An exercise for the reader

Found in a toilet stall, which somehow seems incredibly appropriate. Can you answer this creationist challenge?

An answer can be found here.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head and weep for humanity, creationist arguments are so bad.


  1. says

    But you must admit that Bathroom Poster Man (if I can give, presumably ‘him’ from the location, a title) did support his thesis with 3 (three, count ’em) completely independent double-blind gedankenexperimente.
    Checkmate science!!!!!!!

  2. nomadiq says


    Fish lay eggs. Fish evolved before chickens. Therefore egg came before chicken.

    While the above paragraph is kinda trivial it is all that is required to demonstrate how ignorant the toilet poster is. It’s a kind of Sam Harris ‘thought experiment’ in which the arguer creates a necessarily incomplete scenario to prove a point. It’s ultimately a backwards argument- establish the truth you want and find the evidence for it, ignore counter evidence.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    …and trees (or at least primitive land plants) existed vertebrates (later, chickens) colonised land. The algae ancestors produced O2, going waaaay back. I don’t know when sexual reproduction (eggs) started,

    In regard to water, Toilet Raider Man should travel to the Jovian moons and inspect the frozen water that makes up most of the satellite mass. I will be surprised if he finds any trees.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Darn, meant trees existed *before* vertebrates colonised land.
    The Stupid is rubbing off.

  5. says

    So, they think photosynthesis creates elemental oxygen out of sunlight, with no precursors? It would be fascinating, if it wasn’t so depressing.

  6. komarov says

    Ah-ha! If there was no oxygen, then what did God breathe? Answer that one, creationists!

    In fairness, I’m not entirely sure whether that proves if God doesn’t exists or whether he’s dead. I suppose creation might have sprung forth from God’s rotting carcass – not very novel in mythology – so, from a certain perspective, he might still have created everything.

    (If anything this shows that honestly following your own arguments is the quickest way to engineer a crisis of faith, which is presumably why creationists avoid doing that at all cost.)

  7. weylguy says

    Sometimes you just have to shake your head and weep for humanity, creationist arguments are so bad.

    I read the linked response, which was entirely correct. However, the answer requires a knowledge of science, or at least a willingness to learn it. But science is the enemy of creationists, so they won’t bother. As for the head shaking, I’ve been doing that constantly since November 2016. It only got worse when the Democrats started considering Oprah Winfrey as a 2020 presidential candidate.

    I see the trend now. In spite of all our instant communication technology and knowledge, the human race is just getting dumber. Maybe it’s something in the water or all that junk food we’re eating. And with 7.6 billion of us trashing the planet, it won’t be long before it all ends very badly.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    This reminds me of various “free energy” scams which claim to power an automobile or other device with water. Because oxygen in water is the same as O2.

  9. cvoinescu says

    That is not-totally-bad thinking applied to a totally flawed and utterly confused understanding of how things work. But it has one grain of accidental truth: we think of plants turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, but the oxygen atoms in the molecular oxygen they release actually come from the water, not from the carbon dioxide. The oxygen in the carbon dioxide ends up in the sugars.

  10. Michael says

    One could argue that on Earth, water would have existed before free oxygen, then trees evolved later. However as far as the universe goes, oxygen would have formed in stars first, then later bound with hydrogen to form water. Either way, trees are last.

  11. blf says

    Heh, when I first glanced — admittedly a very quick glance — at that failed attempt to be TP, I thought it was going to be some sort of bullshite hypothesis about how the Earth’s current Oxygenated atmosphere came about. Which, I suppose, in a sense it is (with the usual conclusion magic sky faeries did it!). In any case, as soon as it started babbling there would be no water without trees (nevermind the similar nonsense about Oxygen), it clearly was vastly less sophisticated than that, being on about the same level as the eejit some years ago who claimed (paraphrasing from memory) you cannot make water, only magic sky faeries can make water!

  12. garnetstar says

    Creationists need to learn some chemistry. I know it is both difficult and boring, but that’s no excuse.

    The very first, most basic thing to learn, is the difference between an atom and a compound containing that atom. Chemists have taking to calling O2 “dioxygen” to try to avoid confusion between that compound and oxygen atoms, which do indeed occur in all kinds of other compounds. Also “dinitrogen” and “dihydrogen” for N2 and H2.

    But the old names persist, and, among deliberately-ignorant creationists can be used to make such astonishingly ridiculous arguments.

  13. ashley says

    Most of Earth’s liquid water (already containing oxygen) came from elsewhere (the Bible has water first too and never mentions oxygen). Algae slowly produced atmospheric oxygen via photosynthesis. Trees and other flowering plants arrived on the scene later and produced more. And then mammals breathed it. You could also ask how did God form water if ‘oxygen was not already in existence’.
    Now I’ll check the suggested answer.

  14. ashley says

    “One could argue that on Earth, water would have existed before free oxygen, then trees evolved later. However as far as the universe goes, oxygen would have formed in stars first, then later bound with hydrogen to form water. Either way, trees are last.” (Comment 18.) And Genesis 1 has God creating the Earth before the stars …

  15. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    THAT is some weapons-grade stupid, there. I mean, never mind the complete, utter lack of comprehension of even the most basic science, there’s the complete nonsequitur of “Evolution is a lie!” Absolutely unsupported by either facts or logic, just floating there until it realizes, Wiley Coyote like, its lack of support.

    And I am sure that the guy (because let’s face it, it takes a Y chromosome to summon that much blind stupid) who came up with it probably thought it was brilliant: “Ha, checkmate, Atheists!”

