The Five Best? Really?
September 10, 2009 7:44 AM   Subscribe

PZ Myers takes on the Five Best arguments for creationism. PZ Myers (previously linked) is an apologist and vocal advocate of evolution. Because of his regular discussions about the distortions made by Creationists, he earned his place as one of the 'Top 5 media leftists who distort Americans' views on the Bush and Obama presidencies.' His reaction to joining such top Distortionists as Paul Krugman, Jon Meacham, Ezra Klein and more is pretty entertaining. And if you're interested in learning about the scientific answer to the multitude of creationist arguments, check this out.
posted by glaucon (98 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
....I wouldn't say that he "takes on" those arguments so much as "mocks" them.

Mind you, I'm not saying those arguments are indeed somewhat foolish (okay, they're really foolish). But I have the feeling that part of the reason why creationists are so dug into their positions is that all too often, the people saying they're going to refute them end up mocking them instead -- and what do you do when someone mocks an idea you believe in? You get defensive and shut them out.

If you're going to "take on" the Creationists, it just strikes me that dropping the "LOLCHRISTIANS" attitude might just actually get you heard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on September 10, 2009 [18 favorites]


Arguing with true believers about evolution etc is like arguing with right wing conservatives about health care reform, sex education, gay marriage etc...you never convince and you never succeed.
Why bother? To use their favorite slogan: just say NO.
posted by Postroad at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Apologist?" He seems entirely unapologetic.
posted by Iridic at 8:02 AM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, c'mon, I like Meyers, but in order to refute something, there has to be a fute there, y'know? What he means is that he repudiates Creationism, but really, you know, so does pretty much everybody with any sort of brain in their head.

(I do have a buddy whose dad was a professor for years teaching microbiology who was also a Young Earth creationist. He was spectacularly able to compartmentalize his beliefs.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 AM on September 10, 2009


The Telegraph piece is completely weird. The five arguments it gives for evolution are also feeble or nonsensical. I mean...

Space
Objects in space, which are more than 8,000 light years away, can be seen from earth.


... but your point, alas cannot.

Either it's deep satire of a kind I don't understand, or the journalist had a long lunch that day.
posted by Phanx at 8:08 AM on September 10, 2009


The original article in the Telegraph is poor. It seems cobbled-together partly to generate comments. Even the headline is so over the top. I'm surprised that it was worth blogging to be honest.
posted by Sova at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2009


I hope this isn't too much of a derail, but can I ask why Janeane Garofalo shows up as a top 5 media leftist? It's been about three years since she had her liberal radio show and sure she shows up on Olberman every once in a while, but do folks on the right really think she's somehow influential? I am honestly confused about this because I had conservatives drop her name as an equivalent left-wing media personality when the whole 'Glenn Beck thinks the President is a racist' started up.

Is it because she was on 24? Are they upset about a dirty hippie intruding on their torture porn?
posted by Jugwine at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Krugman and Myers are scientists. Is it good news that the bar to leftism is so low that merely reporting reality qualifies? Or is it bad news that even indisputable (to scientists) facts are politicized?
posted by DU at 8:11 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Meyers, but in order to refute something, there has to be a fute there...

Good advice. When he claims to be refuting, I'm sure he'll keep that in mind. Meanwhile, the actual post you are reply to says he "takes on" and at the end gives a separate link for "scientific answer[s]".
posted by DU at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2009


I am sure that many people have already expressed this sentiment much better than I can or will, but I have to say that I am always surprised that people feel a need to be creationists. I don't mean to belittle the faith of others but I feel like the POINT of faith is that it does NOT need to be proved; in any miracle, I always feel like the REAL miracle is the fact that people believe. I am a Christian and I do believe in evolution, and I think it's super neat that the God in whom I believe has created a world in which evolution can occur; how miraculous that there could be a God who is willing to let everything work properly and be explicable even to people who don't believe! I kind of feel like it's an insult to God in some ways to insist that we not question the infinite beauty of creation and try to figure it out -- how much more beautiful is it that there are natural laws and patterns we can discover than the blandness of God just being like "okay guys, here it is, I made everything perfectly and now there's nothing else for you to do"? I feel like you can be a Christian and that those beliefs can help convince you to explore the infinite wonders that exist, or that you can have that same curiosity and not believe in God. Your choice! Awesome!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:17 AM on September 10, 2009 [20 favorites]


All round lame. I read PJ pretty regularly, but he doesn't really present much of an argument against creationism at all in the indicated column.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2009


"Apologist?" He seems entirely unapologetic.

I meant that PZ Myers offers a defense of evolution against creationists, not apologies for what it means. I don't really think these are the five absolute best arguments (if there is such a thing). I think the arguments do seem to be intentionally weak.
posted by glaucon at 8:21 AM on September 10, 2009


I am still waiting for anyone to offer any proof that God exists. All the religions of the world are just mythologies that made it in to modern times. Much of these mythologies are entirely untrue. I would guess less than a third if the Bible is historically accurate. And the new testament is almost entirely fabricated. Jesus is just a reinvention of a popular ancient sun god and borrows heavily from Apollo, Imhotep, and a host of other sun gods that "existed" between 3000 BC and 100 AD. The fact that people read this book and think it is an accurate depiction of reality just shows how warped humans really are. I mean people don't believe in Sea Dragons, the Earth being flat, or many other superstitions and misguided notions of our past, why do they believe in books written in the same era as these beliefs? I guess the answer is: people need to believe to feel safe. It's a big scary world and it is nice to think there is someone in the sky protecting you. But someday I hope we can all grow up and stop believing in make-believe.
posted by evanlr39 at 8:22 AM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I hope this isn't too much of a derail, but can I ask why Janeane Garofalo shows up as a top 5 media leftist?

