Creationism in my Classroom

I’m going to take a brief break from politics, morality, and not blogging about GenCon to actually blog about something that happened to me a couple of weeks back. As you may or may not be aware, I’ve started student teaching. At this point, I feel like I ought to step up the anonymity; I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s privacy, nor do I want to make myself a pariah. So excuse me if I’m a bit vague; it’s intentional. Also, if it becomes necessary, I may invoke some pseudonyms. Buffy-related ones, no doubt.

Today, a substitute teacher was filling in for my mentor teacher. We’ll call him Mr. Ted. He’s well-known and well-liked by the students. I knew he was a local pastor of some flavor, and whatever, he’s a nice guy and it’s a small midwestern town. I’m not an idiot; I know what’s to be expected.

I did the bulk of the instruction, which mostly consisted of following my mentor teacher’s plans and corralling the unruly high schoolers, while Mr. Ted read some preachery book and helped out as necessary. Now, I figure this is well within his legal rights; I know teachers are allowed to wear cross or Star of David necklaces and other religious paraphernalia, and I would be surprised if they’d be barred from reading religious materials in the classroom. Still, and maybe it’s just because I don’t want to rock the boat or bring unnecessary complications into my life, I wouldn’t sit down and read The God Delusion or Atheism: The Case Against God or something during free time in the classroom. For me, that’d be at least one step too close to endorsing a religious position while acting in the capacity of an authority figure under the state’s employ. But I’m the kind of person who puts a lot of thought and concern into that sort of thing, and one of the privileges of being in the majority is that you really don’t have to. My views and reading materials are more likely to cause problems and offend my students than Mr. Ted’s. And that’s not where Mr. Ted and I ran into trouble; other than the fact that it caused me to mull over the ethical question of what a teacher ought to be able to read in a public school classroom, I didn’t have any qualms about Mr. Ted’s reading material.

No, the real situation is a little more depressing, and a lot closer to illegal. The bell rang to dismiss my fourth-hour class, which is the one right before my lunch break. One of my students, a quiet girl who we’ll call Faith, stayed behind to chat with Mr. Ted. I was busy picking stuff up and packing up so I could go eat, so I wasn’t really paying attention to what they were talking about halfway across the room.

That is, until I caught a snippet of Faith saying “…really believes we came from monkeys.” That gave me some pause, and the next thing I heard was Mr. Ted saying something about how evolution could be “scientifically disproven,” but “they” wouldn’t let it get taught in the classrooms. This, sadly, confirmed that they were having precisely the conversation I feared they were having.

Faith said something along the lines of “he told us” (and by “he,” I assume she meant her Biology teacher) and then launched into a pretty decent explanation of Darwin’s finches. It was slightly muddled, as you might expect from an average high school student, but she definitely had a handle on the concepts. Mr. Ted interrupted her, literally handwaving (as I recall) and gave the standard line–changes, but no they can’t change between species.

At this point, I chime in. “Actually, they’ve observed speciation in the laboratory,” or something to that effect. I’ll be honest here in saying that while I remember broad swaths of the conversation, I have very little idea what was said in what order. That’s not a matter of it being over a week since the event occurred; even immediately after the conversation, I realized that I didn’t know the details. More on the reasons for that in a moment. Anyway, I’m going to do my best to present things as a rough progression, but I guarantee it’s not particularly accurate.

At this point, I think, is when I looked directly at Faith and suggested that she go to TalkOrigins.org, which can answer any and all questions she has about biological evolution.

Here, I think, is where Mr. Ted upped the ante–no longer was it just that some scientists had scientifically disproved evolution, but he has a friend who is a “deep scientist,” who says he can scientifically disprove evolution. I left aside the question about what a “deep scientist” was (he said it like you might say “deep undercover”) and asked instead what field his friend worked in. Mr. Ted replied (after what I recall as a brief hesitation) that he was a biologist. I asked where his disproof has been published; Mr. Ted said that “they” won’t let him.