  16. mnb0 says

    PZ, you’re mistaken. “Creationist arguments are so bad” that they become funny.
    @21 Garnetstar doesn’t get it: “Creationists need to learn some chemistry.” As soon as they do (and learn some physics and biology as well; also learn to use logical fallacies) they cease to be creationists.
    @24: rather “Ha, checkmate, Athiests!”

  17. Kaintukee Bob says

    My ten-year-old daughter happened to be walking past as I read this. She glanced (literally less than two seconds) at the image, rolled her eyes, and said, “Oxygen, duh. You can’t have water or trees without oxygen.”

    The moment when you know (not simply suspect) your pre-pubescent child can out-think creationists….

  18. says

    robro@20 if the Young Earth Creationist crowd are correct I suspect God spends a lot of his time laughing at how he tricked all those people into thinking the Earth is ancient.

  19. Reginald Selkirk says

    Kaintukee Bob #26: “Oxygen, duh. You can’t have water or trees without oxygen.”

    A more complete analysis would have to differentiate between elemental oxygen and molecular oxygen, but not bad at all for a 10-year-old.

  20. alkisvonidas says

    Guybrush Threepwood: How can you see without eyeballs?
    Murray the Talking Skull: How can you walk around without a brain? Some things, no one can answer.

    The Curse of Monkey Island

  21. rrradam says

    Day 3 – Trees
    Day 4 – The Sun*

    Ooops… God created Trees before there was sunlight, what was he thinking?

    Guess TP man left that part out.

    * Day 1 – Light, but from what source, who knows.

  22. blf says

    Day 1 – Light, but from what source, who knows.

    Magic sky faeries pulled in out of their arses. Checkmate, atheists!

  23. zetopan says

    Since creationists are quite proud of their willful ignorance it is totally unsurprising that they would imagine that elemental oxygen magically comes from plants. This is just a recasting of the alleged chicken and egg “dilemma”, a fake “problem” that isn’t really a problem at all.

  24. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Which came first?

    I asked Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, & she said that if Nucleosynthesis was a white man, that creationist would already know.

  25. says

    Day 1 “let there be a luvverly bigly bright kapowie thing” was of course the local supernova that seeded the district with heavier elements. The rest is just simple assembly, any god can do that given a few cosmic “days”.

  26. DanDare says

    The thing that worries me most is that creationists are so sure of themselves they display stuff like this in public. Either they really are that ignorant and cannot tell they are ignorant or suspect there is a problem. Suspecting a problem would lead them to post annonymously I suspect.
    Having people this lacking in knowledge or reasoning power is very dangerous for civilisation.

  27. woozy says

    The thing that worries me most is that creationists are so sure of themselves they display stuff like this in public. Either they really are that ignorant and cannot tell they are ignorant or suspect there is a problem.

    I think this represents a subtle change in recent decade thanks to the likes of Ken Hamm.

    In the good old days, creationists thought evolutionists were just wrong and that real science would one way or another prove creationism. Hence, although they were very stupid, their strategy was to catch the evolutionists in a mistake. And obviously scientists aren’t going to be caught is a *simple* mistake.

    Nowadays, creationists want to convince people that all scientists are *lying*, that the are deliberately making things up in order to move the populace away from God. On purpose. So now the strategy isn’t to catch evolutionists in a mistake. It’s to catch them in a lie. The simpler the better.

    In this case they don’t care that they don’t understand where oxygen comes from; they just want to show that the scientist who say in comes from trees are lying.

  28. Pierce R. Butler says

    No spelling errors, so that probably rules out the obligatory Poe hypothesis.

    Somebody needs to work on their punctuation, however – though not so urgently as on their knowledge base and thinking skills.

  29. lpetrich says

    The author of that tract had done some equivocation: confusing oxygen the element with oxygen molecules (dioxygen). In our Universe, oxygen started its existence as oxygen nuclei formed by nuclear reactions in the cores of massive stars. When those stars blew off much of their material, that material included this oxygen. As it cooled, the nuclei acquired electrons, and the oxygen atoms then combined with other atoms, making oxides of nearly everything.

    On our planet, certain organisms became successful in splitting water some 2.5 – 3 billion years ago. They became the ancestors of cyanobacteria and chloroplasts. This splitting of water is what produces the dioxygen that is in our atmosphere. So it’s

    Oxygen nuclei -> oxygen atoms -> water -> trees -> atmospheric dioxygen

  30. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    You can’t have toilet paper without trees. And you can’t have toilets without toilet paper (well, you can, but you’d better hope for a source of water). And you can’t poop without fiber. Therefore, poopyhead.

  31. Crimson Clupeidae says

    If these ignoramuses would actually watch some decent science TV, there are several good shows explaining how the early biosphere came about. I think the last one I saw was on BBCAmerica.

  32. woozy says


    It’s much dumber than that. They seem to believe trees create the element oxygen which can not exist without trees.

    We don’t need to know much anything about the biosphere, or biology, and we need to know an absolute minimum of chemistry to know that is in error.

  33. Gregory Greenwood says

    So much not even wrong crammed into one small poster – it is an almost impressive exercise in space-efficient stupidity. My favourite part is where the author claims that oxygen is ‘made from’ by trees, betraying a total failure to understand how base elements form in the heart of stars, not in your local forest. The poster makes it sound as if there are large industrial factories out there somewhere that have entire trees fed in at one end of the production chain, and through much wood chipping and chemical treatment, results in tanks of O2 being produced at the other, and that just strikes me as rather funny.