I don't know, but her HBO special is a perfect time capsule of 1995.

(As long as we're derailing...)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:22 AM on September 10, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: I don't know. Taking batshit crazy, fraudulent, and largely incoherent apologetics seriously probably doesn't do much good either. Sometimes, it's quite reasonable to respond with something like, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"

Because advocates for evolution do spend a heck of a lot of time outlining the evidence and limitations of the theory for anyone who will listen. I don't feel that P. Z. Meyers is obligated to offer a saintly response to a puff piece that was delivered in profoundly bad faith.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:23 AM on September 10, 2009


The five arguments it gives for evolution are also feeble or nonsensical. I mean...

Space
Objects in space, which are more than 8,000 light years away, can be seen from earth.

... but your point, alas cannot.


I think that's supposed to refute the young earth creationist idea that the Universe/Earth/Humans have only been around for a few thousand years. If you accept that objects are more than 10,000 light years away, and that light travels at the scientifically accepted constant rate, and those objects are visible to us, then that means that those objects are older when the Earth and "Heavens" were created. Of course a young earth creationist would just claim that those calculations are wrong like they do with any other scientifically determined date before the time they think everything was created.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:24 AM on September 10, 2009


...I have to say that I am always surprised that people feel a need to be creationists. I don't mean to belittle the faith of others but I feel like the POINT of faith is that it does NOT need to be proved...

You may want to read Rocks of Ages by Stephen Jay Gould. It's his take on the whole Creation-vs.-Evolution controversy from a scientist's perspective -- and is comparatively sensitively handled, I thought. He examines the exact question you ask -- why is it that people are so passionately devoted to Creationism, and how did that develop -- and proposes an ideal balance between science and religion (to wit: they're two completely separate, though equally important, influences on some people's lives, and things only go wrong if one tries to do the job of the other).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apologist in the sense of apologetics, a systematic and rigorous defense of an ideal or doctrine. Not apologist as in an admission of moral or ethical wrongdoing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Stephen Jay Gould is the guy on the Simpsons who didn't test the angel skeleton.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on, Non-Overlapping Magisteria is patent nonsense.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2009


Why bother? The whole notion of "logical argument" from creationists is absurd from the get-go, because the moment they think they have refuted a scientific concept, all "logic" stops, and they go into "Bearded Old Man in the Sky" mode. Logic is for the long term. Go ahead and believe, but if you choose to get on the train of logic you look a bit stupid hopping off at the Batshitinsane station.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The argument that the eye is to complex to have evolved and must have been the product of a creator seems to ignore that this implies the designer would be more complex still, that would seem to be a good place to start any science based refutation. But I suppose that misses the point.
posted by biffa at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The best argument for creationism is this. If you happened upon a book in the desert, you would assume an intelligent being had constructed that book. The binding, the uniformity of the pages, the ink forming letters, the letters forming words, the words making sense. Life, particularly human life, is more complex than that book.

The creationist would argue that randomness would never allow that book to appear. And that's true. Of course, evolution is not randomness but rules that describe how things can change into complexity through selection. (In the case of the book, evolution without intelligent intervention would not allow it appear either, because the text of nature is chemical not linguistic.)

Our minds did not evolve to imagine what it means to have a book self-assemble according to principles of trial and selection. Our minds did not evolve to imagine processes that take millions of years. Therefore, the science of evolution requires a leap of faith: to imagine what we cannot imagine.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2009


I'm still trying to figure out what this post is about. Is it about scientific refutation of creationism? Is it about Focus On The Family spewing their bile? Is it a profile of this one scientist?

Mostly I find myself unsurprised and uncaring. Scientists have views that contradict religious faith! FOTF doesn't like people who speak out and contradict religious faith! The scientist in question barely cares about FOTF! I'm shocked SHOCKED!

Still it was nice to see how big a pain in the ass the online reader for "Citizen" magazine is.
posted by hippybear at 8:33 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Evidence of engineering solutions in biological forms like the 'irreducibly complex' eye always suggests Evolution to me, not God.

God is all powerful and unconstrained, so if created by God, Man would function packed solid with nothing but peanut butter.

God would touch Man's organless body and say, "Live."

God would touch Man's eyeless peanut butter head and say, 'See.'

None of this eye lenses and veins and neurons and cellular machinery stuff. That's for Evolution.

For God, just peanut butter and magic would do just fine.
posted by jfrancis at 8:33 AM on September 10, 2009 [20 favorites]


I find that a chat about forelimb morphology usually shuts 'em up. I have yet to hear a creationist offer an explanation of why sea lions have finger bones.
posted by Scoo at 8:34 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


God would touch Man's eyeless peanut butter head and say, 'See.'

You got your divine spark in my peanut butter!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am still waiting for anyone to offer any proof that God exists.

Okay, this is easy. Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister exists. Lemmy is God. Therefore, God exists.

