Zeno has a write-up of the Q&A of my talk at Davis. It’s weird — I should just give up on the formal talk business and just have questions. They’re fun and they’re all over the place, and don’t often have much to do with the content of what I’d said.
And that’s OK.
If I can make it to one of your other northern Californian stops, it’ll be fun to see how different the Q&A is. Watch out for creationists in Sacramento!
Glen Davidson says
Perhaps one reason people believe in magic is the importance of conceptualization when humans cause things to happen. And also due to the importance of conceptualizing how someone has done something in understanding it. If you can think it, it can happen.
A kind of reductionism, in which if God could think it, then in some way it is understandable, and thus could happen. Understanding evolution without knowing everything requires a changed mind, usually one gotten through the education that many don’t receive.
Of course the desire that their existence have purpose beyond what they can see is another reason why magical creation is preferred to “random molecules causing things.”
Just finished reading the Q&As. Wow, P.Z., you’d be a tough act to follow in any auditorium. Those questions and answers alone would make a fine chapter in your next book (hint, hint.)
Yeah, weren’t we supposed to be getting daily book writing word counts?
Janet Holmes says
The question of the terminology regarding ‘belief’ in evolution is an important one I think. There is a Facebook group called “We can get 1 million people who DO believe in evolution” and one of my friends refused to join because she conflates belief with faith and says she ‘knows’ evolution is true, she doesn’t just believe it.
I think we should start talking about those who ‘understand’ evolution and those who ‘don’t understand’ evolution. This leaves out the emotional baggage attached to ‘believe’ and indicates the ignorance of those who don’t ‘understand’ evolution. It also indicates that education is the difference between the two positions, not faith.
It’s a bit provocative I guess but not as disingenuous as it might seem. Most people who disagree with evolution don’t understand it!
Thanks for the write-up Zeno !
Interesting point about equivocation and ambiguity in language.
Having faith in Obama being a good president means believing he will do a good job, having faith in god/evolution/FSM means 2 things, one, that such a thing does in fact exist, and two, that it will if it exists be a good/positive thing.
Great job on condensing the Q & A, Zeno. I wish I would have had a math teacher as articulate as yourself, perhaps I wouldn’t be mathematically illiterate. That’s what happens when they let the basketball coach teach classes.
That was terrific, thanks for the write up, Zeno!
I don’t believe (understand?) there were any creationists today at DeAnza. If there were, I didn’t notice. Good talk and very good Q&A afterword. I got PZ to desecrate my daughter’s copy of Comfort’s Origin of Species. :-) Thanks for driving all over NOR CAL for us PZ. Also thanks for bringing all the much needed rain… maybe we should be worshiping you! We’ll all grow beards and drink beer.
Jarred C. says
I predict that Sierra College will be the worst for creationist attacks. Rocklin and the surrounding communities are heavily religious.
Kathy Orlinsky says
Having heard you speak at the Atheist Alliance Conference in Burbank last year, I would not encourage you to give up your formal talk. That said, I do loves me a good Q & A.
Hekuni Cat says
Thank you for the Q&A summary, Zeno.
All of you are welcome for the summary. I enjoyed PZ’s talk and the opportunity to take notes.
Jarred has a good point about the likelihood of creationist attacks. Sierra College is just a few miles from American River College and both draw from the same pool of highly religious Eastern European immigrants who took over the ARC student government a couple of years ago, endorsed the anti-gray Proposition 8 in last year’s election, and tried to get creationism into the curriculum. (They’ve since been ousted.)
Ha! “anti-gray” should have been “anti-gay”, of course. (They haven’t started coming after us old folks yet.)
Bride of Shrek OM says
Drinking beer I can do but the beard? …The closest I may be able to get on this is not shaving my legs for a while.
Blind Squirrel FCD says
Janet Holmes: From the Facebook info page of the group “We can get 1 million people who DO believe in evolution”:
OT but I’m in a time crunch. Anyone have any ideas for questions to ask Eugenie Scott. I’m doing a 1 on 1 interview for an hour with her tomorrow. http://www.tompainesghost.com/2010/01/upcoming-interview-with-eugenie-scott.html
As Ichthyic has already suggested, ask her to define “compatible”.
That will do for now.