If I’d had a moment or two more to think, I might have mentioned that the Institute of Creation Research has a journal, the Discovery Institute has publications, why couldn’t his “scientist friend” go to one of them? Certainly they’d be open to his contributions. Instead, I turned up the sarcasm and said “Yes, because science is so rigid and dogmatic,” with emphasis on the last word. Mr. Ted shook his said, and said something that sounded like “I wish…” which I assumed was going toward “I wish it weren’t, but…”

I cut him off at the pass, and said that if someone could disprove evolution, they’d win a Nobel Prize, because it would open up vast new lines of research. If they managed to prove what I’m sure Mr. Ted believes, they’d be up for a certain million dollar prize as well.

I’m not entirely certain where the discussion went right then. Somehow, Mr. Ted started giving his perspective on evolution. “According to evolution [or something like that], with these billions of years that are supposed to have happened, but there’s no proof for–“

I interjected, “which can be shown through multiple lines of evidence.”

He continued, “we should see all kinds of different [species, variations, or something along those lines], and we don’t.” I thought of the vast tapestry of life, the tens (or hundreds) of millions of different known species, with all their subtle differences, tied to one another by the threads of common ancestry and shared genetics, and wondered how anyone could say such a myopically ignorant thing. Unfortunately, my only response was an incredulous “Yes we do!” He then (slightly stammering) reiterated the point about evolution not being able to make new species. If I’d had time to think, or if I’d remembered (or if I’d memorized the Index to Creationist Claims) I might have mentioned the new species of mosquito that evolved in the London Underground, or Helacyton gartleri or something; instead, I said “just recently, in an experiment, bacteria–E. coli bacteria–evolved the ability to digest citrate” (referencing, of course, Richard Lenski’s long-term E. coli experiment). To be quite honest, I think I was wrong that that’s an instance of speciation in the laboratory, but I’m also not entirely sure how they define “species” at the level of unicellular organisms that reproduce asexually.

I want to say that this is where Mr. Ted said “Well, I don’t think that’s the case,” or something along those lines. I know my response to that was along the lines of “you can think whatever you want, but the facts say you’re wrong.” Mr. Ted said “that’s what I’m talking about–scientific facts.” He then said something about DNA, though it wasn’t even a complete thought. If he’d continued on that, I’m not sure where I would have gone. Should I explain that DNA was a fantastic test of evolutionary theory, and could have refuted it when it was discovered, but instead has supported the theory and changed the face of evolutionary science by providing the mechanisms of mutation and evolution, and by giving us a much clearer and more solid picture of how organisms are related to one another? Should I bring up Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and current evangelical Christian, who says that the DNA evidence alone proves common descent? Should I talk about specific things, like the broken vitamin-C-producing gene that helps prove common ancestry between humans and other primates?

Thankfully (or not) Mr. Ted spared me the choice, instead saying (something like), “just watch ‘Expelled.'” If I’d had another two seconds to think, I would have said “sorry, I don’t believe everything I see in movies,” or something to that effect. Instead, I was just floored–I honestly couldn’t believe there was anyone who wouldn’t have seen through the blatant tactics and idiocy of that film. So I sputtered “watch ‘Expelled’? Oh, I’ll watch ‘Expelled’.” It was not the highlight of my debate career. I moved on, “‘Expelled’ is full of lies, distortions, and misinformation,” or something to that effect. Mr. Ted just sighed or chuckled or sighckled or something, and I think he said something dismissive. That’s about when he left the room.

Shortly thereafter, Faith came up to me. I think she was there the whole time, and I have no idea how that all played out to her. She asked me “so, are you a science teacher, or…” or something to that effect–a legitimate question, since I’m teaching English. I explained that my undergraduate degree was in English and Physics, and that I’d be certified to teach English and all the high school sciences. I think that was met with a nodding “oh,” and she more or less left the room.

I continued gathering my things in order to go on my now-abbreviated lunch. I shut the door when I left the classroom, and passed Mr. Ted in the hallway. In the spirit of having to work with him for another three hours, I wished him a good lunch, and went to get my things from the teachers’ lounge. When I passed the classroom again, I noticed the door was open. I looked in to see Mr. Ted, eating his sandwich at the desk, alone in the dark.