Who needs ontological arguments when you have the Ace of Spades?
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 8:40 AM on September 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


>I am still waiting for anyone to offer any proof that God exists.

Okay, this is easy. Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister exists. Lemmy is God. Therefore, God exists.


I thought Clapton was God.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2009


I kind of feel like it's an insult to God in some ways to insist that we not question the infinite beauty of creation and try to figure it out -- how much more beautiful is it that there are natural laws and patterns we can discover than the blandness of God just being like "okay guys, here it is, I made everything perfectly and now there's nothing else for you to do"?

I can't find an original link to this on the WashPost website, but I saved the text years ago. One of my favorite Gene Weingarten columns, ever:
And God Said, Let There Be Light in Kansas
Gene Weingarten. The Washington Post
(c) The Washington Post Company
Aug 14, 1999

Memo to: The members of the Kansas Board of Education
From: God
Re: Your decision to eliminate the teaching of evolution as science.

Thank you for your support. Much obliged.Now, go forth and multiply. Beget many children. And yea, your children shall beget children. And their children shall beget children, and their children's children after them.

And in time the genes that have made you such pinheads will be eliminated through natural selection. Because that is how it works.

Listen, I love all my creatures equally, and gave each his own special qualities to help him on Earth. The horse I gave great strength. The antelope I gave great grace and speed. The dung beetle I gave great stupidity, so he doesn't realize he is a dung beetle. Man I gave a brain.

Use it, okay?

I admit I am not perfect. I've made errors. (Armpit hair--what was I thinking?)

But do you Kansans seriously believe that I dropped half-a-billion-year-old trilobite skeletons all over my great green Earth by mistake? What, I had a few lying around from some previous creation in the Andromeda galaxy, and they fell through a hole in my pocket?

You were supposed to find them. And once you found them, you were supposed to draw the appropriate, intelligent conclusions. That's what I made you for. To think.

The folks who wrote the Bible were smart and good people. Mostly, they got it right. But there were glitches. Imprecisions. For one thing, they said that Adam and Eve begat Cain and Abel, and then Cain begat Enoch. How was that supposed to have happened? They left out Tiffany entirely!

Well, they also were a little off on certain elements of timing and sequence. So what? You guys were supposed to figure it all out for yourselves, anyway.

When you stumble over the truth, you are not supposed to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and proceed on as though nothing had happened.

If you find a dinosaur's toe, you're not supposed to look for reasons to call it a croissant. You're not big, drooling idiots. For that, I made dogs.

Why do you think there are no fossilized human toes dating from a hundred million years ago? Think about it.It's okay if you think. In fact, I prefer it. That's why I like Charlie Darwin. He was always a thinker. Still is. He and I chat frequently.

I know a lot of people figure that if man evolved from other organisms, it means I don't exist. I have to admit this is a reasonable assumption and a valid line of thought. I am in favor of thought. I encourage you to pursue this concept with an open mind, and see where it leads you.

That's all I have to say right now, except that I'm really cheesed off at laugh tracks on sitcoms, and the NRA, and people who make simple declarative sentences sound like questions?

Oh, wait. There's one more thing.

Did you read in the newspapers yesterday how scientists in Australia dug up some rocks and found fossilized remains of life dating back further than ever before? Primitive, multicelled animals on Earth nearly 3 billion years ago, when the planet was nothing but roiling muck and ice and fire.

And inside those cells was . . . DNA. Incredibly complex strands of chemicals, laced together in a scheme so sophisticated no one yet understands exactly how it works. I wonder who could have thought of something like that, back then.

Just something to gnaw on.
:)
posted by zarq at 8:42 AM on September 10, 2009 [19 favorites]


So let me pick some nits.

" For what purpose is all of this? Evolutionists have never offered a satisfactory explanation.

"Flip a coin. Can you come up with a 'satisfactory' explanation for why it comes up on whatever side it does?"

The question asks for the telos of the world. His response about the coin, does not suggest that he fully understands this sort of inquiry. Asking for a telos is asking for a kind of explanation, but what you are looking for is the purpose of an action or an item, one does not normally ask about the purpose of a result. For, example one might say that purpose of flipping a coin is to see whether it comes up heads or tails or perhaps the purpose is to help one make a decision. One could also ask about the purpose of a coin, but one wouldn't ask about the purpose of the actual random result. Of course, which purpose applies depends on the context. In other words there is a perfectly understandable purpose to why the coin is flipped. To illustrate, one wouldn't ask about the purpose of lava flying through the air, although one could ask about the reason for creating lava or the reason for having a mountain explode. (It should go without saying that you can ask the question, even if you think the natural world has no telos.)


This is a non-argument.

Well, sure, as you address it, it's just a pair of questions. There's not much argument there. You could actually try to find an argument for teleological causation (Aristotle and Aquinas both had them, for example.) In any case, dismissing a question as a non-argument is about as effective as dismissing a car as a non-elephant.


There is no purpose. It's that simple. He's assuming his premise, that any explanation must disclose some cosmic intent, and rejecting evolution because it says there isn't one.


There are two candidates for fallacious reasoning here. First of all (if we accept the conceit that there is a pro-teleological argument in the questions), merely denying the consequent is not enough to refute an argument. Second, he is himself guilty of question begging. He just asserts, without support or argument, that there is no purpose to the world. He simply assumes that there is no explanation that could involve intent.
posted by oddman at 8:42 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


burnmp3s: I think that's supposed to refute the young earth creationist idea that the Universe/Earth/Humans have only been around for a few thousand years.

