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"Students in tax-supported schools are being taught that evolution is a fact. We are convinced that evolution is a religion masquerading as science and should not be part of any science curriculum." Dr. Kent Hovind is offering $250,000 to anyone who can prove evolution. Dr. Hovind is also known for his 17-hour award-winning seminar series. While you're there, you can buy all sorts of goodies like fossil replicas! And if that's not enough, there's a great FAQ. [MI]
posted by exlotuseater (85 comments total)

 
I recently visited the university that I am transferring to in the spring, and in the campus newspaper, there was an op-ed piece from a local resident who was distressed that everyone on college campuses were "buying into the fairytale of evolution", and that taxpayer money was funding this. The author suggested going to this site, and maybe inviting Dr. Hovind to the campus. In the past, I have argued that Creation Science should be marginalized- Now, however, I am beginning to think that situations like this might be helpful (in an ironic sort of way) to educate people about the scientific method, evolution, and natural selection, as well as other aspects of anthropology and biology that are arguably not as well understood by the general public. What are your thoughts?
posted by exlotuseater at 5:29 PM on December 7, 2004


Nice. So now if he's (or any other evolution is false crusader) asked to prove Creationism (or "Intellectual" Design) he gets to say "You first." And what is his standard of proof? It's going to be hard to prove anything when Satan could have done it to fool us (or God trying to test us).

And no, I'm not going to RTFA. Maybe later, but I've had my fill of fundie bullshit (Christian or otherwise) for the day.
posted by MikeKD at 5:35 PM on December 7, 2004


Now, however, I am beginning to think that situations like this might be helpful (in an ironic sort of way) to educate people about the scientific method, evolution, and natural selection, as well as other aspects of anthropology and biology that are arguably not as well understood by the general public. What are your thoughts?

I don't think they're interested.
posted by mcsweetie at 5:40 PM on December 7, 2004


This guy is a charlatan. I've been given the first DVD by well-meaning relatives convinced that this "real scientist" can lead me to the light. The content isn't even factual, it's lightly sprinkled with science to reinforce the beliefs of, well, "creationists" - for lack of a better term. If there is a hell, scum like Hovind are going to writhe there.
posted by rotifer at 5:41 PM on December 7, 2004


Hovind has a quarter million. Randi has a whole million. Reality wins.
posted by flabdablet at 5:41 PM on December 7, 2004 [1 favorite]


Seems like that would be an easy 250 k for a molecular biologist with some time on his hands. Just whip through a few viral generations and there ya go.

Or maybe I'm missing something? Besides, doesn't this debate usually sidestep a very important point, namely: Creationism is not science. It may be a viable way of viewing the world, but it does not participate in the scientific method, is not subject to experimentation and generally runs contrary to scientific investigation in every possible way.
posted by undule at 5:41 PM on December 7, 2004


erm, sorry, what I meant really was that the point isn't whats right, creationism or evolution -- it seems to be about understanding what science is . . .

posted by undule at 5:45 PM on December 7, 2004


I got this link about him from an earlier discussion here (which I can't find now). Basically, the challenge isn't one that can be overcome due to the fine print.

That said, I don't think that his presentations are a good way to get info about the scientific method out there. If he was setup as a learning tool, where if you poked at his arguments he'd reveal more and more that they weren't thoroughly researched, and he and you would both explore how they could be better supported or refuted, then seeing him speak would be great.

However, I think that everyone on any side of the evolution/creation debate can agree that that's never going to happen.
posted by Four Flavors at 5:47 PM on December 7, 2004


I'm sure this is very important to them, but strategically, pitting religion against science is a little like the famous buggy whip makers trying to convince consumers that buggy whips can make their automobiles go faster. They might change a few minds and preserve their status quo for a little while, but it's just not a sustainable position.
posted by ulotrichous at 5:47 PM on December 7, 2004


not that I agree with his stance regarding evolution, but his response to "prove creationism" isn't "you first," it's "but creation isn't taught in tax supported schools" which seems a fair cop.

also, his definition of evolution includes the idea of evolution as a process that "Brought time, space, and matter into existence from nothing."
Which would be kind of hard to prove, wouldn't it?
posted by juv3nal at 5:48 PM on December 7, 2004


Seems like that would be an easy 250 k for a molecular biologist with some time on his hands. Just whip through a few viral generations and there ya go.

To get the loot, you have to be able to prove, using only empirical evidence, all six of the following interpretations of the word "evolution":

1 Cosmic evolution- the origin of time, space and matter. Big Bang.
2 Chemical evolution- the origin of higher elements from hydrogen.
3 Stellar and planetary evolution- Origin of stars and planets.
4 Organic evolution- Origin of life from inanimate matter.
5 Macroevolution- Origin of major kinds.
6 Microevolution Variations within kinds
posted by 23skidoo at 5:50 PM on December 7, 2004


Heaven help our schools for propogating a "fairytale" that happens to be supported by overwhelming empirical evidence.

I do think that those hailing this theory as fact are just as guilty of ideological myopia as proponents of creationism. But as long as the "theory" part is not detached from "evolution theory," it's a sound cirriculum.

The schools' job is to educate, not to perform Biblical apologetics. If we posit Genesis as a contender against evolution, we'd have to include a host of creation myths from other cultures as well. Judeo-Christianity cannot have a monopoly on the "other" side of this debate.

