Friday, November 17, 2006

Creationists On Campus

The creationists were on campus again yesterday. Aside from their usual rants on how America is going to hell for sexual perversion, one of them was holding two placards, one on either side of him. The first said "Evolution is a fairy-tale for weak minded scientists."

The second had three bullet points. I can't recall the first one, but the second was the tired argument that there's no such thing as a transitionary fossil. The third was a definition of intelligent design.

When Laura (president of KUSFS) and I first approached him, he was preaching his moral superiority to another student. His argument was that if he (the placard holder) was to kill five people, and the person he was talking with were to tell two lies, Mr. Placard Holder would just have to apologize and it's all ok. Meanwhile, if the student repent for his lies, he'd burn in Hell for all of eternity.

At this point I asked him if he intended to repent for the lies on his sign. He claimed that there were no lies. My response was to point out the second bullet and then offered to name three transitionary fossils for him. He didn't acknowledge them in any way.

However, another passerby named Ben had just stopped in and wanted them so he could look them up. Ben then proceeded to take over the discussion in place of the creationist which I suppose was for the better since the creationist didn't want to actually address the evidence and was just there to preach how much better he was since Jesus would let him off for anything.

I ended up quite liking Ben. He made it very clear that he was extremely skeptical of evolution and offered Laura and I many of the typical creationist talking points: no observed speciation, no way life could have arisen spontaneously, mutations are only bad...

Between Laura and I we were able to answer every objection he had with a good amount of detail and explicit examples. But what I really liked about Ben was that he seemed to actually take these things to heart and try to understand.

Ultimately, he wasn't left with any argument except the good 'ole "evolution is just a theory." This promoted a long discussion on the difference between scientific theories and layman's theories. In the end, I think Ben finally understood that in the scientific context, creationism isn't even a hypothesis. Given this difference, the verbal sleight of hand that creationists use is lying through obfustication. Ben seemed to understand and agreed before heading off.

I asked the creationists if they had anything to say on that matter, but instead of answering they muttered about how evolution was wrong because the Earth couldn't be that old. Turns out not only were they creationists, they were Young Earth creationists. Pushing a placard for Intelligent Design? Now why would they do that...

Mr. Creationist had already tried to use the argument that the recessional rate of the moon supports a young earth model which I summarily shot down applying just a tad bit of high school level physics. He continued trying to peddle it until he realized that no one that had crowded around was buying it anymore.

His other big argument for a young Earth was one that I'd honestly never heard before. He claimed that there were fossilized trees standing upright that cut through a large number of strata. He said that scientists claim that these strata are from chronologically disparate era (ie, deposited over millions of years) and as such no tree could remain standing for such an amount of time.

Being skeptical, my first guess was that this wasn't quite true. While I had no doubt that there were fossilized trees cutting though many layers, I expected that the layers would have to be deposited quickly, such as from a volcanic eruption (which can release several different layers as it progresses). But he maintained that scientists said that they were deposited over millions of years.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt and told him I'd check into it. Turns out my guess was right. Scientists have never said that these layers were laid down over millions of years. Instead, this was just a case of creationists putting words in a scientists mouth just to disprove a straw man, posting it on a website, and some intellectually bankrupt creationist buying it wholesale.

But since I had to let it go while talking to him, I asked how he proposed that the layers were laid down. It was the flood of course. My response was to point out that floods generally leave a single layer unless they're seasonal. His response was to say that, if you leave silt in a jar of water it will settle out into layers.

Sure, but not in a short amount of time like that, and it also tends to settle out with the heavies materials on the bottom. Geological strata have porous light layers intermixed with solid, heavy layers, thus contradicting his model in a jar.

His response: "Well, it's different." Ah, good. So it's like this. Except when it's not. At which point we invoke miracles. The scientific understanding of the creationist continues to astound me. As does there timing, because at that moment, their friends came along and said it was time to go home.


Anonymous said...

Here's something I like to ask young-earthers...

I first ask if they believe the other galaxies are millions of light years from us. They always agree.