Young earth vs. old earth has very little to do with the theory of evolution. Microbiologists and molecular biologists can talk about the theory of evolution without needing a single specimen older than last week. Zoologists and botanists have tons of evidence for evolution just by looking at living species.

The theory is not a storybook. It's not a "just so story" or narrative history, and thinking about evolution as natural history is misleading because population genetics just doesn't work that way. Neither does the fossil evidence. Now granted, applying the theory of evolution to a family of organisms like reptiles will lead to the conclusion that millions of generations are involved. But the best evidence for an old universe comes from astronomy, geology, chemistry, and physics.

dances_with_sneeches: Our minds did not evolve to imagine what it means to have a book self-assemble according to principles of trial and selection. Our minds did not evolve to imagine processes that take millions of years. Therefore, the science of evolution requires a leap of faith: to imagine what we cannot imagine.

Oh please. We can juggle mathematical infinities. Evolutionary theory is just statistical analysis.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:50 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The creationist would argue that randomness would never allow that book to appear. And that's true.

If it is true randomness, how can it forbid the book to appear?
posted by asusu at 8:51 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


oddman: The question asks for the telos of the world.

Which has not a fucking thing to do with evolution. Evolutionary biologists have never satisfactory addressed issues of telos, because it's like using the theory of General Relativity to make decisions about how you want your eggs this morning.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


...it's like using the theory of General Relativity to make decisions about how you want your eggs...

And with one little comment, I finally start to make some sense of the Worst Morning Ever.
posted by nanojath at 8:56 AM on September 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Screw MetaFilter.

Me: peanut butter and magic would do just fine.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:58 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I am still waiting for anyone to offer any proof that God exists."

And the people you're waiting on are waiting for you to look up the words faith and religion in the dictionary.

As an atheist I am continually depressed over the number of idiots claiming to be on my team.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:59 AM on September 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


Our minds did not evolve to imagine what it means to have a book self-assemble according to principles of trial and selection. Our minds did not evolve to imagine processes that take millions of years. Therefore, the science of evolution requires a leap of faith: to imagine what we cannot imagine

No, it doesn't take faith. Not at all. It takes examination of the evidence, and careful, measured conclusions from that evidence.

How do you know that you're your parents' child? You can take it on faith, if you wish, or you can prove it, with genetic evidence.

How do you know that someone committed a crime? You can accept their protestations of innocence on faith, or you can examine the evidence, and make a decision.

How do you know what happened a thousand years ago, or ten thousand, or a million? You can take it on faith, or you can carefully examine the evidence, over a period of centuries, and gradually piece it together into a coherent picture.

Faith is not required. All the evidence for evolution is available for you to examine personally, if you choose to take the time. You CAN take people's word for it, but you don't have to, which is entirely unlike religion or creationism.

Hearsay evidence generally isn't admissible in court for a reason, you know.
posted by Malor at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apologist in the sense of apologetics, a systematic and rigorous defense of an ideal or doctrine. Not apologist as in an admission of moral or ethical wrongdoing.

Oh, I realized. My (merely semantic) point was that there isn't much in the way of systematic defense in this article. Myers pursues a very casual offensive line here.

Within the larger debate, I'm inclined to think that it's actually the I.D. partisans who are the apologists, as their arguments are all defensive - meaningless without the "threat" of evolution to give them context - and make attempts at system and rigor. Not, of course, that they're very good attempts; and Intelligent Design is a poor apology.
posted by Iridic at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2009


Oh, and this article is terrible. Myers don't "take on" these arguments, he just basically spends about one paragraph on each one mocking the claim and calling the writer a big poopyhead.

It really doesn't rate a FPP.
posted by Malor at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2009


zarq, that is super awesome, I really like that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2009


Argh. s/Myers don't/Myers doesn't/.

Wow, that's a bad one. *cringe*
posted by Malor at 9:09 AM on September 10, 2009


But I have the feeling that part of the reason why creationists are so dug into their positions is that all too often, the people saying they're going to refute them end up mocking them instead

I honestly think that as a measure of central tendency, you have the causality there completely backwards.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:12 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have yet to hear a creationist offer an explanation of why sea lions have finger bones.

I think the explanation would be, "because God made them that way," no?
posted by chococat at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2009


All round lame.

REAL lame --

"Flip a coin. Can you come up with a 'satisfactory' explanation for why it comes up on whatever side it does?"

it's because you flipped it, mr creator of the state of the flipped coin

not a good argument against creationism at all

the proper answer to "what purpose is all this?" is that it's not a scientist's job to determine that, but to describe what happens - and evolution is a description of what happens based on the facts as we know them
posted by pyramid termite at 9:18 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Panspermia anyone?
posted by evanlr39 at 9:22 AM on September 10, 2009


Jesus is just a reinvention of a popular ancient sun god and borrows heavily from Apollo, Imhotep, and a host of other sun gods that "existed" between 3000 BC and 100 AD.

Jesus was a real person, but his name was Yeshua and he wasn't much like the family-friendly Jesus we know of today. From what scholars can tell, he drank with sinners (he didn't just spend time with them to save them), had a penchant for catchy aphorisms about the rule of the Roman Empire and was a real worry to the Romans. He was put to death, but not by the Jewish leaders at the time.