In terms of education, I’m not sure how successful I was. I certainly don’t think I made Mr. Ted think at all, but at least I gave Faith an alternate perspective and a good resource for her questions. The fact that she asked about my background seemed positive to me, though I don’t think I’d suggest that it was a victory for science and reason. She’s quiet, so I don’t see much difference in her conduct toward me since then, but she also doesn’t seem to think I’m the godless devil incarnate.

What I learned from the experience, though, was why I don’t generally participate in face-to-face arguments of this sort. I was shaking–full-body shaking–from just a few moments into the discussion, and throughout most of my lunch period thereafter. Part of it was nervousness–it was my first week as a teacher in that district; I had no idea (and still have pretty much no idea) what the general consensus was regarding evolution and science and whatnot, nor did I have any idea what Mr. Ted might say to my colleagues while I was out to lunch. I didn’t know what impression this would make on Faith, or what she might thereafter say to her classmates. I don’t know how quickly they would make the equivocation of “evolutionist” and “atheist” in this small town, nor do I know what that would do to my relationship with my mentor teacher and my supervisor, nor do I know how that might affect my evaluation and job prospects. Sure, it’s entirely possible that I could be totally open and honest with my colleagues and suffer no ill effects, but I’d rather do so when I’m operating as an employee rather than a student. I needed to walk the line of science education, to not be dismissive of the beliefs that Mr. Ted and Faith likely shared (since that would no doubt sink my credibility), while also explaining that the evidence disagreed with their faith. I had to present myself as knowledgeable on a subject that is not the focus of my expertise, while also trying not to come off as the stereotypical condescending, arrogant atheist scientist boogieman.

More than that, I was on the spot; normally when I have arguments like this one, I can walk away, get a sandwich, do research, mull over what I’ve written and change it if necessary, link to sources, respond point-by-point, and generally take precisely as much time as I want to draft a response to the average asinine woo or creationist or whatever. I’m used to point-by-point debates without real time constraints, not face-to-face, heat of the moment debates. Debating by text loses a lot of the inflection and emphasis that help convey meaning in normal communication, but I’ll take it any day over the alternative; the parameters, such as they are, ensure a more honest exchange and allow for a much easier presentation of research and evidence. There’s a reason that the Gish Gallop is more useful face-to-face than online: you can’t baffle the audience with bullshit when your opponent has the ability to clean it up as thoroughly as you toss it out. I can’t pull up all the information to respond to creationist claims at a moment’s notice out of my memory with full citations, but I can do it on Google.

The other thing that feeds into that is that I was angry, and desperately trying to hide it (to be honest, I think the nervousness kind of outweighed it anyway). I’ve gotten angry in debates before, but like I said above, I’ve usually got the option of standing up and walking away from the computer. I can cool off for as long as I want, then return to the discussion when my demeanor is more cool and rational. But I couldn’t exactly walk away from Mr. Ted and Faith, any more than I could let him spread his arrogant ignorance without opposition. It upset me to see a schoolteacher flaunting the Constitution and decades of case law in order to promote a worldview that’s as thoroughly debunked as geocentrism or phlogiston. It made me angry that he apparently thought nothing of flatly dismissing and contradicting the teaching of a colleague in the building, when he has no expertise on the subject. It made me angry to think that it’s the twenty-first damn century, and we’re still beating the dessicated corpse of an argument that was settled in the nineteenth. And yet, if I’d lost my cool, I’d have lost the argument.

I’m not sure what to think about the whole event. I certainly don’t think it was a victory for science and reason, but I’m glad I stood up and said my piece. If nothing else, I refused to let misinformation go unchallenged, so that’s something.

Incidentally, Mr. Ted’s subbing for my class again on Wednesday. I’ve taken over the teaching, so he shouldn’t be doing much, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Regardless, I’m going to bone up a bit on speciation.

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32 Responses to Creationism in my Classroom

  1. Akusai says:

    Having not yet read the post, I feel inclined to call you out for totally stealing this title from me. I’m considering a lawsuit. You may be hearing from my lawyer.

  2. Doubting Tom says:

    No, no, no, yours has a capital M, while mine has a lowercase m, which makes them totally difference. Also, mine goes “ding ding ding dingy ding ding.”