PS: Only 250k for unraveling the origins of the universe? Surely Dr. Hovind can do better than that...
posted by Lisa S at 5:51 PM on December 7, 2004


Somehow I don't think that anyone is going to collect the $250K. There's been 150 years of solid science proving evolution and this guy is still not convinced. Do you think that there is anything that anyone could show this guy that would make him say, "Oh wow, you've proved evolution to me! I was so wrong all these years."
posted by octothorpe at 5:51 PM on December 7, 2004


That's the point a lot of Creationists make, juv3nal. That ultimately, science is the same as religion because there are some base "facts" that can't be proven and are accepted on "faith".
posted by Fontbone at 5:52 PM on December 7, 2004


Yeah, where's the $250K prize for proving Creation without using the Bible in any way? That would be a pretty damned impressive feat, to do that.

Stupid is as stupid does. If you want to stop believing in science, folks, you'd better throw out your TVs, cars, fresh food, showers and all your other modern conveniences that science has provided for you (um, pretty much everything, really), and go back to living as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Enjoy!

"...we'll be saying a big hello to all the intelligent life forms out there, and to the rest of you, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys!"
posted by zoogleplex at 5:52 PM on December 7, 2004


but creation isn't taught in tax supported schools" which seems a fair cop.
But see that's just it, it's not a fair cop on his part, because Creationism IS NOT SCIENCE.

To teach evolution in a science class is cool, because hey, it's a science class. If you want Creationism taught in school, let's have Bible classes. It could very well be that science is wrong concerning the creation of humans, but it's prevailing theory. It's a bit like an art teacher protesting a mathematics class because he thinks the we should really be doing sums in base 12.
posted by undule at 5:53 PM on December 7, 2004


Why? Why the hell should we humor the idiots, taking their delusional claims seriously? They want to be raptured, uploaded to the mothership or some such, fine, let them. Idiots always existed, they will always be with us. Why waste energy and time on them?
posted by c13 at 5:54 PM on December 7, 2004


Again, the problem is with the terminology. Theory does not mean what he thinks it means. Correct me if I'm wrong...but isn't gravity -also- a theory? Wouldn't it be ridiculous to not believe in gravity just because nobody has decided how it works?
posted by odinsdream at 5:54 PM on December 7, 2004


Lisa S: I do think that those hailing this theory as fact are just as guilty of ideological myopia as proponents of creationism. But as long as the "theory" part is not detached from "evolution theory," it's a sound cirriculum.

I think that's part of what any good scientific curriculum includes, is the aspect of doubt. The idea that "this is what we think at this point in time, but then again, this is what people thought in the past according to the overwhelming empirical evidence at the time, and they were wrong. So this thing we're teaching you might turn out to be wrong, but it's our best guess at the moment."

Science shouldn't, in my own opinion, be taught as a list of facts. It should, instead, be taught as a way of thinking, an approach toward problem solving, and a list of current theories.
posted by Fontbone at 5:55 PM on December 7, 2004


Right. Creationism isn't science. Hovind is a charlatan. My point is, aren't there people out there that believe in science, for lack of a better term, but don't really understand what science is? What I'm saying is that a venue like this might be beneficial to make regular people aware of how science works.

Bottom line, evolution can't be proven, as far as the criteria put forth. So what? It's a generally accepted fact, and that's as close as science can come. I'm thinking that the idea of a debate is good in the sense that it may allow people to get a better understanding of how things like peer-review and refereeing actually work.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:56 PM on December 7, 2004


Some might remember this thread from back in March (posted link is dead now). I think it's a good place to start...
posted by Demogorgon at 5:56 PM on December 7, 2004


I used to work at a shit job doing video duplication and our main customer was selling these exact videos. So I've seen all of them several times. They are all absolutely awful, but not nearly as bad as the creepy fetish videos that I copied almost as often.
posted by sciurus at 5:58 PM on December 7, 2004


Hovind's offer of $25,000 has been shown to be nothing more than a grandstanding lie. See here for an account of Hovind's impossible demands. Hovind's website offers only the most vague requirements, and when scientists have attempted to get specific requirements Hovind has weaseled.

One interesting thing is that since Creationists spend so much of their efforts attempting to discredit science it turns out that Creationism is not well formed. I've long since given up trying to discuss evolution with Creationists, but I've found that when verbally cornered by one the most effective tactic is to move the discussion to Creationism, not evolution.

One example: The Creationists will usually concede that "microevolution" exists, but that evolution cannot cross the boundary of a "Kind". But when pressed it turns out that no Creationist can actually define what they mean by "Kind". Nor can they describe what sort of genetic factors might prevent mutations from going beyond "Kind".

The moral of the story is that if you have to discuss origins with a Creationist and you want to come out ahead on snark points, try to direct the discussion to creationism, not evolution. Personally I stopped arguing with them a few years back, its too pointless.
posted by sotonohito at 5:59 PM on December 7, 2004


in other news, famed barrister clarence darrow is slated to represent certifiable tennessee "teacher" scopes in soon-to-be-infamous "monkey trial"
posted by Hat Maui at 6:01 PM on December 7, 2004


c13: Why? Why the hell should we humor the idiots, taking their delusional claims seriously? They want to be raptured, uploaded to the mothership or some such, fine, let them. Idiots always existed, they will always be with us. Why waste energy and time on them?