The commonly (in most religious communities) accepted 'Jesus' is a reinvention of many ideas, including Greco-Roman gods and personalities (Socrates, Dionysus and a few others), Jewish myths about prophet resurrection (see: Maccabees and Daniel resurrection myths) and the Jewish and early-Christian communities that were trying to make sense of their place in the Roman Empire after Yeshua's death.

Check out Thomas Sheehans The Jesus Seminar class on iTunesU. It's pretty amazing.

I only make a point to refute the assumption that Yeshua (Jesus) didn't exist because it is important to know who he was and why he impacted the early communities that followed him. Also important is what message the different early communities were trying to project onto Yeshua at the time.
posted by glaucon at 9:23 AM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe, you'll note I said that it's part of the reason why they're so dug in.

At the very least, I'd argue that the mockery is part of the reason why Creationists may continue to hang onto their claims rather than deigning to look at one of the well-reasoned arguments that KirkjobSluder says actually are out there:

...advocates for evolution do spend a heck of a lot of time outlining the evidence and limitations of the theory for anyone who will listen.

He's right, they do. But with the folks who fall all over themselves to go straight for the mocking, why are we surprised that more Creationists don't try to seek out those defenses? Why are we not surprised that they just shrug and think, "well, hell, if that's the way Evolutionists act, why would I want to intentionally subject myself to more of that? Even from someone who claims that they're well-written and even-handed -- how do I really know that?"

Yes, the ideas themselves are jabberwocky and easily refuted. But for someone who never has heard differently, they make perfect sense. And if you're going to teach someone a new concept, you don't start by laughing at whatever old concepts they may have had in their heads -- because then they stop listening.

Think about it. When you were in school, and your third grade teacher was about to start teaching you geography for the first time -- or even better, when you were in first grade, and your teacher was about to start teaching you "now, cows give milk, and that's where milk comes from" -- if any kid piped up and said, "nuh-uh, milk comes from the grocery store", your teacher didn't point and laugh at them, did they? No -- the teacher gently corrected that misconception. If you really want to teach, you don't start by making fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2009


jfrancis: "For God, just peanut butter and magic would do just fine."

Throw in some convenient cosmic fudge and you have a pretty good dessert, I'd say.
posted by idiopath at 9:28 AM on September 10, 2009


Hm.

I prefer Thunderf00t's Why do people laugh at creationists? series and Potholer54's debunking channel (all YouTube), which actually take specific Creationist arguments and debunk them both educationally and entertaining...ly.

I was sad to see how little substance the main link had, but I suppose when he's choosing to go after the broadest arguments the Creationists make, unless he plans on writing a book, there's no real way to cover anything substantial.

Thunderf00t and Potholer54 tend to go after very specific Creationist claims (as well as looking at the broader picture) which at least results in the ability to completely debunk the absolute trash they're saying. As others have mentioned, the main link was more mocking than anything else. Not that I can blame him.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:41 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


the proper answer to "what purpose is all this?" is that it's not a scientist's job to determine that, but to describe what happens - and evolution is a description of what happens based on the facts as we know them

Exactly. Whenever I hear/read that evolution (any scientific theory, really) suggests a Universe Without Purpose, I always cringe a little.

Purpose is purely a conceit of conscious minds trying to make sense of their place in the universe so that they may function within it. It is not some free-standing universal property that exists anywhere outside of those minds.

Not to say that "purpose" as an emergent property of consiousness (perhaps more fundamentally, information systems) is inherently unstudyable, it just doesn't belong in a Biology discussion.
posted by BoatMeme at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Young earth vs. old earth has very little to do with the theory of evolution. Microbiologists and molecular biologists can talk about the theory of evolution without needing a single specimen older than last week.

Yeah, I know. The heading "Arguments to support evolution" in that article would probably be better stated as "Arguments to refute (specific types of Christian) creationism." I was just trying to explain why the statement about visible objects 8,000 light years away would be more than a bizarre non sequitur in that context, because the author of that article didn't explain the relevance of that fact to the discussion at all.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Panspermia anyone?
posted by evanlr39 at 11:22 AM on September 10 [+] [!]


You gotta work on those pickup lines.
posted by nanojath at 9:46 AM on September 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why bother? The whole notion of "logical argument" from creationists is absurd from the get-go, because the moment they think they have refuted a scientific concept, all "logic" stops, and they go into "Bearded Old Man in the Sky" mode.

Some Creationists are passive Creationists. My dad used to be one of them. He's a good man but he follows what he hears in the church without much question, so all it takes is a little bit of patient discussion to set him straight on actual facts. And realizing that he's been misled in these instances (and no doubt in many others) has led him to be a little bit more critical of what he hears.

It was a great reward for me when he heard that the church was going to go protest the movie release of The Golden Compass and decided he would ask me what it was actually about before he decided if he wanted to go along.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:48 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jokes aside, I can't blame Myers for the thin article: I don't think he intended it as anything more than a throwaway blurb about what a bunch of weak nonsense is put forth by a significant media player as the "best arguments" Creationism has to offer. Kind of a thin post of basically unrelated items, though I find his being targeted as some sort of liberal public enemy by Focus on the Family reasonably interesting.