  3. Doubting Tom says:

    Different. i b gud @ inglish’

  4. Hmmmm… trying to decide if having a creationist teacher is better or worse than having a Secretard teacher. Was really annoying when a drama teacher brought the Secret up; teachers shouldn’t get fooled by this crap.

  5. Wikinite says:

    I think you may be approaching the argument from a bad angle. It looks like you are going point by point refutation, which is fine so long as you are discussing with experienced debate judges or an honest opponent, neither which seems to be the case. It is also difficult because you can’t know what topics he will want to bring up, so it is very difficult to prepare for all contingent points. Try tackling his support base where he draws his claims from. He seems like a conspiracy nutter, and they generally have a few consistent patterns. There is always a “they” as Ted claimed, and they always claim to have secret, suppressed, confidential, revolutionizing information from highly credible and competent sources whose work is conviently suppresed by the “they”. You might even go to the extent of comparing blaming “them” to blaming your invisible friend as a child. I wouldn’t worry about having all of the specific information at your finger-tips (there is just a ton of it and the source material is clearly out there if people care). Sources and a few examples are all you really need, which you already seem to have. Unfortunatly the dreaded “F” word (framing) is much more important in a face to face than it is in a formal debate.

  6. Akusai says:

    The nervous shakes are something I also get during confrontations like this. This kind of thing between friends and family is no problem, but with a stranger, or in a professional setting with someone that’s either just a co-worker or in a position of authority, I get it bad, so I totally empathize with you there. In many ways I’m quite non-confrontational, though my sometimes bellicose writing style might not really indicate that. I’m more apt to yell something and then go hide behind a big rock.What I’ve noticed about myself, is that when I’ve got a posse for backup, it doesn’t hit me as hard. When we were dealing with Darth Comfort, for example, it just seemed a reasonable thing to do and I didn’t think twice about it.Confronted alone by a stranger with a pamphlet and/or some stupid ideas, the anxiety starts up. It’s really aggravating.

  7. Dikkii says:

    I’ve never been in that exact situation, Tom, but I kinda know exactly what went through your mind when you were chatting with him.It’s kind of like when I happen to bump into chartists who don’t want to know about the Efficient Markets Hypothesis. They’ve got all the answers, charts never lie, anyone can outguess the market etc.I liked Wikinite’s approach.

  8. GDad says:

    Doubting Tom,It sounds like you made the best of the situation. I admire your unwillingness to let Mr. Ted inject that material into class.

  9. I know what you mean, with the not good at person-to-person confrontation. I’m useless when I’m angry. I can’t focus on what I want to say, I become inarticulate and flusters, I shake, and then hours later beat myself up over all the things I could have or would have done or said better. *pat pat* Sucks, don’t it?

  10. Alan Grey says:

    Suggest you read ‘What is this thing called Science?’ by Chalmers. It is a good introductory textbook into the philosophy of science.

  11. Ty says:

    “Suggest you read ‘What is this thing called Science?’ by Chalmers. It is a good introductory textbook into the philosophy of science.”Really? Will it turn him into a pro-creationist evangelical knucklehead like you?

  12. Techskeptic says:

    I was shaking–full-body shaking–from just a few moments into the discussion, and throughout most of my lunch period thereafter.The nervous shakes are something I also get during confrontations like this.Thank you both! You know I read arguments all over the internet, I participate with what I think are pretty rational debating points. I understand many of the fallacies people use to try to make a point. I have grown accustomed to this format.Last year an old geezer was walking around the town square with a disgusting picture of a fetus with is head missing. I dont need to tell you what he was protesting.I’m sick of watching these idiots walk around with their disgusting signs terrifying the poor women who are already making a difficult decision.So I started in. I asked why he was doing this. I asked what a perfect world would be like for him. He said if abortion were illegal. I asked if he thought that would put an end to it. I asked if he was familiar with statistic of abotion in countries where it was banned. I asked if he was familiar with the gruesome effect banning abortion has and how it always fails to actually drop the number of abortions. I asked if we could agree that stopping unwanted pregnancy was not a better pursuit.I never raised my voice, I remain calm, outwardly…inside I was shaking. My blood was pumping so fast I could hear it.Tom, on these blogs I have always admired your approach, your calm reasoning, and good discussion skills (and grammar!). It was very nice to hear that you also get the sshakes when trying to do this on command. Akusai, your english is not as good. :P

