It’s yet another creationist conference in which the imminent demise of evolutionary theory will be declared this weekend, and it’s being held on a university campus, which is always jarring. The university is said to be “uneasy” about it all.
The 1 November event, called the Origin Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to “challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.” The 1-day conference will include eight workshops, according the event’s website, including discussion of how evolutionary theory influenced Adolf Hitler’s worldview, why “the big bang is fake,” and why “natural selection is NOT evolution.” Another talk targets the work of MSU biologist Richard Lenski, who has conducted an influential, decades-long study of evolution in bacterial populations.
News of the event caught MSU’s scientific community largely by surprise. Creation Summit secured a room at the university’s business school through a student religious group, but the student group did not learn about the details of the program—or the sometimes provocative talk titles—until later, says MSU zoologist Fred Dyer. The talk titles led Dyer to suspect that the student group was not involved in planning the conference, he says, prompting him to look into its origins.
First of all, relax. This kind of thing happens all the time. State universities are public places, and they generally have policies to allow student organizations to use meeting rooms for all kinds of purposes. This is a good thing. That sometimes student groups have stupid purposes and bring in speakers or organizations with anti-scientific goals is a side-effect of a policy of openness. It’s regrettable that a pack of idiots are slipping in by following the rules, but if you arbitrarily reject them, what are you going to do next time a student group brings in an atheist, or an environmentalist, or a labor union organizer, or a drug legalization advocate? Someone will complain. Someone always complains.
Secondly, take a look at what they propose to do, and notice…these people are raving loons, and sleazy as well. The first thing I saw was that the first speaker is Gerald Freakin’ Bergman. Are you kidding me? I debated Bergman before — it was an astonishing spectacle. It was the final straw that convinced me that debating creationists was pointless. He was incoherent, weird, and ignorant, and it was a painful experience to be sharing a podium with such a pathetic example of creationist “thought”. None of the speakers are going to bring credit to their position. Let ’em speak and destroy themselves.
Look, Bergman is going to talk about…Hitler.
There’s no doubt Adolph Hitler believed in evolution, but to what extent did that belief affect his actions? You might say he caught the “survival of the fittest” ball and ran with it, declaring the Aryan race to be “the fittest”.
Gah. He pulled this crap at our debate, too — Hitler was not an evolutionist. Hitler was a power mad dictator who banned Darwin’s books and was a disciple of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who despised evolution.
For another example, they already acting incredibly disreputably. They are advertising that they are going to have a debate with a member of the faculty at MSU, Robert Pennock. I’d consider that a good draw…not for the creationist side, but because Pennock will reliably say something interesting. But look what they say:
As an outspoken critic of intelligent design, Dr. Robert Pennock has written books and given speeches bashing the same. But do his arguments hold water? Can they with- stand the scrutiny of debate? Find out November 1st when Dr. Pennock debates Dr. Charles Jackson at MSU. That is, if Pennock accepts the invite. The challenge was made back in March and, as of to date, he has yet to reply.
What? They’re advertising a debate with someone who has not agreed to participate? Well heck, why not go all the way. Barack Obama will deliver the opening benediction, that is, if he accepts the invite. Neil deGrasse Tyson will make sandwiches and Bill Nye will personally deliver them to each attendee, that is, if they accept the invite. Darwin himself will rise from the dead and march to the plaza outside the building to be burnt at the stake, that is, if he accepts the invite.
Pennock has not replied. YOU DON’T GET TO ADVERTISE HIM AS A PARTICIPANT IN YOUR CONFERENCE. It really is that simple.
Ethics. How is it creationists are so immune to them?
So again, relax. Clowns are going to be capering at Michigan State University this weekend. They’re going to make themselves look ridiculous.
Third, take action. What can you do? Don’t picket, don’t lobby to have them evicted, don’t do anything to give them an excuse to claim martyrdom. Organize. Put a response team together: get a biologist, a historian, a philosopher, and anybody with any intelligence and an interest. They don’t even need to be faculty — students with a bit of classwork in their disciplines are perfectly capable of rebutting these guys. Have them attend and take notes — they don’t even need to ask questions at the event, unless you really enjoy watching creationists splutter and make fools of themselves. (We do, but remember, no martyrs.)
Do some research. These guys are all on youtube, and their schtick really doesn’t change much: here’s Jackson, DeYoung, Sanford, and Bergman. Go in prepared. It’ll make the talks a little more boring, but you’ll be primed for the foolishness.
Write up responses. Feel free now to make fun — a sense of humor helps. Send them off to your school paper, publish them on your facebook page, or send them here — I’d be happy to popularize the absurdity of creationism, and trust me, they will say many absurd things. I haven’t dealt with the other three, but Bergman alone is a font of inanity.
Relax, relax, relax. Have fun with it. These are among the best creationists have to trot out, and you’ll discover that they’re the dregs of the intellectual barrel. You can bring first year biology students to these talks, and they’ll gape in surprise at how bad creationists are. I’ve done that, and it’s always a treat.
Really, how seriously can you take this gang of goobers when this is how they argue?
Any time creationists use bananas in their arguments, it’s good for a laugh.