I then ask how we can see the light from those galaxies if the universe is only 6000 years old.

A young-earther has yet to give me a good answer to this one, except for "God sped up the light."

The Ridger, FCD said...

Wow. You haven't heard the "God created them with the light already on its way to earth" answer? Often, but not invariably, accompanied by, "to test our faith, and you just failed."

There's not much you can do with a God who can do anything including lie, and does. I mean, he might have made it all last night, and just made us think we remember yesterday...

Jon Voisey said...

Precisely. When you invoke miracles, you can explain anything and thus, have explained nothing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing the hard work and actually confronting some of these people at KU. I'm basically confined to the Art and Design building all day, so I never really see any of these confrontations on Wescoe Beach.

Anonymous said...

"Not even a hypothesis..." brings to mind this quote:

We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough.
-Niels Bohr

Bohr, and others, were trying to work out what kind of a system could possibly explain the evidence supporting what turned out to be Quantum Mechanics.

But, there's another quote, which has been leveled of late at String Theory: Not Even Wrong, for a theory unexpected to go anywhere. While, in my limited opinion, String Theory still has promise, it seems entirely appropriate for Creationism.

Pope John Paul II made the statement, "Evolution is more than an hypothesis." This told me that the Roman Catholic Church both had come to terms with Evolution, and had at least understood this whole theory/hypothesis/law semantics thing.

In my opinion, Young Earth Creationism (even if it's only millions of years old) strikes me as having a name: Last Thursdayism. In Last Thursdayism, the Universe was created pretty much as we see it, Last Thursday. This is the work of a Lazy God. The Universe only needs to be one light week in diameter. If some mistakes are made in the trajectory of certain photons, well, next week, those sorts of errors can be corrected. This leads to the notion that God created the Hubble Space Telescope, and WMAP, etc., not just fossils and light from nonexsistant distant galaxies. So, God is not only the Great Deciever, but is also the Great Lazy One. Sort of takes the wind out of the sails of those who think of God as worthy of worship.

For the record, Last Thursdayists have latched onto the "tired light" hypothesis, and claim that these galaxies aren't as far away as scientists say they are. These poeple believe in a Universe millions of years old, rather than billions. I'm not sure why they bother.

The clearest explanation of why the "tired light" hypothesis is wrong that i've seen was in Alex Fillipenko's "What's New In Astronomy: 2003", an astronomy course on video tape. The "tired light" hypothesis is real science in that it is falsifiable. The evidence is in, and we can move on.

Anonymous said...

i have many questions concerning this subject, there are somethings which seem to me that have the theory of evolution in a possition of unproven bias. I am not here to prove my point of creation to anyone, but to gain greater understanding on this subject. I have been reasearching this idea and have found several things, one, the orgion of species was a great idea of its time, something that has had to be replaced by neo-darwinism. But the transitionary fossils that were mentioned previously in this article i simply cannot find, i have looked in museams, google, jstor, everywhere and i cannot find deffinitive scientific proof that there is these "inbetween" fossles.
what i want to see is the factualized arguments for evolution.
the fossil record
the history behind the subject.
this for me is something that needs to be more clearly understood and i would appricate anyone who would be able reply with any factualized info that they might have. I am not affraid to have my beliefs challenged, i wish to do so, in order to create for my self a more informed identity
fools and liars?
we are humans who search for understanding.
please understand.

Jon Voisey said...

Anon: I'd recommend looking at this link. It provides a comprehensive description of the interpretation of the fossil evidence as well as a long list of the transitionary fossils that you "simply cannot find".

I would also point out that evolution does not in any way need to "challange your beliefs". As has been repeatedly shown, it is entirely possible to believe in a higher power and evolution at the same time.

Ben Sinclair said...

Here's something I like to ask young-earthers...

I first ask if they believe the other galaxies are millions of light years from us. They always agree.

I then ask how we can see the light from those galaxies if the universe is only 6000 years old.

A young-earther has yet to give me a good answer to this one, except for "God sped up the light."