  13. Alan Grey says:

    “Really? Will it turn him into a pro-creationist evangelical knucklehead like you?”Wow Ty. Such a visceral, irrational, emotional response is surprising. It is almost like you are afraid that someone could be convinced about creation using logic and reason.No need to be scared though. The book I recommended was merely a good introductory textbook from for philosophy of science. It was used at a secular university during a masters of philosophy course and is not some sort of theistic bogeyman to run from.It is instead, a highly useful book for understanding science, and should be required reading from people who like to argue about science (from any side of the discussion). As Tom seems to be the thinking type, I assumed that he might be interested in such things.

  14. I have a feeling a lot of the athiest blogosphere already knows about science. Generally, people who don’t know about science are on the other side of the equation.Oh, and Ty probably is annoyed by you from some previous encounter. I have a feeling that he’s probably completely justified in saying that.

  15. Wikinite says:

    No need to be scared though. The book I recommended was merely a good introductory textbook from for philosophy of science. It was used at a secular university during a masters of philosophy course and is not some sort of theistic bogeyman to run from.Which “secular University”? You wouldn’t be making unsubstantiated claims would you?

  16. Akusai says:

    Akusai, your english is not as good. :PAww, why not?

  17. Wikinite says:

    I assume he is talking about your prodigious use of commas.

  18. Techskeptic says:

    Aww, why not?LOL. Well I’ve read over your blog. I don’t recall English class being an exercise in seeing how many explicatives we can fit in each sentence.Alan Grey,This is the book that should be required reading. Agree?

  19. I really need to read Demon Haunted World sometime, thanks for reminding me Techskeptic.

  20. Techskeptic says:

    Such a visceral, irrational, emotional response is surprising. It is almost like you are afraid that someone could be convinced about creation using logic and reasonI’ve always wondered why people presume skeptics aren’t supposed to get emotional. As if we are vulcan because we value critical thinking over emotion and faith for making decisions. I’ve been asked often if I hope or dream about things. Ty isnt afraid that logic and reason will get people to believe in religious dogma. he is frustrated (as am I) that people are so willing to jump in with blind faith and believe the equivalent of unicorn stories. He has seen how people get convince by clear logical fallacies and other deceptions like quote mining, and not presenting all the information, and this infuriates him as it does me. He is frustrated, as am I, that there are people out there who feed on the power this gives them, and in a way that makes me unsure if they are willingly lying to the faithful or actually believe the mumbo jumbo themselves. Getting emotional about an act that is so clearly wrong, deceitful, and hurtful isnt surprising, its expected of every human being.

  21. Akusai says:

    I don’t recall English class being an exercise in seeing how many explicatives we can fit in each sentence.I don’t always do that…

  22. Alan Grey says:

    Techskeptic.The issue is not whether skeptics/atheists have emotions, but whether their emotions are so strong that it overtakes their reason.The response I got from Ty to suggestion of reading a philosophy textbook would certainly indicate that this is the case here.I’m glad you make your position so clear with such strong assertions, but I am sure many people who thought that blacks were sub-human also clearly thought that those who said otherwise were so ‘clearly wrong, deceitful, and hurtful’.The real point is that many intelligent, honest people disagree about creation and evolution, and your emotional insecurity at having your worldview threatened clearly prejudices any attempt at balanced evaluation of the evidence.

