelowus

    @jonjermey #16:

    Creationists are no real danger to anyone; they’ve demonstrated that by choosing to endorse the one major belief from the Bible that has no impact on their daily lives.

    Are you talking about YECs? Denying the age of the Earth is denying science; it’s casting aspersions on radiometric dating and other scientific techniques. By extension YEC-ism sheds doubt on numerous established principles of physics.

    This may have no impact on their daily lives, but it definitely impacts science as a whole, and even worse it affects the scientific education of many children, who grow up to become politicians, businessmen, and teachers.

    The word “danger” may be extreme, but to argue that such beliefs are without consequences is disingenous.

  19. 19
    nohellbelowus

    disingenuous, even.

  20. 20
    Kevin nyc

    “Yes there are anti-science Democrats in congress. ” .. who? which dems vote against science?

  21. 21
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Because it’s a belief without consequences.

    The hell it is. Aside from the fact that there’s no such thing as a belief without consequences, the evidence is all around you that this one has serious harmful consequences.

  22. 22
    iknklast

    As for nver meeting a YEC, it’s disheartening to read Stephen J. Gould on the subject of NOMA, where he says almost the same thing. He apparently admits to having met one, but that one was nice and didn’t try to interfere with teaching, so…let’s brush them all with the NOMA brush.

    Here in the heartland, those of us who don’t teach at Harvard have to deal with overlapping magesteria all the time. We have to answer “Were you there” from otherwise bright college students without being so snarky we spend the rest of the semester in the dean’s office explaining why we don’t recognize that the “customer” is always right.

  23. 23
    w00dview

    Oh wow, he actually did pull out the both sides do it!!. Sorry. No. Not even close. Of the circus of maniacs that was the GOP nominee field for president this year only ONE, Jon Huntsman, accepted the scientific consensus on both evolution and AGW. And anti vax is one of the rare forms of bipartisan bullshit. Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann are both raging anti vaxxers. The other obvious thing to note is that the anti science democrats are on the fringe of the party* whilst the lunatics are running the asylum over at the GOP. When Democrats start writing legislation making access to vaccines next to impossible, ban all animal research and cut funding on evil western medicine then perhaps there could be some substance to Campbells both sides blithering.

    * Unless there really is a liberal media that amplifies Republican stupidity and ignores prominent anti science Democrats. However, even if such a media bias were in effect, shit like legitimate rape would get attention from the press no matter who uttered it.

  24. 24
    w00dview

    To further add to my point about liberal media and anti science Democrats, if Democrats were coming out with the deluge of nonsense with the same frequency as Republicans and no one reported about it then the media would need to be as adept at controlling information as state television in North Korea. Which teabaggers probably believe to be the case anyway, bless their hearts.

  25. 25
    schelde

    The Institute for Creation Research is based in California. They even have a little museum. He might want to look around a bit. I’ve met plenty of creationists here and even more who think the age of the earth is an open question.

    And anti-vax is hardly limited to the Left.

  26. 26
    Sastra

    jonjermey #16 wrote:

    Campbell’s basic point is valid, though. Creationism is not a ‘belief’ in any meaningful sense: it’s a badge that people wear to show how crazy they’re prepared to be for their faith… Not matching the facts is the whole point. If Creationism actually made sense, then it wouldn’t work as a way of showing how profoundly Christian you are.

    Not quite. I mean, you’re correct in one sense, in that in reality the underlying reason they hold so tightly on to this particular belief is because it’s a badge of honor, a symbol to themselves and others that they are prepared to back their faith over the opposition. It sets them apart. Go deep, you can recognize this.

    But that’s not how they themselves see it. On the contrary, instead of framing this issue as “Yup, I’m an irrational fool on purpose” they see themselves and the Brave Maverick Creation Scientists as the reasonable, clear-thinking, objective ones, the people who can throw off the blinders of delusion and figure out the FACTS by following the EVIDENCE. Science isn’t wrong because it’s objective: it’s wrong because it’s biased and true-believing Christians are the only ones who know how to avoid this error. Their faith is a reasonable faith.

    To use your analogy, they’re like teenagers arguing that they need to get a tattoo because that IS what responsible adults do. The response of the scientists then pretty much has to address what they say.

    That’s why, when I argue against Creationism, I tend to avoid science arguments and rip into this contradiction. That’s going to involve undermining the “faith is a virtue” meme and that’s going to spill it out of YEC and creationism in general.

  27. 27
    dougalder

    I’ve stopped reading the twit – nice of him to start Science 2.0 but really anyone who thinks that a strange guy approaching a woman in an elevator at 3 am and inviting her back to his room for er ahem “coffee” is not a threat to that woman – is out of his frikken mind. I called him on it a few weeks back on one of his posts.

  28. 28
    mildlymagnificent

    Oh, that Hank Campbell.

    I haven’t been to Science 2.0 for a long time during Patrick Lockerby’s “holiday”, but Hank himself is also (along with a few of his bloggers) a climate change denier-doubter-scoffer par excellence. (Unless he’s changed his tune during the last few months.)

  29. 29
    jakc

    At least among politicians I know (mainly state politicians) the antivax crowd seems to be Republican, with Michele Bachman the most prominent example of antivax politician at the federal level. And most states have a religious exemption from vaccination.

  30. 30
    iknklast

    As for anti-vax, I was horrified to learn that my friends in my science courses were anti-vax, because…mercury. And my Democrat friends where I live now staged a protest against fluoridation, because…chemicals. After all, CHEMICALS in our WATER. So, yes, I think the left is also guilty of anti-science. And I get a lot of “teach the controversy” bullshit from my liberal friends because…democracy. And, besides, you can’t KNOW there isn’t a god. And besides, those ID folks just make so much sense, because…improbability.

    Sometimes I feel besieged.

  31. 31
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    You need that T-shirt which reads, “Atheism is a close personal relationship with reality.”

  32. 32
    Outrage Zombie

    Ugh, really? Where I live, YECs are everywhere, and if they ever suspect you are not one of them, sucks to be you, because they will never fucking shut up about it.

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