Flat as a pancake, happy as a clam ?
September 30, 2004 9:32 AM   Subscribe

"Just for the record, do you believe the Sun goes around the Earth or the Earth goes around the sun?" : Ages before "Intelligent Design", a bold PaleoCreationist pseudoscientific gobbledygook - embodied by Tom Willis, Creationism's man in Kansas and head of the Mid Atlantic Creation Research Society - strode the Earth. The AAAS dissected the mess in "Lions, Tigers and APES, Oh My! ; Creationism vs. Evolution in Kansas" ( Google cache) and one writer concluded : "The War between the creationists and the public schools is over. The creationists appear to have won" : now, in a Kansas that's scientifically proven flatter than a pancake, Mona Lisa is as happy as a clam, and Kissing Frank's ass and appeals to mysterious watchmakers predominate, while on the national stage, God is a real estate developer.

Meanwhile, a new group proposes better zoning bylaws : Scientists and Engineers for Change
posted by troutfishing (22 comments total)
I screwed up one of those links. Here it is, corrected : God (Google search : 'God is a real estate developer' )
posted by troutfishing at 9:47 AM on September 30, 2004

Oh - and for those too busy too get to the punchline of that first link, here it is :

"[ New Scientist, to Willis ] Just for the record, do you believe the Sun goes around the Earth or the Earth goes around the Sun?

[ Willis ] I'm sure your readers will love this, but I don't know. Every physicist who's looked at it seriously has realised that we don't know for sure." [ New Scientist interview, 2000 ]

"What is truth, grasshopper, or knowledge ? Are not these things mere words which merely blow away in the gassy winds of ideology ?"

"Grandfather, shall I cook some more beans ?"

posted by troutfishing at 9:53 AM on September 30, 2004

Great links Trout. It will take awhile to get through these.
posted by nofundy at 10:21 AM on September 30, 2004

> Tom Willis: It is a myth that there is no evidence for Biblical Creation. The fact you don't know any is not testimony to the absense of any.

Of course, throughout the course of the interview, he declines to share any actual scientific evidence for Creationism.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:36 AM on September 30, 2004

I created the world yesterday. Just try and disprove me. You can't. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Therefore, it should be mandatory that my creation of the world (yesterday) should be taught at every school - at least alongside evolution.
posted by iamck at 10:48 AM on September 30, 2004

iamck, I think your funny comment hits closer to the truth than first strikes the eye. One wonders how much ego of people like Willis and, say, Ralph Reed as just two contemporary examples are intertwined with the idea that their insistence on a man-like God. That is, that if God is man-like and the individual is a man, not to mention Jesus being a man, then perhaps they are the Second Coming or at least his John the Baptist.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:51 AM on September 30, 2004

troutfishing -- Thanks for pulling these all together and recrafting this thread.
posted by mooncrow at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2004

mooncrow - don't mention it. It was just an afterthought following my earlier super-Herculean divine labors to create all of reality as we know it.

iamck - Good try, but I created the world last week, let's be quite clear on that. Then you had to come along and recreate it in your own image and muck it all up. I thought humans were quite charming with tails and amphibian capabilities. You just couldn't stop yourself, snipping off those beautiful, powerful prehensile tails and scotching the webbed hands and feet, the gills...... and what was wrong with the fourteen foot wingspanned, intelligent predatory birds to keep humanity in check ? Now, they'll just get out of hand, breed out of control, and wreck all of creation ! You really mucked up a lot of nice, innovative design there, and I won't have time for just eons to set things right....

But on a less confrontational note - and just to reveal my divine generosity - I'd be willing to share a little of my new creation with you.

For a start, you can have Kansas. As an experiment, I made Kansas especially flat - flatter than a pancake, in fact. Now, flat is not my personal taste - my divine preference is for mountains, and coastal areas. But - if you don't mind flat, I'll cede Kansas and - maybe, to prevent a disastrous clash of warring deities - I'll flip a coin with you to divvy up the continents, except that I have to let you know right now that Australia is non-negotiable. I'm fond of slow, dumb pouched animals and crumbly rock.

Also, we can play "Good cop/Bad cop", to maintain dynamic tension in the creation. A creation without the dynamic tension of conflict and the struggle of good vs. evil is like a flat, overcooked souffle.
posted by troutfishing at 12:17 PM on September 30, 2004

It looks like the Willis guys likes to talk about absolute abstractions. For instance when he complains with geologists "where's your standard one million year old rock" he uses an analogy with weight that goes as follows

1. you can measure something (for instance, lenght)
2. if you use an unit of measure (for instance, meter)

Well ok so far, I can invent any unit of measure in a snap and so can anybody else

1. given that you offer an age for Earth (say x million years)
2. that means that you must have used "year" as an unit of measure (well ok)
3. and that you must have measured ,for instance, the age of some rocks ( a piece of so called Earth) and see that you needed one million of your measure units to match the age of the rock. Therefore, you say, the Earth is xM years old.
4. but your "year" measure unit is just one measure unit among million possible ones
5. I want a "more true" standard, like a one million year old rock and I want you to prove me it's "really" a one million year old rock
6. given that you haven't offered conclusive proof that you have a one million year old standard rock
7. therefore God exists and I'm a born again Christian ; also, you must make room for theories other then Darwinism and God created Darwin to have delusional people believe in lies.

I think the guy went nuts because he couldn't handle abstractions , he probably wanted to know "the one and only truth" and found no proof of either "one" or "truth" because they're (afaik) generally recognized as abstract concepts. Or may he's entirely sane, understood that he can offer a dressing of "scientific analysis" to loonies theories and wants to found another religious zealot group.