Since we’re talking PZ Myers reviews:
I had fun tonight. Drove down to De Anza College in Cupertino, and stood outside Forum 1 along with about 5 other people when all of a sudden who walks up? PZ Myers. Yes, Professor Paul Zachary Myers walks up, looking a little lost and a little underslept, but guided by 2 friendly hippie-looking folk. It was overcast but not sprinkling at the moment, so I had a chance to exchange a few pleasantries with Dr. Myers, even complimenting him on the “energy” and “relentless film-rolling” speed of his blog (although I didn’t use those exact words, mind you).
In we go, a nice little amphitheatre type lecture hall, I sat in the middle-middle, joined by about 100 people in total. Very cozy affair! PZ lectured brilliantly, we oohed and awwed appropriately, and then engaged in a full-on question and answer blitz that must have lasted 60 minutes itself. I personally inquired as to his opinion on whether or not there still exists a “wealth” of fossils yet undiscovered (yes, I did use the word “wealth” on this occasion) in the category one might call “hominid”, and Professor Myers’ answer was in the affirmative, although he did stipulate that it wouldn’t be like unto a family tree or anything.
Then, almost magically, after receiving a hearty and suitable round of applause, the good Doctor Myers actually asked if there was to be an “afterparty.” Nods and agreement all around, with some murmuring about where to go. Someone suggests Hobie’s, a high-tech hippie breakfast and lunch outfit nearby, and then someone calls out “BEER” and the Hobie’s idea is relegated to First Alternate in favor of BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery, with the caveat that if the NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings (No, PZ is not a fan of the Vikings, or football in general) was to cause the restaurant to be literally swarming with people, we would change venues to the First Alternate.
I arrived nearly first, barely behind a rather obnoxious yet polite gentleman who in the auditorium actually asked a question regarding eugenics. Non-plussed, I inquired sweetly to the staff if we could possibly arrange a table for nearly 25 people, and was quite surprised to once again, be answered in the affirmative, this time by someone other than Dr. Myers, of course. In comes PZ, trailed by a trail of hippies and other, more techie-looking people, and we all sit down to a 2 hour feast of pizza and beer. Poor PZ’s time was monopolized by the obnoxious yet polite gentleman for nearly an hour, who resembled an agent giving advice to a Senator, but PZ then switched seats suddenly, upon being asked a question by a man named Evan, who sat diagonally across from little old me.
So I had PZ Myers all to my bad self for at least 40 minutes, upon which I employed to express my heartfelt views that Richard Dawkins should by all rights become a rock star, for the good of the world and humanity. PZ said Richard was recalcitrant in this regard, and would modestly refuse to budge in the direction I was advising, which was to stand up at his next lecture and shout “I am your GOD.” No, the atheist Bill O’Reilly imitation wasn’t going to make any inroads as an argument on atheist strategy to one Professor Paul Zachary Myers.
A pity. A good time was still had by all.
Janet Holmes wrote
Ignoring Blind Squirrel, who’s comment seemed to miss the much more general point that you appeared to be making, I think you are right on the money with that!
Your point is an important and powerful one, and I will use this.
As Ichthyic has already suggested, ask her to define “compatible”.
That will do for now.
actually, ask her where she sees the mission of the NCSE being 10 years from now. Will they leave creationist battles behind and purely focus on science education? Does she envision another organization that will work to deal with the probably endless anti-science campaigns out there, while the NCSE moves on to tackle different issues?
that’s a nice safe question that I’m sure many would like to see an answer to.
Sounds like this was an amazing meetup. I hope to go to Wednesday’s Stanford meetup.
John Morales says
Cyberguy, one teensy weensy problem: Those who deny the validity of evolutionary science consider that they do understand it (as we’ve often seen in this very blog) — hence, I don’t believe that changing the terminology from the ordinary usage of “believe in” to “understand” will noticeably affect the issue.
Is that figuratively speaking, as in an autograph, or did he drive a wooden stake through the Comfort intro or something?
I don’t know…scratch a creationist, and 95% of them don’t understand evolution. Perhaps 3-4 particular questions could be routinely used to establish if the person does, in fact, understand evolution, to avoid the “Yes I do” “No you don’t” circle.