  23. Doubting Tom says:

    Okay, since I’m avoiding work anyway, might as well tidy up the comments.Wikinite: Thanks for the advice. I like the idea of tackling the conspiracy angle of things rather than the evidentiary one, though I’m not entirely sure which one would be easier. Americans do so love a good conspiracy theory, after all, and fundies are great at inventing oppressors. Akusai, The Girlfriend: Glad to hear I’m not the only one who gets the hippy hippy shakes around the nutters. Techskeptic: I think you may be experiencing just a bit of selection bias with regard to Akusai’s R-rated language :).Alan Grey: Suggest you read ‘What is this thing called Science?’ by Chalmers. It is a good introductory textbook into the philosophy of science.While I might not be so blunt as Ty, I would be inclined to be skeptical (shocking, I know) about book recommendations by someone who, upon glancing at their blog, actually praises “Explore Evolution.” Don’t take it too personally; I’d do the same for someone who liked “Chariots of the Gods” or “Great Expectations.” That being said, I’d like to think I’m a little beyond “introductory” texts on the philosophy of science. I mean, it’s been awhile since I took a formal class on it, but I’ve read about the philosophy of science quite a lot, in fact–“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” “Demon-Haunted World,” and so forth. I’ll certainly take a look at the book, though, and thanks for the recommendation.Wow Ty. Such a visceral, irrational, emotional response is surprising.Visceral, maybe. Emotional, certainly. Irrational? That’s a bit of a stretch. Sounds to me like a legitimate question–albeit one phrased rather combatively. I’d be inclined to suspect the motives behind a creationist’s recommended science books just as I’d be inclined to suspect the motives behind an astrologer’s recommended astronomy books. Moreover, and perhaps it’s painting with a slightly-too-broad brush (though not without basis in prior experience), I’d be inclined to think that if one were a creationist (astrologer, homeopath, etc.), then the books they’ve read on the philosophy of science (evolution, astronomy, medicine, etc.) must not have been very good. It is almost like you are afraid that someone could be convinced about creation using logic and reason.Afraid? Try doubtful. I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with Ty (and I apologize if I ought to be), but if Ty’s experiences are anything like mine, then I can’t imagine it’s not without good reason. I’ve heard more creationists than I can count talk about how they were convinced through logic, reason, evidence, or a combination of the three, and yet I’ve never seen a single one able to present such convincing logic/reason/evidence. It usually boils down to logical fallacies, personal experience, or an appeal to faith (or a combination of the three). I’m open to the possibility that someone could be convinced of creation with logic, reason, evidence, or a combination of the three (although I’m suddenly wondering what the difference between logic and reason is in this context…); however, I have yet to see any such evidence or reason that doesn’t fall apart under moderately close scrutiny. The issue is not whether skeptics/atheists have emotions, but whether their emotions are so strong that it overtakes their reason.I’m not sure where that would be the issue. It’s not as though Ty was making an argument or proposing a course of action. Ty asked a question–a moderately loaded question, a somewhat combative question, but a question nonetheless–and I’m not clear on how anyone could make a judgment of someone’s reasoning capabilities (and their emotions’ impact thereon) based on a single question. At least, not that single question…I suppose if Ty had asked “How should we kill all the creationists: roasting over a spit, or slathered with penguin pheromones and dumped naked in the Antarctic?” we might rightly conclude that there were some difficulties with emotion overtaking reason. But “are you recommending this book because you think it will convert one to your point of view?”, however phrased, is not a question that invites such judgments. I’m glad you make your position so clear with such strong assertions, but I am sure many people who thought that blacks were sub-human also clearly thought that those who said otherwise were so ‘clearly wrong, deceitful, and hurtful’.Wow, I’m not entirely sure what that is…ad hominem by analogy? What exactly did Techskeptic say that would justify a comparison to white supremacists and racists? Are you actually trying to suggest that creationists are an oppressed minority?See, here’s the rub: the people who believed that blacks were sub-human were generally subscribing to the same sorts of logical fallacies and lazy thinking that Techskeptic decried. I mean, if we really want to play the guilt-by-association card, I could note that much of the justification for such beliefs was based on the religious idea of the Great Chain of Being, that life was organized hierarchically. Logic, reason, and science overturned that notion; religion continues to try to uphold it. But that would be almost as unfair as obliquely calling Techskeptic a racist. There were religious folks on both sides of the “are blacks human” debate, using religious justifications for both their positions. The situation, like most that come up in these conversations, doesn’t demonstrate either that religion is a negative or a positive influence; it demonstrates that religious belief provides no actual guidance on real-life issues. When two groups of equally fervent believers can use the same book to justify two completely contradictory positions, it gives the lie to the idea that religion is some kind of moral guidepost, telling believers which way to go on moral issues. Even in situations where the religionists’ preferred book explicitly endorses one opinion, people in the same religion can disagree and feel equally justified in their positions (see also: slavery, homosexuality).But that’s more than a bit tangential. The point is this: maybe some racists did think that civil rights proponents’ comments were clearly wrong, hurtful, and deceitful. And maybe some racists thought the sky was often blue, and grass was frequently green. Being racist doesn’t mean that all your beliefs and judgments are automatically wrong or morally repugnant. And believing something which may or may not have been believed by racists doesn’t necessarily make one a racist–unless that belief is, specifically, that some races are inferior to others. The real point is that many intelligent, honest people disagree about creation and evolution, and your emotional insecurity at having your worldview threatened clearly prejudices any attempt at balanced evaluation of the evidence.First fear, now emotional insecurity. I smell Doggerel. Intelligent people may disagree about evolution and creation, Alan, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they disagree for intelligent reasons. Plenty of smart people believe dumb things, often for the same reasons that less-smart people believe dumb things–it’s just that the smarties are usually better at justifying their beliefs. Intellect is no insulation against silly beliefs, and even the most well-educated among us is subject to lazy thinking and the various biases and shortcuts that are hardwired into the human brain. But, since you’ve brought it up a couple of times, I’m curious about the logic/reason/evidence that has you convinced of creationism, and specifically how such logic/reason/evidence might be enough to overturn the logic/reason/evidence in favor of the prevailing theory. I realize a comment thread might not be the best place for such a discussion, but if you could post a link or two, I’d be happy to check them out. Everyone else, again, thanks for the comments!