Congratulations, c13, you have just perfectly embodied the staggering idiocy of the so-called "tolerant" atheistic set.
posted by Lisa S at 6:04 PM on December 7, 2004


from the journalistic wonder that is Newsweek:
Sixty-two percent say they favor teaching creation science in addition to evolution in public schools; 26 percent oppose such teaching, the poll shows. Forty-three percent favor teaching creation science instead of evolution in public schools; 40 percent oppose the idea.
posted by allan at 6:05 PM on December 7, 2004


If we posit Genesis as a contender against evolution, we'd have to include a host of creation myths from other cultures as well

I'd gladly chip in a few bucks to anyone who could prove the universe is riding on the back of an enormous turtle.
posted by undule at 6:08 PM on December 7, 2004


That's the point a lot of Creationists make, juv3nal. That ultimately, science is the same as religion because there are some base "facts" that can't be proven and are accepted on "faith".

Science isn't a belief so much as a set of rules for creating theories that make accurate predictions. Science doesn't require that you believe that atoms exist, or that evolution is true. In fact, "creationism" might be true. But neither it, nor its cousin in drag "intelligent design" can accurately be called scientific, because neither is a theory that can be used to make predictions.
posted by Slothrup at 6:09 PM on December 7, 2004


That $250k prize reminds me of the cash prize for disproving Time Cube.
posted by mek at 6:10 PM on December 7, 2004


Both the beauty and repugnance of faith is that it requires neither logic nor reason. Hence any debate limited by the bounds of cause-and-effect and empirical evidence is impossible to win.
posted by drpynchon at 6:11 PM on December 7, 2004



I'd gladly chip in a few bucks to anyone who could prove the universe is riding on the back of an enormous turtle.


I don't know about the universe, but I know this country is.
posted by Lisa S at 6:13 PM on December 7, 2004


odinsdream: Again, the problem is with the terminology. Theory does not mean what he thinks it means. Correct me if I'm wrong...but isn't gravity -also- a theory? Wouldn't it be ridiculous to not believe in gravity just because nobody has decided how it works?

"This word is employed by English writers in a very loose and improper sense. It is with them usually convertible into hypothesis, and hypothesis is commonly used as another term for conjecture. The terms theory and theoretical are properly used in opposition to the terms practice and practical. In this sense, they were exclusively employed by the ancients; and in this sense, they are almost exclusively employed by the Continental philosophers.''

--Sir W. Hamilton.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:14 PM on December 7, 2004


To teach evolution in a science class is cool, because hey, it's a science class.

To continue playing devil's advocate for a sec, I think his point is that the scientific community at large is under a mass delusion and that if they brought to bear the same kind of scientific rigor they applied to other areas of scientific inquiry to the subject of evolution, they'd conclude that evolution isn't science either.
posted by juv3nal at 6:15 PM on December 7, 2004


Creationfilter?

(um...is it just me, or have the number of creationism-related FPPs increased tenfold since the US election? is this phenomenon - if true - worthy of examination?)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:15 PM on December 7, 2004


Ok, Lisa S, I agree with you completely. Next time you get sick, by all means, say "fuck them stupid scientists", and pray as hard as you can to get healed, don't go to the hospital. After all, if it is Lord's will...
posted by c13 at 6:18 PM on December 7, 2004


As a side note, I sent a letter to the newspaper, as a rebuttal to the op-ed, trying to explain the scientific method, how creation science is not equatable with science, explaining evolution and the theory of natural selection in lay terms.... but there are plenty of people that are educated, and still don't understand these things. I'm saying perhaps this is a good way to frame these concepts. Really, anyone who's not on Dr. Hovinds' side of the fence isn't going to be swayed, and it may be an eye-opening experience, r at least enough to generate discussion and dialogue among people about science. The creationist aspect is a means to an end.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:22 PM on December 7, 2004


Exactly, c13. In the world of science and religion there are only two groups: faith-healing, science-bashing delusional idiots, and you, c13, the Enlightened. Because there are no religious people in existence who find some value in science. It's this binary arrogance that precludes any intelligent discussion in pluralistic societies. Moron.
posted by Lisa S at 6:27 PM on December 7, 2004


Here's a pretty interesting thing: you don't really see many scientists pretending to be preachers, but there is a hell of a lot of preachers trying to look like scientists. Why is that?
posted by c13 at 6:28 PM on December 7, 2004


Congratulations, c13, you have just perfectly embodied the staggering idiocy of the so-called "tolerant" atheistic set.

1. Can we stop already with the "you aren't truly tolerant unless you tolerate my intolerance" bit? It's both old and dumb.

2. Tolerance and atheism haven't got that much to do with one another. I went to school with and was taught by plenty of religous folk who are perfectly tolerant. Then again, they also had no problems with evolution.