Or maybe it could be something like “I see evolution”? “I witness evolution”? “I know evolution, I’m friends with evolution, and you, SIR, are nothing like evolution”? Oh, sorry, got carried away there.
I don’t know…scratch a creationist, and 95%
oh no, it’s MUCH higher than that, really.
I could argue that 95% of americans don’t actually understand evolution, and not be far off.
more like 99.9%
yeah, i’d say it’s about right to say 1 in 1000 creationists actually have a grasp of how the ToE actually works.
in fact, even that is likely an overstatement.
probably closer to 1 in 3000
Oh, sorry, got carried away there.
ah, fun times…
Right on. So when someone claims he understands evolution, it’s still unclear what that means. Does he really understand all the ins and outs of evolutionary biology ? Does he understand the basics ? Does he think he understands the basics but really doesn’t and actually doesn’t believe its validity ?
I really don’t see what is the problem in saying “I believe in evolution”.
Benjamin Geiger says
IMNSHO, the problem isn’t “believe”. The problem is “in”.
“I believe in evolution” implies faith. “I believe that evolution is factually accurate”, or even “I believe evolution is true”, doesn’t.
If someone were to ask me whether I “understand evolution”, my answer would probably be equivocal. As a layperson who has done a fair bit of reading on the subject, I believe that I understand the basics, a lot of evidence in favour, some of the history of the theory, and so forth: the material you’ll pick up from good pop-science writing and hanging out in the right places on the web. But “understand evolution”? As with all science, the more you know, the more you realise you don’t yet know. So I’ll continue reading and learning. The creationist, on the other hand, has no such reticence, and will confidently claim to understand evolution: it’s about the Big Bang, and life appearing from non-life, and monkeys choosing to become human, and bananas, and denying God, and Hitler… etc etc.
Dunning-Kruger. The people with the least genuine understanding are the most likely to claim to understand.
aratina cage of the OM says
Thank you, Zeno. Your reporting on the talk was exceptionally well done. I was highly amused by the choice quotes from our tentacled overlord.
“I grok evolution”?
I too avoid using the word ‘believe’ in regard to any well-supported facts; instead I use ‘accept’ (more precisely, ‘provisionally accept based on current knowledge which is always subject to modification if new evidence is found’), which avoids the potential problems involved in telling someone I fully understand it.
I go as far as announcing that I don’t believe anything, since belief is what you need when you don’t have evidence, then add what Huck Finn said: “Faith is believin’ what you know ain’t so.”
Instead of belief I have convictions that vary in strength but are never absolute. That’s the goal, at least, as my convictions about science vs superstition are arbitrarliy close to being unshakeable.
creating trons says
I don’t have a good understanding of evolution but I believe it to be true. I’m about half way through TGSOE and it is just fucking WOW.
The evidence for evolution doesn’t mean a god can’t exist. Xians problem, IMO, is the BuyBull. Its their own book and they can’t make it work anymore. I don’t need evolution to show that their book is a crock of shit.
I didn’t feel I “understood” evolution (the ins and outs like negentropyeater said) until I was about 3/4 of the way through my zoology degree. But I certainly accepted that it was the best explanation for all the different variations of life.
But I actually put the effort into thinking about it. I don’t think any creationists do that. They are just interested in the easy, comforting answers. Creationism is like fast-food for the brain.
Has anyone here ever met a creationist who understood evolution?
Honestly, I’m not trying to be funny. I’ve seen “if we came from monkeys…” alot, the second law of thermodynamics ‘argument’, the crocoduck, macro vs. micro evolution, scientists are conspiring to hide the evidence for YEC, etc. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a creationist who even had an accurate view of the very basics of evolution.
A nice video.
Stephen Wells says
Re: understanding evolution. here’s a quick summary: “It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Quite well put by this Mr. Darwin. I wonder if he wrote anything else about it? :)
Disturbingly Openminded says
1. RE: “believe in.” When the faitheists ask me if I believe in [whatever nonsense is on their minds], I reply thus: “I’m willing to believe anything — anything at all — for which there is sufficient evidence. For example, if there is sufficient evidence that I will get an eternity in paradise by flying a jet into a skyscraper and killing thousands of innocent people, then I would do that. Wouldn’t you?”
@Disturbingly openminded- here’s hoping your brains do not fall out.