I wish I liked Myers better (as a University of MN Morris science grad he's sort of batting for the home team) but I kind of think he's overrated. He mainly just mocks and rants and he's not that great of a writer, particularly when he gets polemic (too much snark and froth). It seems like he used to talk about, you know, science more before he started getting this cult status as Richard Dawkins Jr.
posted by nanojath at 9:57 AM on September 10, 2009


My favourite proof of creationism was something going around the Internet last year about how the banana was the perfect fruit for human consumption. If I recall correctly, the reasons were:

1). Easily peelable
2). Shaped for easy insertion into the mouth
3). Colour coded - green means wait, yellow means eat, brown means toss it in the freezer and make banana bread
4). Seedless

Nevermind that these traits were bred by man, they are proof positive that God created all!
posted by yellowbinder at 10:02 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jesus was a real person, but his name was Yeshua and he wasn't much like the family-friendly Jesus we know of today. From what scholars can tell, he drank with sinners (he didn't just spend time with them to save them), had a penchant for catchy aphorisms about the rule of the Roman Empire and was a real worry to the Romans.

Or rather, from what some scholars suggest. The life and particularly the views of Yeshua are a matter of massive and continuing debate. I won't pretend that the appropriate Wikipedia article brings any clarity to the subject, but it does give a sense of the scale of the debate. One sentence stands out:

"In fact, one criticism of the quest for the Historical Jesus has been that each generation perceives Jesus according to the moral sentiments of its era."

Enter the snarky libertarian Christ.
posted by Iridic at 10:02 AM on September 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus was a real person

Evidence?
posted by klanawa at 10:07 AM on September 10, 2009


Jesus was a real person

Evidence?


Evidence of this will be forth coming, klanawa, as soon as you provide evidence that you are a real person.
posted by oddman at 10:14 AM on September 10, 2009


If you're going to "take on" the Creationists, it just strikes me that dropping the "LOLCHRISTIANS" attitude might just actually get you heard.

No, it won't.
posted by Legomancer at 10:15 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, dag. Forgot to include AndromedasWake, which is actually my new favorite Creationist Propaganda Debunk-tion channel. (Link takes you to first video)
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:19 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


>If you're going to "take on" the Creationists, it just strikes me that dropping the "LOLCHRISTIANS" attitude might just actually get you heard.

No, it won't.


Well, have you ever tried? Because Six or Six-Thirty's comment above seems to indicate otherwise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2009


At the very least, I'd argue that the mockery is part of the reason why Creationists may continue to hang onto their claims rather than deigning to look at one of the well-reasoned arguments that KirkjobSluder says actually are out there

I think you're mistaken in thinking that actual creationists care very much about creationism. For actual creationists, in my experience, creationism is merely a small part of a wider christianism or bibliolatry-ism. Actual creationists don't care about creationism, they care about forcing their notions of God and, with Him, their notions of "common decency" back* into public education, public discourse, government policy, and the wider culture. Creationism is just a thin wedge they think they can get in there.

For an actual creationist, there (generally) can't be any refutation or convincing. No matter what evidence you show them that the world isn't 6000 years old, it by definition must be because if it weren't, then the Bible would be false, and therefore God wouldn't exist, and therefore there would be no morality, and therefore people would immediately start having sex with turtles, eating live babies, and maybe even dancing. So as long as they are opposed to turtle-fucking, baby-eating, and dancing, they will insist on creationism.

*If it was ever really there to start with
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


I did like that last link. Just throwing that out there. Interesting, concise, nicely organized.
posted by Scattercat at 10:29 AM on September 10, 2009


zarq, that is super awesome, I really like that.

:)
posted by zarq at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2009


> Oh, and this article is terrible. […] It really doesn't rate a FPP.

This. The Telegraph article had some inane blithering about evolution, but note that it was in the "Film" section, not "Science". Neither a shitty article about a film nor PZ Myers snarking about it (the article not the film) really counts as 'something interesting on the web'. Although there could maybe be an interesting post about Focus on the Family's little hit-list that is referred to here, this is not it. This post is just another excuse for LOLXIANS. Don't get me wrong, I'm a strident atheist who thinks the likes of Myers and Dawkins aren't supercilious enough by a long chalk, but we've done this before on Metafilter a million times before and it's old.
posted by nowonmai at 10:39 AM on September 10, 2009


What he means is that he repudiates Creationism, but really, you know, so does…

…reality.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:57 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


About argument one (transitional fossils): It always seemed to me that getting upset about the missing links was bad faith (no pun intended). If you have two fossils, won't there always be a potential in-between fossil to find? seems like a reduction ad absurdam problem if no matter how much evidence you have someone can just point to the "missing links" as a flaw in your theory.

Then when you find something that fits they can just point a little to the left and ask "what about the link between that new thing and the originals?"
posted by ServSci at 11:06 AM on September 10, 2009


That's exactly what they do, Serv.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actual creationists don't care about creationism, they care about forcing their notions of God and, with Him, their notions of "common decency" back* into public education, public discourse, government policy, and the wider culture. Creationism is just a thin wedge they think they can get in there...No matter what evidence you show them that the world isn't 6000 years old, it by definition must be because if it weren't, then the Bible would be false, and therefore God wouldn't exist, and therefore there would be no morality...

You're right that a lot (most?) 7-day, young-earth creationists hang on to their views because they're committed to a literal reading of Chapter 1 of Genesis (a reading that is really a modern development, not the way Christians traditionally read the Bible).