I have to say I find it odd that I went to Catholic school and got a better education in sex and science than kids at public school. Weird weird weird.
posted by dame at 6:35 PM on December 7, 2004


The cover story of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic - "Was Darwin Wrong"was comprehensive and interesting on the topic of creationism versus evolutionary theory"

"[Evolutionary theory]...is such a dangerously wonderful and far-reaching view of life that some people find it unacceptable, despite the vast body of supporting evidence....According to a Gallup poll drawn from more than a thousand telephone interviews conducted in February 2001, no less than 45 percent of responding U.S. adults agreed that 'God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.' Evolution, by their lights, played no role in shaping us. Only 37 percent of the polled Americans were satisfied with allowing room for both God and Darwin—that is, divine initiative to get things started, evolution as the creative means. Still fewer Americans, only 12 percent, believed that humans evolved from other life-forms without any involvement of a god....The most startling thing about these poll numbers is not that so many Americans reject evolution, but that the statistical breakdown hasn't changed much in two decades. Gallup interviewers posed exactly the same choices in 1982, 1993, 1997, and 1999. The creationist conviction—that God alone, and not evolution, produced humans—has never drawn less than 44 percent. In other words, nearly half the American populace prefers to believe that Charles Darwin was wrong where it mattered most.
posted by ericb at 6:36 PM on December 7, 2004


I have to say I find it odd that I went to Catholic school and got a better education in sex and science than kids at public school. Weird weird weird.

My girlfriend had the same experience. Seems there are some pretty progressive Catholic schools in the Portland, OR area.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:37 PM on December 7, 2004


c13:you don't really see many scientists pretending to be preachers, but there is a hell of a lot of preachers trying to look like scientists. Why is that?

Simple: because religion is concerened with every aspect of life -- even how the universe even came into being. Preachers aren't trying to be scientists. Ontology (tne nature of being) is part of religion's expansive field, where theology and the natural world are inextricably intertwined. Scientists, on the other hand, don't necessarily concern themselves with the why, but the empirical how.

PS: "There are a hell of a lot of preachers." Not trying to be pedantic, but be careful who you're accusing of being an idiot.
posted by Lisa S at 6:39 PM on December 7, 2004


To continue playing devil's advocate for a sec, I think his point is that the scientific community at large is under a mass delusion and that if they brought to bear the same kind of scientific rigor they applied to other areas of scientific inquiry to the subject of evolution, they'd conclude that evolution isn't science either.

Well, I can't agree with that. For one thing, evolution is under constant scrutiny -- though perhaps a point could be made that the scrutiny is not nearly vigorous enough. Mostly, however, I have to disagree in the sense that you can define evolution as science or not science -- as Slothrup put it above, science is a method of inquiry, primarily a process, it's not a membership club. Creationism could very well be a science, I suppose, if they could find a way to investigate it's verity, to prove (or even test) the God Hypothesis, etc.

And remember, the door is always open for Creationists to join in the scientific reindeer games.
posted by undule at 6:39 PM on December 7, 2004


Exlotuseater, when I was an undergrad, a Christian group on campus invited a creationist to give a talk. Hundreds of people showed up, and this was at a small (4,500 students) school. The guy did his slideshow bit about gaps in the fossil record, geological evidence for the Flood, etc, etc, and then started taking questions. The question segment went on for over three hours. Professors, students, and community members from diverse fields all asked questions, good ones, and the guy did a decent job of defending himself (basically arguing that the burden of proof was on those who posited evolution) up until the questions turned more toward religion -- namely, why did he choose the Christian creation story rather than another? Can you separate creationism from Christianity? The more this point was pushed, the more the speaker unraveled, until he finally yelled "I believe Jesus is the son of God! And I believe in God our father!" At this point the Christian students started praying loudly, and the whole thing fell apart.

This was nine years ago -- I wish I could remember it better, but I certainly learned something.
posted by climalene at 6:50 PM on December 7, 2004


What I have a hard time getting my mind around is why, in the minds of these fundie-creationists, evolution and the existence of God are incompatible? Or for that matter, why is it so hard to make a distinction between what we believe, ie. faith, and what we know or can draw a well-reasoned conclusion, ie. empirical evidence and deductive reasoning? I believe in God. I also know that there is enough evidence to support the theory of evolution as the mechanism that brought the universe into existence. I cannot definitely prove either, I know, but I don't see why the religious right are so antagonistic toward the theory of evolution and see it as incompatible with a belief in God. Someone, please explain.
posted by echolalia67 at 6:53 PM on December 7, 2004


1 Cosmic evolution- the origin of time, space and matter. Big Bang.

Check one.
posted by fatllama at 6:58 PM on December 7, 2004


Indeed echolalia67,

As I mentioned elsewhere, I myself don't have a problem with either Christianity or evolution, I like 'em both and just don't see any problem. Of course some folks, on both sides, have a problem with my not having a problem so I'm thinking they both need to do something to widen their perspectives.

I don't know what the answer is other than to note some just seem to be all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinkers on both sides.
posted by scheptech at 7:00 PM on December 7, 2004


echolalia67: Because I think Christians want to believe that God had created man and woman "fully-formed" as they appear today, and not as continually evolving organisms. They cannot accept the idea as God the clockmaker who set the universe into motion and left it alone.

But I don't see how religious people can argue with hard evidence. They might just be afraid of being seen as compromising their faith.
posted by Lisa S at 7:02 PM on December 7, 2004


Slothrup: Science isn't a belief so much as a set of rules for creating theories that make accurate predictions. Science doesn't require that you believe that atoms exist, or that evolution is true. In fact, "creationism" might be true. But neither it, nor its cousin in drag "intelligent design" can accurately be called scientific, because neither is a theory that can be used to make predictions.

Sure, I agree with that; see my later comment in the thread. I disagree, however, if you extend that to mean that within the scientific community you're not "required to believe that atoms exist, or that evolution is true." If you don't, you're not going to be listened to for very long and are going to treated with the same scorn c13 and others have heaped on people in and upon the subject of this thread.