There cannot be sufficient evidence for eternal life that justifies killing others. If you have sufficient evidence in a deity that you believe in it, then- you are already saved, have eternal life and there is no need to kill others. People who commit atrocities in the name of religion have been brainwashed, have been abused and manipulated by others- there are no ‘independent’ hi-jackers.
PZ desecrated Comfort’s Origin with an autograph and an X over Comfort’s name. He did it to someone else’s copy.
I didn’t intend to leave out women in the PZ worshiping with beards and beer. Unshaven legs and/or armpits works for me if there is to be a cult but I was afraid to suggest that. Not being a religious controlling the women type, I didn’t know what to suggest.
David Marjanović says
If we shift the goalposts to “read about”…
Todd Wodd or what his name is, the fideist who believes reality is a lie (I’m not exaggerating), probably counts.
Kurt Wise possibly. The “floating forest” stuff he proposed shows there’s a lot of other stuff he doesn’t understand, in any case.
Marcus Ross does not count – I maintain he only pretends to be a YEC in order to keep his safe job and to not make his family’s heads explode.
That’s it. There is none else.
Ewan R says
Why can’t there be sufficient evidence for an afterlife that justifies killing others? (any more or less so than there can or can not be evidence that there is an afterlife at all)
“If you have sufficient evidence in a deity that you believe in it, then- you are already saved, have eternal life and there is no need to kill others.”
This makes the massive assumption that the deity you have evidence for is essentially the god of christianity (and a watered down version at that)- the point however was not based around the assumption that the evidence pointed to the christian god, but that the evidence pointed to a deity who wanted you to commit the atrocities.
The point that it is illogical not to commit the atrocities (or at least I guess that it is a logical path to take) is a good one – if that is what you actually believe (moreso if the evidence points to it, rather than some old guys telling you it is so, particularly old guys who don’t appear to have flown themselves into a building to receive the same rewards)
Disturbingly Openminded says
It seems you took what I wrote literally, when it was more akin to a poe. I apologize for causing a misunderstanding. I haven’t posted here enough for my intention to be clear.
I say it to xians for shock value. The dumber ones then argue that Islam is wrong and then I ask them to explain how they know that. The brighter ones quickly realize that their beliefs are grounded on evidence no stronger than those who would fly jets into skyscrapers and wisely refuse to engage in what they know is a losing argument.
In my opinion, my reply underscores what evidence is, and what it isn’t.
I like the formulation above about “accepting” evolution.
Disturbingly Openminded says
By the way, it was this very conversation with one of my YEC, Missouri Synod Lutheran aunts that lead to my nickname.
She kept encouraging me to be open-minded about returning to Jesus and I kept pointing out how open-minded I already was. After the fly-jet-into-building-to-get-paradise example, she was speechless for a few minutes and finally told me, with a frown, that I was disturbingly open-minded. Hey, I said, you’re the one who wants me to be open-minded.
Disturbingly Openminded says
And not to be too boring, but the whole conversation took place at my mother’s funeral.
Xians are so damn compassionate, aren’t they.
The usual phrase is “I accept evolution.” Though there’s nothing really wrong with “I believe that evolution happened.”
The reason there’s a problem with “believing in evolution” is that the theists use “belief in” to mean both believe that X is true, and loyally admire X, conflating them regularly when talking about God. Believing that God exists is smudged with the idea of making a personal commitment to trust and obey God (and not believing “in” God means that we know He exists, but we’re rejecting His authority and love.) So “believing in” evolution sounds like we’re doing a parallel move, where we don’t just accept the theory, but want to follow and love it like a child does a parent.
But, it’s not that big a deal, really. They will willfully misunderstand us no matter how we say things.
Steven Mading says
If people actually think that, then that means the primary problem is that people are operating off a really screwy definition of “believe”. To Believe means merely to think that something is true. Period. It says nothing about whether that belief is faith-based or rational-based. It says nothing about how the belief was obtained.
In today’s Washington Post by RD:
I am not particularly sorry for the blog-jacking, but here’s another one by James Randi called The Idiot’s Tale:
@ Disturbingly openminded- I apologize, my take on your post(#39)read like one of the usual: “Terrorism is wrong, but…(add excuse here), end sentence.” This shaped my response.