But there are also Christians who think there must be something wrong with evolution because it is hard to reconcile with the traditional Christian understandings of the origins of evil and death (and possibly, by extension, God's remedies for evil and death). To get around that theological difficulty requires more than just a different reading of Genesis 1.
posted by straight at 12:50 PM on September 10, 2009


Sure, Michael, but I should have been clearer that when I said "creationist" I meant "people who agitate or lie to judges to keep biology classes from mentioning evolution," not "people who find aspects or consequences of evolution theologically troubling to any degree."

(I think, too, that my understanding is reasonably congruent to the popular usage of "creationist.")
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:34 PM on September 10, 2009


Sure, Michael, but I should have been clearer that when I said "creationist" I meant "people who agitate or lie to judges to keep biology classes from mentioning evolution," not "people who find aspects or consequences of evolution theologically troubling to any degree."

Ah --- perhaps the more correct word in that instance would be "wingnut-zealot Creationist." I think we can all agree that wingnut zeal of any stripe is best handled by smiling and backing away slowly and not making sudden moves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:47 PM on September 10, 2009


I think we can all agree that wingnut zeal of any stripe is best handled by smiling and backing away slowly and not making sudden moves.

Wouldn't it be safer just to nuke them from orbit?
posted by zarq at 2:29 PM on September 10, 2009


"Wouldn't it be safer just to nuke them from orbit?"

Too much collateral damage. Unfortunately the live really close to the rest of us.
posted by oddman at 3:50 PM on September 10, 2009


Origin Of Species is on Rock Band DLC this week, if you're interested in exploring the debate from that angle.
posted by damehex at 4:19 PM on September 10, 2009


To get back to the relevant bit, i.e. Garofalo...

I take it those Conservatives who were so puzzled by her appearance on 24 are blissfully unaware that Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather was quite possibly the most influential Socialist in North American history?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:21 PM on September 10, 2009


If you're going to "take on" the Creationists, it just strikes me that dropping the "LOLCHRISTIANS" attitude might just actually get you heard.

I find that attitude as boring as anyone, but I really doubt dropping it is going to do much good.
posted by Beardman at 4:24 PM on September 10, 2009


I admit I am not perfect. I've made errors. (Armpit hair--what was I thinking?)

Armpit hair makes a lot of sense, when you consider what's going on there. Shaving it off and covering it with aluminum compounds mixed with fragrance makes very little sense.

I know, I know ...
posted by krinklyfig at 4:24 PM on September 10, 2009


Nevermind that these traits were bred by man, they are proof positive that God created all!

Right, and also the modern banana is almost exclusively one variety, the Cavendish (although that wasn't always true), and it may be in trouble due to the inherent problems with modern agriculture and monoculture.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:32 PM on September 10, 2009


Talk.origins is a great resource, but ironically it itself demonstrates much of the problem with "acceptance of evolution" in the USA: evolution is hard. It cannot be summarized in a slogan, and is dramatically misunderstood by many, many people who don't have the time or inclination to study it. For them, it's vague notions of slime turning into giraffes and monkeys turning into humans. The whole thing seems utterly implausible. Naturally, the idea that a benevolent, supernatural being somehow created everything is more attractive, and seems much simpler. Thus, when creationists claim there are "big problems" with evolution, which is "just a theory", many non-scientists say to themselves "yeah, seems fishy to me too".

Unfortunately this ignorance of what the theory of evolution actually describes is heavily exploited by authoritarian politicians. It's fundamentally an education problem. No creationist (even "passive creationist" as mentioned above) is going to sit down with a stack of books and plod through these ideas just to see if you're right, and even then, it boils down to an authority issue ("how do I know these books aren't just a secularist plot?").
posted by Maximian at 4:35 PM on September 10, 2009


The most remarkable anti-evolution argument I have heard was from a co-worker. I was telling him about M.C. Hawking (the novelty rap act using the Professor Hawking persona and rapping by a computer synthesized voice). He asked "Steven Hawking, you mean that retard in the wheelchair?", it turned out that people at his church had informed him that you could tell evolution was wrong because it was advocated for by someone disabled, and that belief in evolution was racist because people who are not young creationists believe that everyone who is not white is more closely to related to monkeys.

"So what, you calling me a monkey, racist mothafucka?"

I had to spend the next 7 hours trying to convince this guy that believing in evolution did not mean that I thought he was a monkey and that believing black people are monkeys is not a mainstream belief among those who believe in evolution. And he kept trying to lecture me about how evil it was to hate someone for their skin color etc. because he was convinced that believing in evolution meant I was a racist and I was just afraid to admit it.
posted by idiopath at 4:51 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


(and yes, I am familiar with Eugenics, and the usage of evolution in the early years to justify racism, even as a mainstream thing (for example the tragic story of Ota Benga), but I was unable to convince this individual that racism being a mainstream opinion in the 19th century did not mean that modern proponents of evolution were applying evolutionary theory in the same manner)

I found a concordance to the Bible (kind of like a set of annotations / encyclopedia to be read alongside the Bible), which I read through to get a better understanding of the religion most of the people around me follow, and every mention of mainstream biological science emphasized the racism of early evolutionary science, as if this were the nature of all evolutionary theory.
posted by idiopath at 4:59 PM on September 10, 2009


But there are also Christians who think there must be something wrong with evolution because it is hard to reconcile with the traditional Christian understandings of the origins of evil and death

Bullpuckey.