In science as a field of knowledge and a method of learning, yes, you're correct, but science the community, no. There are basic concepts you're required to accept as true and inviolate, just as within, say, the Christian community you're required to believe in God.

Personally, in my spiritual life, I apply what I like to think of as a scientific approach to any particular concept. When I hear something new, I study it out in my mind, thinking about it logically and probingly, based on what I already know and believe. I read as much as I can about it. I read what prominent thinkers within my religion have said about that concept, and weigh that with proper consideration. Then I pray, asking for guidance in my thinking about the subject. As the Bible says in James, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Only then do I come to a final conclusion about whether I think it's true or not. The difference between a faith-based question and an empirical evidence-based question is that in place of the testing, you spiritually test the question by asking the Holy Spirit for confirmation. The scientific community rejects this test, but for a religious person, it gives the same validity to an otherwise unprovable question.

On preview: yup, echolalia67, I have the same difficulty. Personally I think it works well to (as the Man Himself sorta said) “Render unto [Darwin] the things which are [Darwin]’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” I use a scientific approach to understanding scientific things, and a religious approach to understanding religious things, and I don't understand why that's a difficult thing to do for a lot of religious folks.
posted by Fontbone at 7:12 PM on December 7, 2004


echolalia67 and scheptech: My sense of it is that both of you probably are open-minded, intelligent, comfortable in your beliefs, and probably have a decent level of internal belief consistency. This means that you are able to see shades of grey, as you aren't threatened by the possibility of the two concepts- they aren't mutually exclusive. Someone mentioned in another post that it's easier to take the bible literally, because then it's not left to you to try to interpret it. It's almost like intellectual laziness on their parts. And then if they can have someone "smart-sounding" like Hovind, it saves them from having to do any thinking on their own.
On Preview, what Lisa S said, too.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:13 PM on December 7, 2004


I a) realize this isn't science class and b) realize this is slightly off-topic, but can anyone explain the whole carbon dating argument in creation science? Do the creation science crowd have a solid point in saying that carbon dating is unreliable in calculating millions of years? If this is true, are there alternatives to carbon dating that circumvent this argument? If this isn't true, where does their reasoning become flawed (aside from the assumptions about the flood and other such biblically based assumptions)?

I only ask because I have a couple of family members who harp on this constantly during these sorts of discussions and it would be fun to bust out an unexpected yet coherent "GOTCHA!" during one of these discussions. And I do realize that I am petty.
posted by aburd at 7:14 PM on December 7, 2004


He he he... Well, Lisa S, without even trying to be pedantic you've shown exhaustively that I'm an idiot. But I hope you have enough patience to explain something to me. That Kent Hovind guy wants to give a fairly substantial sum of money for a proof of evolution. Now then, a "poof" is a pretty scientific thing, religious people tend to operate more on faith, not poof (again, being an idiot, I might be wrong). But faith is more of a substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, or however it goes in Hebrews 11. So if one has faith, why would he pay so much for a proof?

PS. Not to be pedantic, but google gives a very different definition of "ontology"...:-)
posted by c13 at 7:17 PM on December 7, 2004


In science as a field of knowledge and a method of learning, yes, you're correct, but science the community, no. There are basic concepts you're required to accept as true and inviolate, just as within, say, the Christian community you're required to believe in God.

I don't see how this is true at all. Science doesn't require you to believe things, but it requires you to support what you believe. So no, it doesn't say you *must* believe in the theory of evolution, but it says if you reject it you must have a theory which you can demonstrate as being more scientifically sound.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:19 PM on December 7, 2004


Who gives a fuck about all this creationist/evolution bullshit? In a few million years, after we've bombed/polluted ourselves out of existence, insect (I figure reptiles had a shot at running the world, then mammals, so insects should have a turn) scientists will pour over what little remains of our bones in the fossil record, and wonder why we died off in such large numbers in a short amount of time.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:21 PM on December 7, 2004


aburd: carbon dating is limited in its use, but there are other types of radiometric dating that are as good or better, electron-spin resonance dating, potassium-argon, and a bunch of others, depending on what you are trying to date. wiki here

the argument against dating techniques is poor, and playing on ignorance.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:25 PM on December 7, 2004


Fuck the Creationists!

-MC Hawking
posted by loquacious at 7:30 PM on December 7, 2004


To extend ludwig_van's point, not only must you have a more scientifically sound claim ("hypothesis", not a "theory"), but you also have to back up that claim with experiments, and, what's more, with experiments that other people can replicate in their own settings and get the same results. Just as with atoms, we don't know what they are. We just don't. But it does not prevent us from using Schrodinger equation or Born-Oppenheimer approximation or a whole bunch of other approximations when making predictions or designing equipment or conducting experiments. These things (approximations) are not perfect, but they are good enough that no one has so far been able to come up with better ones. Not that people have not been trying, it's just that its a lot harder than might appear at first. So when some shithead comes up and "debunks" theories from a wide range of fields in one statement, people get annoyed.
posted by c13 at 7:33 PM on December 7, 2004


What I have a hard time getting my mind around is why, in the minds of these fundie-creationists, evolution and the existence of God are incompatible?

This has always troubled me as well. I have also wondered why it is that Western Desert Religions insist that everything must, in fact, begin. We've hardly moved past the unmoving mover argument, really.
posted by undule at 7:36 PM on December 7, 2004


c13: So when some shithead comes up and "debunks" theories from a wide range of fields in one statement, people get annoyed.