I have problems with that, as they're easily turned into terrorists (see anti-abortionist violence against abortion clinics et al)
posted by elpapacito at 12:21 PM on September 30, 2004

Oh and - for all you mere mortals out there - iamck and I refer to divine days and weeks, which are very different from the timekeeping conventions of mortals by the same names.

Don't forget.

But seriously, I don't know why I bother with such admonitions - it's quite pointless really. I know. I made you. It's in your nature. You'll forget.

It's all in the plan. But, I have to warn you anyway - [ as per the "Divine Creator Ethics Code", Chapter 27, Section 68, Line 12 - "The preservation and allowance of Free Will in inhabitants of created worlds" ] - in the full knowledge that you'll forget all my warnings and best advice and go kind of crazy too. Then, I'll have to destroy you all and start all over again.

Oh well. It passes the time.


* Sheds Godhead for a moment *

elpapacito, ( re : "I think the guy went nuts because he couldn't handle abstractions" ) - this can also be related to a sort of anxious fear of complexity and indeterminacy, the search for unchanging truths. In other words, a type of stress reaction to modernity and change.
posted by troutfishing at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2004

Excellent work, Mr Trout.
posted by apocalypse miaow at 2:09 PM on September 30, 2004

But, I have to warn you anyway ... in the full knowledge that you'll forget all my warnings and best advice

You forget, my Lord, in the Power of the GoogleCache!
posted by billsaysthis at 3:07 PM on September 30, 2004

I find it very revealing that this "Intelligent Design" advocate appears also to be an anti-environmentalist "reds under the bed" windbag.

Now, I can almost cope with anti-environmentalism coupled with Darwinism - people with this point of view are basically saying that it doesn't matter if the planet changes and if environmental destruction occurs, because species have the capacity to respond to the change, and things will sort themselves out in the end. I don't personally believe it's that simple, but at least the argument is logically consistant.

On the other hand, anti-environmentalism + creationism = the world's going to end soon, and I want to bring it on quicker! (What an uplifting philosophy) They believe that humans have the right to alter the planet as much as they want, but at the same time, other species are incapable of responding through evolution and so will naturally go extinct. What a great future they have in store for us!
posted by Jimbob at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2004

Was that Willis interview extremely difficult to make heads or tails of to anyone else? I had to re-read every response and then punch myself in the face to even half-way follow his train of thought.
But all fun aside.
Troutfishing you are indeed god. Also, my left foot is made of aged cheddar cheese except when people examine it, and my dog constantly solves complex trig problems in his head.
posted by Cedric at 8:12 PM on September 30, 2004

Cedric - It's all true, and it's all good. Just don't let your dog eat your cheesy foot.
posted by troutfishing at 12:56 AM on October 1, 2004

Holy Link Orgasm troutfishing.

Good post, though.
posted by shepd at 12:58 AM on October 1, 2004

Extemporaneously to this so-called conversation, I once wrote a paper concerning the concept of free will with regards to the fundamental basis of philosophical thought proposed by various luminaries throughout western civilization. I forget all of the subtle nuances of my conclusion, but I believe we are generally all unaminous is our opinion that there is none.

Just grist for the mill; please continue.
posted by justin at 1:21 AM on October 1, 2004

Is trout's another one of those US-centric posts to annoy non-American mefi-ites?

42% of Japanese children believe that the Sun rotates around the Earth. I guess you boys need to broaden your paranoia of the Right to include creation-Buddhism.
posted by jfuller at 5:02 AM on October 1, 2004

> and my dog constantly solves complex trig problems in his head.

Innumerate ballplayers do this (and dogs too,yeah.) If the fielder moves so as to make the visual angle between himself and a fly ball approach a constant, he will be in the right place to catch it when it comes down. Woof.

(Geeks who can't catch won't understand this.)
posted by jfuller at 5:14 AM on October 1, 2004

Serbia recently had a close encounter with creationist nonsense, backed by the more medieval elements of the Serbian Orthodox church. Fortunately more rational people prevailed and evolution was restored in schools.
Please note, though, the truly enlightened comment *for* evolution in the last (BBC) link, by bishop Ignjatije, a quote worth repeating in defense of evolution wherever it is challanged:
However, an influential figure in the Orthodox Church, Bishop Ignjatije, acknowledged Darwin had a place in schools.

Darwin "spoke about ways that humans and the rest of the nature are connected. The connection must not be ignored by anybody, not even by us theologists", he said.
posted by talos at 6:00 AM on October 1, 2004

"......The poor grasp of scientific fundamentals has been blamed on the increasing number of hours spent watching TV and playing video games. The children themselves are more likely to blame their heavy workload and attendance at evening cramming schools.

Professor Agata, who wants the national curriculum revised, says some pupils do not know that the Sun, Moon and Earth are spherical." - jfuller, that's an awesome story! (in more ways than one) The difference here, though, is that it's unlikely that there are any Japanese adults going around, for theological reasons, suggesting the possibility that Copernicus might be wrong or attempting to prevent the teaching of Evolution in schools.

There's a difference, and although the end product - in the case of Japanese children who might think the Earth to be flat - might seem equally dismal, I believe religiously derived ignorance to be far more pernicious, for that amounts to intentionally created ignorance and - as such - tends to resemble a virus.

justin - but there's a paradox : if I behave as if I don't have free will, I have less and will tend to give in to passing whims and momentary fancies!

shepd - you're welcome.
posted by troutfishing at 7:13 AM on October 1, 2004

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