Evolution has absolutely nothing to speak about the origins of evil and death. There is nothing to be reconciled.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:43 PM on September 10, 2009


and yes, I am familiar with Eugenics

Meh. Eugenics had as much to do with Noah's Ark as it did with evolution.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2009


The eugenics movement and evolutionary theory were really tightly tied to one another at one time. Those days are behind most of us and all but a straight up denial of a relationship is not credible. Racism was mainstream then, so any science that had any relationship to race proposed racist theories. Back then phrenology was racist, psychology was racist, anthropology was racist, etc. etc. So was biology. Of course only the ties of evolutionary biology to racism get talked about, because none of the other fields loudly contradict the premises of young earth fundamentalist creationism.
posted by idiopath at 6:03 PM on September 10, 2009


The whole PZ Meyers shtick is like one of those Saturday morning fishing shows, only less interesting. "And now... Here's Bubba with another exciting 30 minutes of Shootin' Fish in a Barrel!!" [cue polite studio audience applause]
posted by sneebler at 8:42 PM on September 10, 2009


it turned out that people at his church had informed him that you could tell evolution was wrong because it was advocated for by someone disabled, and that belief in evolution was racist because people who are not young creationists believe that everyone who is not white is more closely to related to monkeys.

Which is not true (p 174, table 4). Sokoto Nigerians are the human population most closely related to chimpanzees, South Amerindians are the least and Northern Europeans are in the middle.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:02 AM on September 11, 2009


What's the editorial cartoon shorthand for journalism as a profession? Because a single tear is rolling down its cheek right now. (That, and its feet are being eaten away by piranhas labeled "LAZY, UNETHICAL SENSATIONALISM.")
posted by No-sword at 3:19 AM on September 11, 2009


Eugenics had as much to do with Noah's Ark as it did with evolution.

Idiopath has it right -- eugenics borrowed heavily from Darwinism in its inception. And denying that this is so makes us look ingenuous.

Rather than denying it, better to acknowledge that that was an unfortunate misapplication which even those in the eugenics movement eventually realized was a bad thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:29 AM on September 11, 2009


If there had been no theory of evolution, how might eugenicists have rationalized their efforts? Likewise, how would the racial "purifiers" of the early 20th century have explained themselves to themselves (at least among their intellectual class)?

I'm sure they would have found a way.
posted by wobh at 5:54 AM on September 11, 2009


If there had been no theory of evolution, how might eugenicists have rationalized their efforts?

That's just it -- if there had been no theory of evolution, there would have been no eugenicists in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2009


Well, the big scientific question wasn't whether there would be a theory of evolution, it was which theory of evolution. Biologists could easily point examples of animal husbandry as examples of heredity at work, and you don't need evolutionary biology to have miscegenation laws and taboos.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:42 AM on September 11, 2009


if there had been no theory of evolution, there would have been no eugenicists in the first place

This neatly explains why nobody was concerned with racial purity or the virtues of good breeding or the importance of bloodlines among humans before 1859.

In the absence of a theory of evolution, there still would have been people who wanted an organized plan to exterminate (by murder or sterilization) those who they saw as inferiors, but they would have called themselves something else and used other language. Probably, as KJS notes, using language drawn from animal husbandry directly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:32 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


And there is always the quasi-Biblical view that Africans were marked by an ancestor's sin and thus are inherently flawed. (Take for example, the historic Mormon view regarding the "Children of Ham.") Wikipedia has an extended discussion of 19th century theories of race and racism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:45 AM on September 11, 2009


jfrancis:
For God, just peanut butter and magic would do just fine.


I've always said that if I was God, the answer to every question in science class would be 'because God says so.' And that would be the correct answer.

And if you were to cut a sheep in half with a hacksaw, it would just be wool all the way through.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:09 AM on September 11, 2009


Evolution has absolutely nothing to speak about the origins of evil and death. There is nothing to be reconciled.

The traditional Christian view is that death (or at least human death--theologians differ here) is evil, not part of the way the universe was intended to be. Death is an enemy to be defeated by the resurrection of Christ.

But if evolution is the way that God created life, then death is an essential part of creation. "Nature, red in tooth and claw" would have to be God's design rather than a sign of the "futility" and "bondage to decay" to which creation has been subjected. The lion and lamb living together in peace (if it's not just a metaphor) would be a new thing rather than a return to the original state of creation.

There are lots of other theological difficulties raised by evolution, such as our conception of what it means to be human and the extent to which evil can be attributed to biology, but the origin and nature of death is, I think, the sharpest.

And while most fundamentalists wouldn't articulate it this way, I think many do have a sense of these deeper difficulties (which were recognized by thoughtful Christians a long time ago, as illustrated by my allusion to Alfred Lord Tennyson). I think it's what they're trying to say when they fret about being descended from monkeys or when they worry that evolution undermines morality.
posted by straight at 1:32 PM on September 11, 2009


Charles Darwin film 'too controversial for religious America': A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.
posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


homunculus: "too controversial for religious America"

Wow, I hope it at least ends up on netflix or something, I am going to have to make sure I see that film.
posted by idiopath at 2:28 PM on September 12, 2009


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