Heh, well, not to snark or anything, but when Darwin came along and tried to "debunk" the creation story in the Bible (which had been around for a couple thousand years at that point) in one theory, people got annoyed. The science folks don't get to play first dibs on annoyance. Turnabout's fair play, after all. ;)

A little bit of "understand the other guy" with a dash of "we're all just trying to figure out this whole wild wiggly world around us" could be used here by both sides, I think.
posted by Fontbone at 7:42 PM on December 7, 2004


Fontbone, dude, don't pick on Darwin. Get on PubMed, pick just about any human gene and BLAST (compare) it to genes in other organisms. See how much difference there is. Darwing came up with his idea after many years of studying and thinking about it, which is a lot more than can be said about most of the religious crowd. And now we can see just how wrong or right he was. You are talking about understanding the other guy? I believe it was the Church that was very against the whole heliocentric model a while ago. Should have we taken their views into account during the Apollo missions? Should the guys who design Boeing 747 take the bible or koran into account? So why are biologists required to?
posted by c13 at 8:00 PM on December 7, 2004


Thought for the day: Knowledge is limited. Ignorance knows no bounds.

There are days I figure there's no hope of success. Stupid religious fundies are going to be the doom of us all.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:09 PM on December 7, 2004


Aburd - In addition to exlotuseater's good response, I'll suggest that the stakes are much higher when we try to date and measure the size of the universe. Most of this page gives a pretty good explanation on why one should believe astronomers when they tell you things about objects far far away and long long ago.
posted by fatllama at 9:13 PM on December 7, 2004


Evolution is as fake as the dinosaurs.
posted by orange clock at 9:13 PM on December 7, 2004


Oh, why did I have to go and RTFA? Well, a link titled Battle Plan was too much to resist.

True, evolution has been mixed with science for the last thirty years, but that does not mean that it is the same as science. Beer is often advertised during sporting events but the two subjects have no logical connection, and evolution has no more to do with science than beer has to do with sports.

Hee hee hee! What a dumbass!
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:48 PM on December 7, 2004


So here's what creationism is all about. You start with the answer: "A supernatural being, henceforth known as 'GOD' created everything, roughly as it is today, and no natural process of biology or chemistry played a significant role in how the world got to be the way it is today." Then, when you find evidence that does not fit into this world view, i.e., fossils and the fossil record, you discredit this evidence by positing yet another supernatural being or force, such as "Satan" to place this evidence that is prejudged to be false on the Earth.

This is not science. Science did not start with saying, 'Evolution happened. Now let's prove it.' It started with the question, how did life get here, and how did it develop? Anything that posits a series of supernatural explanations not supported by the evidence is not and cannot be science. It is religious propaganda, pure and simple.

I have held the fossils in my hands. Specifically, skulls of archaic homo sapiens, and other hominids. There is a clear continuity if you actually examine the evidence without prejudging the evidence.

The evidence for evolution is overwhelming and massive. If you actually look at the fossil record as a whole, it is quite clear that life has changed over billions of years.

To try to pretend that religious propaganda is science is not only stupid, but it is dangerous. There is a reason that religion is separate from the state in America. Otherwise, you can end up with a state like Iran, where if you do not believe the proper things, there can be dire consequences for yourself and your family.
posted by geekhorde at 10:03 PM on December 7, 2004


My father was an Episcopal priest. My stepmother was raised in a rather backward and ignorant branch of the Baptist church.

One day, when I was around 10 years old, she caught me reading one of those old Time-Life books on Evolution.

She took me and the book to my dad and said "Are you going to let him read this?"

And, one of the few times I ever heard him bother to backtalk her or contradict her, he said, "Woman, that science text is not the Bible. And the Bible is not a science text. Let him read the book."

And so I did.
posted by geekhorde at 10:08 PM on December 7, 2004


The interesting thing about this whole debate is the reliance on empiricism. The creationists have already lost. They are trying to argue their point, an essentially faith based concept of the past, using the language and tools of science. They lost. They have already agreed that logic and falsifiability are the central means of determining truth.

It is interesting to remember that at the time Darwin was writing The Origin of Species, very few people were biblical literalists. There weren't alot of people who thought that Genesis was a complete, factual, scientific description of the origins of the universe. The literalism of fundamentalist chrisitians is really the result of the overwhelming victory of the scientific method in providing truthful information about the world around us.


They lost. This is the death rattle of an old idea. The older the idea, the harder it is to convince people that it is wrong. Change takes a long time. But they really haven't produced a better system. The religious faith based system was responsible for untold amounts of suffering and death. Frankly take a look at abortion rates, literacy rates, infant mortality rates, teen pregnancy, gross value added per capita, Quality of Life etc among states. The "Blue" states are waaaay out ahead in almost every single comparison. Some people wonder why. It's not like they get more federal funding, or have higher taxes. In fact, they have lower state taxes, and get back less than they give in federal taxes and federal spending.

What is the single most important factor in political affiliation? You guessed it, Religious affiliation. The more you go to church, the more likely you are going to be a Republican.