  24. Techskeptic says:

    our emotional insecurity at having your worldview threatened clearly prejudices any attempt at balanced evaluation of the evidence.eh? Who feels threatened? I only get threatened when religionists feels its their right to impose their personal beliefs on our shared government.I dont care if you believe in leprechauns, it doesnt threaten my worldview. Some good evidence that god exists would certainly help, if you actually wanted everyone to beleive in a fairytale. And even then, (s)he would have to tell me specifically his expectations (like which version of which book is the right one, if any of them), and prove that there arent more gods (why would there just be one? there is nothing unique in this universe, rare, but not unique). All this you just take for granted and mold your life around. Its a very strange behavior.If there was some sort of clinching evidence for god, it would have been presented, worldwide by now. Pascal’s wager is so weak of a reason to perpetuate a lie.. I’ve got a life to enjoy and share with others and get the most I can out of my 79 years (i’m half done), if you and your ilk would kindly stay out of it, i’d greatly appreciate it.

  25. Ty says:

    Wow, I forgot to come by for a while and missed a lot.I admit I was too combative. I regret that. I’m an aggressive person by nature, and it’s a constant struggle.I’d feel really bad about it in this case, if I hadn’t been exactly right.”It is almost like you are afraid that someone could be convinced about creation using logic and reason.”I am a reformed evangelical, and I spent nearly 30 years trying to convince people of this very thing using what I thought was logic and reason. I realized later that none of the arguments I’d been taught were either of those things.So, in answer to that question:Hahahahahahahahahahahaha, no.

