Assaults on creationism scheduled for Sunday and Monday

It’s a busy weekend coming up. On Sunday, 12 August, I’ll be speaking at the St. Paul Critical Thinking Club, at The Kelly Inn (off I-94 at the Marion St exit) from 10:00 AM to noon. Well, it’s scheduled for two hours, but I promise not to babble on for that length of time. There is a $10 fee to cover the buffet breakfast, and you need to rsvp to Lee Salisbury if you want to attend.

Progress and Opportunities in Evolution
Scientists are a pragmatic bunch who typically don’t worry too much about the deeper philosophical meanings of their vocation: the important property of a good theory is that it allows them to formulate experimentally testable hypotheses and leads them on to intellectually fruitful pursuits. I’ll summarize some of the reasons good scientists have found and are still finding evolutionary theory eminently useful, to the point that many of them take evolutionary conclusions for granted. There is almost no argument about the major ideas of evolution within biology because of its utility — the argument is entirely between a few representative members of the scientific community and scientifically ignorant and religiously motivated leaders of backwards ideology.

And then I talk to the Stillwater Critical Thinking Club on Monday, 13 August, from 7:00-9:00 pm at The Family Means Building on 1875 Northwestern Ave.

Complexity and Order in Evolution
One of the most common arguments for Intelligent Design creationism is that organisms are “too complex” to have evolved. This is fallacious: complexity is a natural consequence of evolutionary processes. It reflects a fundamental confusion in creationist thinking — they use complexity where they mean order, and order when they mean intent. I’ll be discussing these three different words, complexity, order, and intent, and their relevance to evolutionary biology.

And then I get to come home for a few days before my next out-of-state trip.


  1. Dan says

    Does anyone else find the term:

    “St. Paul Critical Thinking Club” slightly oxymoronic?

    If there is one think that Bronze Age chat was known for, it wasn’t critical thinking.

    Nevertheless, kudos PZ.

  2. Elizabeth says

    As a retired high school teacher I think it’s great that you are doing this; it has to reach some of the populace that is educable. If you talk as well as you write, you should have an agent!

  3. Dan says


    Basically Idiotic Bibliography for Learning Embarassing things.

    See? Mnemonic devices are fun! But truly, no substitute for reason.

  4. stogoe says

    here I was planning on coming to St. Paul for a few days next week, and you’re going to be there and gone before I even get out the door.

    Oh well… They’re showing Attack of the Giant Leeches on Thursday night at the Natural History Museum. I’ll go to that, instead.

  5. scarmentado says

    #2: Actually, PZ used a bigger oxymoron–“creationist thinking”.

    #5: Or how about Basically Idiotic Book of Ludicrous Ephemera?

  6. dieselrain says

    Stay off the Stillwater bridge! It has a sufficiency rating of 2.5 (out of a possible 120 or 150, I forget which) according to the Star Trib’s review of the 36 most unsafe bridges in Minnesota.

  7. Dallas Reader says

    PLEASE, as James Vijay suggested, YouTube It! Down here in Dallas I have never been able to find a group like that.

  8. says

    dan (#2) – The original name of our fair city was “Pig’s Eye,” after the trader who founded it. I think maybe a better name might possibly be:

    In a Pig’s Eye Critical Thinking Club.

    And Dallas Reader, the best place to find some other atheists could possibly be on the ciampus of SMU. I used to live there a long time ago, and while the critical thinkers may not have been obvious, they were there. Check the ads in the back of the Observer if it’s still being published.

    Or, here is a meetup site for atheists in Dallas and North Dallas/Plano. The truth is out there, you just have to find it yourself sometimes.

  9. lithopithecus says

    aren’t we a bit ready to stop using the word “progress” in evolutionary contexts? or is it okay when using it in hindsight when we’re talking about the emergence of a trait that we can observe in an extant organism or in an extinct paleospecies? and did i just sign up to get flamed?

  10. says

    This isn’t about progress in the evolution of organisms — it’s how the theory of evolution contributes to scientific and technological progress.

  11. Neil C says


    I am particuluarly interested in your talk ‘Complexity and Order in Evolution’ but there was never any chance of me getting along to it as I live in the U.K.

    If you didn’t ‘YouTube it’ as suggested by James Vijay is there any chance that you could post some notes or a summary of the talk?