Reason works. Religion doesn't. Simple as that.
posted by Freen at 10:10 PM on December 7, 2004


It never ceases to amaze me how people constantly try to prop up their chosen view by bashing another which they see, in their black and white version of reality, as the opposite and utterly invalid view.
Being stuck in a dualistic frame of mind must be a real bitch.
posted by nightchrome at 10:35 PM on December 7, 2004




The reason this whole creationism vs science thing is gaining mindshare is because the some folks with an agenda have learned that people need to be part of a team. Once you've construed an intellectual debate into a conflict between teams, it doesn't matter at all what the arguments are -- the participants just want their side to win. It's the same thing as the red state/blue state false dichotomy.

Those Christian students who started praying loudly in climalene's comment weren't thinking that their din would make creationism more 'right'. They just wanted to win the shouting match.
posted by breath at 12:57 AM on December 8, 2004


That's the point a lot of Creationists make, juv3nal. That ultimately, science is the same as religion because there are some base "facts" that can't be proven and are accepted on "faith".
What you call base facts are generally inferred in science by measuring their effects: gravity, mass, evolution throughout time etc. No-one has been able to measure the effects of the existence of a god yet.
posted by fshgrl at 1:40 AM on December 8, 2004


To continue playing devil's advocate for a sec, I think his point is that the scientific community at large is under a mass delusion and that if they brought to bear the same kind of scientific rigor they applied to other areas of scientific inquiry to the subject of evolution, they'd conclude that evolution isn't science either.

.........................

Well, I can't agree with that. For one thing, evolution is under constant scrutiny -- though perhaps a point could be made that the scrutiny is not nearly vigorous enough.


There seem to be a lot of confusion on this thread about what science is and what evolution is. Science is a shorthand for a discipline based on experimentation and group consensus, with it's own methods and it's own standards for general acceptance. It's not a religion. To say something is not "science" is misleading so if everyone would replace that with saying things are not "scientific" or does not "follow the scientific method" we'd be ahead of the game.

Evolutionary Biology is a discipline that looks at the diversity of life and the fossil record and goes hmmmm...... It does not attempt to explain the origins of the universe or deny the existence of a deity, it's a lot more practical than that: it looks at different species and from of life and tries to relate them to each other. Evolution is shorthand for a branch of scientific investigation, the word itself only means change. The stuff this guy wants someone to prove for the 250K is well beyond the scope of any one scientist. anyway I would argue that you can "prove" evolution by enumerating the extinction that have happened in our lifetimes. Change is change, folks. Climate change is going to pretty much conclusively show that evolution happens and that it's not a one way street

As far as evolution not being "science" I assume the OP was implying that it has not been investigated correctly or that it does not fit neatly into the prove/disprove framework that so many people seem to think is the be all and end all of the scientific method The first is not true and the second is because "evolution" is an overall theory, an umbrella explanation covering numerous hypothesis all of which need to be proved or disproven to improve the theory. Change over time is a fact, natural selection is a hypothesis to explain change and evolutionary theory encompasses the whole of the investigation.
posted by fshgrl at 2:02 AM on December 8, 2004


It's funny how well the Creationist's arguments have evolved over time to support their beliefs. Shouldn't they be protecting themselves against the Evolution of Ideas?
posted by Dantien at 5:38 AM on December 8, 2004


fshgrl: you expect the fundies to pay enough attention to science to know the difference between a fact (evolution) and a theory (natural selection)? riiiight. don't hold your breath.

evolution is in fact a fact. readily observable. whether it's via natural selection... well, we haven't proved that it isn't, but science can only prove things wrong, not right.

(that's why math isn't a science, incidentally; you can prove something right with math.)

and for the record the hovind prize? yeah. winners judged by a panel of hovind's like minded peers, names not to be released. so sure, this is fair.

i think we need a buttload of cash on the line for anyone proving creationism. that would be fun to see... highly publicized, of course.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:03 AM on December 8, 2004


All this talk of tolerance and not seeing things in black and white sickens me, it really does.

Tolerance is for people's preferences, like homos and people who like chocolate ice cream and weirdos who go to hockey games.

Tolerance is not for liars, people who delude themselves into fanatical superstitions, and organized religious groups that seek to overthrow the US by breaking down the boundaries between church and state.

The world is a black and white place. We may not always understand it, but either you got up this morning or you didn't, you have metafilter account or you don't, you are a U.S. citizen or you're not.

So, let's not cut people any more slack then they actually have coming to them.
posted by ewkpates at 6:07 AM on December 8, 2004


I wonder if this is how the dark ages began? A slow backwards descent into idiocy. Kind of like backing your vehicle off a cliff. Lately I feel like we in the US have one wheel hanging over and a drunk at the wheel.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 6:24 AM on December 8, 2004


undule: For one thing, evolution is under constant scrutiny -- though perhaps a point could be made that the scrutiny is not nearly vigorous enough.

Actually, if you look at the evidence for evolution, it is one of the more strongly supported theories in science contrasted with other theories. For example, we are in the process of dropping a scientific probe into the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. How do we know Titan exist? We have basically one line of the evidence: we have seen Titan through a variety of different telescopes located at different points in the solar system.

In contrast, evolution is supported by at least half a dozen different lines of evidence that converge on to a single conclusion. There is the evidence from molecular biology. There is the evidence from the fossil record. There is the evidence from cladistics built from studies of existing species and fossil species. There is observation of genetic change over generations among bacterial and viral species. There is the evidence from vestigial anatomy of existing species.