  26. Alan Grey says:

    Tom, I was surprised to hear you say I praise ‘Explore Evolution’ on my blog. I’ve never read it nor made any positive comment about it. What I did do was point out that Timmer’s criticisms of it were contrary to current scientific observations. I also listed a couple of science journal papers which showed this. My question for you and Ty is why spend the effort looking at my blog without even looking at the book on somewhere like amazon? ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ is good, but somewhat more narrowly focused, and Demon-Haunted world cannot properly be classified as philosophy of science. Consider Richard Lewontin’s review of it to understand why.Glad you are at least going to take a look at it. Whilst we haven’t really discussed much, I can understand a healthy skepticism at a random guy recommending a book. Suffice to say I generally do not recommend crap, nor do I think it productive to recommend creation material to evolutionists or vice versa.Regarding Emotion and reason, I would think a quick, negative, gut reaction to something would certainly be indicative of emotions overriding reason. Automatic responses like that on intellectual topics cannot but significantly bias the persons evaluation of the evidence.In Ty’s example, a book recommendation by someone with no emotional connection to him, caused an over the top, attacking response. That his response was along the creation/evolution lines would indeed indicate a possible lack of balance in that area.Regarding your comments on my response to techskeptic, i think you will find my response is merely reflective of his, using a subject that is assumed clearly agreed by all of us to be wrong.Techskeptic was using a rhetorical trick and attempting to portray being a victim (‘hurtful’), and my response merely highlights this. I am glad you disagree with my response. I assume you disagree with the rhetorical nature of his comments as well then.I had no intention of tarring Techskeptic as a racist, and apologize if any such interpretation happened.I’m sure we can discuss different opinions about the same source and it’s implication for religion another time.Your comments about intelligent people being able to better justify silly beliefs is quite interesting. Do you also apply this reasoning to your own beliefs? How do you know your own beliefs are not merely the justified silly beliefs of an intelligent person?I’ll probably put another comment tomorrow to talk about the creation/evolution thing as you have asked.btw, I do appreciate the measured tone of your reply. Like you (although from the other side), I too have had many a hostile, irrational response from evolutionists.

  27. Alan Grey says:

    Techskeptic”eh? Who feels threatened? I only get threatened when religionists feels its their right to impose their personal beliefs on our shared government.”Unfortunately Techskeptic, someone’s beliefs are always imposed on others. There is no neutral belief just as there is no neutral morality.

  28. Alan Grey says:

    Ty.”I’d feel really bad about it in this case, if I hadn’t been exactly right”I’m not sure how you came to this conclusion? Care to elaborate?

  29. Techskeptic says:

    Sorry alan,Unfortunately Techskeptic, someone’s beliefs are always imposed on others. There is no neutral belief just as there is no neutral morality.This is nonsense. All you are saying is “its always been this way, so lets not bother to change it”. I’m sure the slaves will be agreeing whole heartedly with you. We are capable of having debate and discussion based on facts, we are not animals. This ability is completely rendered useless when someone uses “because god says so” as an argument. I agree that personal and religious bias is strong, but it is our job as humans who wish to no longer just survive, but excel, to value data and where our data comes from and make decision based on the best available. Looking at a 2000 year old book of stories for anything besides entertainment is hardly beneficial.Now I know that some things are hard to define, and debate. For example abortion. Some folks think conception is a good place to define life (the repercussions of this idea are absurd), and others think there is some other point in time(blood flow, brain waves, etc etc), and still others understand that there is some point between conception and 2 years old that full consciousness is achieved.On many topics its a matter of agreeing to a definition and at least attempting to get by personal biases. But actions like wasting taxpayer money on AO programs, funding pretend science endeavors (prayer healing), or going to bloody war have one thing in common. They are done with the idea that God is real. Its absurd.A government in which all members strive for secularism and respect information, is the only way all people of religion and no religion can be free to beleive what they like.If you an I are to discuss the merits of buying an BMW or Mercedes, I doubt God will come into the equation. All matters can be like this.

  30. Ty says:

    “I’m not sure how you came to this conclusion? Care to elaborate?”That you are a pro-creationism knuckle head?Is there doubt?And the lame tactic of, “look how emotional everyone else is getting, therefore I am the only rational one” is weak.Since the creation side of the debate has absolutely nothing to offer in the way of evidence, it must resort to this kind of semantic game playing to try and score points.Yeah, I’m a passionate and aggressive guy by nature. That means creationism is valid, how?I find it amusing to watch people use this kind of bullshit tactic on me, since it’s all from the same idiotic playbook I was taught to use as a fundy evangelical. I hope you find your way clear of this shit some day, and discover the joys of rationality. There is a lot more to see once you pull those blinders off.

  31. Alan Grey says:

    Tom, here is a link to a summary of my thoughts on the creation evolution issueIt is fairly hastily put together as this week has been kind of crazy.

  32. Ty says:

    Are you all convinced now, Tom?

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