The question becomes, why do we single out evolution as a theory worthy of skepticism when it is better supported than most of the knowledge that we teach as "facts" about our own solar system? I would go even a step further and argue that evolution is to biology, what gravity is to astronomy. Just as not very much makes sense in astronomy without the idea that stars, solar systems, galaxies, and clusters are held together through gravity; not very much makes sense in biology as a scientific discipline without evolution. Remove gravity, and you are left with just teaching that Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun. Remove evolution, and you are left with just teaching that dogs are different from cats. Theories in science are what allow people to explain more than just the obvious facts.

Fontbone: Heh, well, not to snark or anything, but when Darwin came along and tried to "debunk" the creation story in the Bible (which had been around for a couple thousand years at that point) in one theory, people got annoyed. The science folks don't get to play first dibs on annoyance. Turnabout's fair play, after all. ;)

As someone else pointed out, Darwin did not try to "debunk" the creation story in the Bible. Pretty much scientific and religious consensus had already been abandoned the idea of the seven-day literal creation before he came along.

Re: radiodating.

Generally, criticisms of radiodating takes a few forms:

1) "The flood made everything different." Not much one can argue with that except that the flood never happened.

2) "Samples from recently extruded lava produced..." If you read the fine print, the range of results from young samples are frequently well within the technical error range of the dating method.

3) "Well in this study they revised the dates..." Science is not built on one study.

4) "Why do they ask for an expected date range...?" Because the methods used for processing the sample might change. Also, figures radically off the expected range might indicate sample contamination.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:36 AM on December 8, 2004


That $250k prize reminds me of the cash prize for disproving Time Cube.

Its a pyramid scheme. This fundynut somehow solved that problem, so he's got money to burn.

I'll happily take money from Christian loonies.

Just specify a non-faith-based standard of proof and put the money in escrow.
posted by AlexReynolds at 6:54 AM on December 8, 2004


Umm, this is the same "Dr" Kent Hovind who is being investigated by the IRS for tax evasion. According to the investigators, Hovind has recorded more than $1 milliion dollars of bank deposits, yet has not paid any taxes on this money.

Hovind is also a proponent of the theory that the US Constitution does not allow for the federal government to levy taxes on income. He says that because of his belief in god all of his money belongs to god, and therefore he owes no taxes.

Is it too difficult for anyone who might try to defend this goofus to do a little Google on his background, and consider it when evaluating the legitimacy of his claims? Is it?

Couple all of this with his anti-semitism and "Protocols of Zion" shit (mentioned above), and it becomes pretty clear that this loon is on the same level as our friend Tim McVeigh, and the Idaho and Michigan Posse Comitatus groups, or those good people down in Waco.

Come on, people. These folks are the right wing version of the Taliban. Nothing more or less. The creationist schtick is part and parcel of a larger agenda that involves white power, racial domination, and various other Confederate notions. It is all of a piece.
posted by mooncrow at 7:04 AM on December 8, 2004


educated cubeless stupid!
posted by exlotuseater at 7:05 AM on December 8, 2004


the only way to get this to stop is to find a passage in the bible that says, "evolution is true, y'all." it's a big book so it may be in there. but in the meantime, creationists will build more and more momentum for their agenda, largely unopposed, at the local level until we get to the point where homeschooling is no longer the domain of crazy people that don't want their kids to hear cuss words.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:25 AM on December 8, 2004


Reason works. Religion doesn't. Simple as that.

My hero.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:56 AM on December 8, 2004


Heh. I wonder if one can find "evolution is true" using Bible Code techniques. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:12 AM on December 8, 2004


The Creationists will usually concede that "microevolution" exists, but that evolution cannot cross the boundary of a "Kind". But when pressed it turns out that no Creationist can actually define what they mean by "Kind".

I'd imagine they're thinking of ancient theory of kinds, which was divided according to reproductive capacity. Kinds are those animals which can mate with each other to produce fertile offspring. Breeding has always been possible and visible to the naked eye, and could be considered "microevolution". But although the notion of evolution has been around forever, a theory of evolution required explaining how the process would work, and showing evidence that would point to its having happened. Fossils are absolutely central to this, and gaining an understanding of just how much time is involved explained why we don't directly witness speciesization.

The main problem with these arguments to me seems to be the difficulty of accepting that we don't know lots of things for sure. No one could win the prize money on offer because the criteria are impossible to match - it isn't to give evidence or theories for how this would work, but to incontrovertibly prove the absolute truth. That's not what science does. To take on these challenges is largely to allow science to be bended toward fundamentalism. A scientist acknowledges that we don't have 'final answers.' Religion seeks final answers, and that's its fatal flaw. Science seeks to make as much sense as possible of the available information, through occam's razor and continual revision.

Evolution is the best theory we've got to make sense of natural differentiation. However, we still don't know how it got started to begin with (the age old philosophical problem of the 'first cause') - and this is true both of the 'big bang' and 'abiogenesis'. Positing a god doesn't help matters, of course, since it only leaves us with, well, how did the god get there, then? We either have to accept a 'brute fact' of the universe existing, or somehow show that it was necessary that it came into being, and thousands of years of philosophy have not really gotten us closer to an answer there...
posted by mdn at 10:31 AM on December 8, 2004


Do the creation science crowd have a solid point in saying that carbon dating is unreliable in calculating millions of years?

talkorigins is your friend
posted by delmoi at 10:44 AM on December 8, 2004


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