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Creationists are the dung beetles of science

CreationReading that title back, it sounds rude and abrasive, but it isn’t meant to be. In fact, quite the reverse. In the wake of the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about Young Earth Creationists (YECs), typically from a highly negative viewpoint. Columnists and bloggers despair of the distortions of leaders, the ignorance of followers, and the special pleading of a nakedly religious claim being presented as science.

I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I’d say the same myself all the time if it wasn’t so blindingly obvious. But despite all this criticism, and although YECs are reality-denying ideologues who are either dishonest, indoctrinated or just too lazy to check out the evidence, they do serve a purpose. If you can forget about all the lying, distortion and fabrication – and it’s a big “if” – there’s a tiny glimmer of something valuable buried deep in the bowels of YECism, something we should all appreciate. Unlikely as it may seem, they do perform a genuine scientific function.
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Bill Nye takes on Ken Ham – I hope he knows what he’s doing

Ken HamWow, you turn your back for a moment and look what happens – Bill Nye “The Science Guy” is apparently slated to debate with Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, Young-Earth Creationist and notorious reality-denier, and tickets have already sold out. My respect for Nye is nearly as great as my contempt for Ham, but this worries me immensely.

AiG’s press release gives a very strong impression of how Ham intends to approach this – there’s already a strong element of bait and switch in there, with the grandiose (and breathtakingly inaccurate) claim that “observational science confirms the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of origins, not evolution”, while the actual topic of the debate is much narrower, allowing plenty of room for handwaving and flannel in the face of such underhand tactics as evidence. Read More…

The easiest $10,000 you ever made, or is it?

DollarsHow would you like to win $10,000? Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? All you have to do is come out on top in a debate, the terms of which are to be set by your opponent. Oh, and you have to stump up $10,000 of your own as a stake, and in the event that you win, you’ll be landed with an as-yet undetermined bill for costs. Still like the sound of it?

The Young Earth Creationist (YEC) Dr Joseph Mastropaolo is the man behind this idea, called the Life Science Prize Mini-Trial, which he’s been pushing for at least 10 years, and is evidently plugging again in the hope of more publicity for his wacky, backward, unscientific ideas. His contention, you see, is that evolution is not just wrong because God, but actually impossible because of “devolution”, a common YEC term based on a misunderstanding of both evolution and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

But if Mastropaolo’s ideas are so crazy, why not take him on? Read More…

A man dies, and I don’t know how to react

Earlier this week, Duane T. Gish died at the age of 92. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, he was a vocal Young Earth Creationist whose distinctive rapidfire debating style inspired the coining of the term “Gish Gallop“.

Duane GishHe was an old man, and he’s dead. That saddens me, just as any death would, but apart from that, I don’t know how to feel. I’m not someone who takes pleasure in people dying – I was the sort of wet liberal hanky-squeezer who felt uncomfortable at the celebrations when Osama bin Laden was killed. But for all that, I feel a bit odd about this.

There’s a strong temptation to simply say nice things about people when they die, but while that’s polite and respectful, it can also tend towards humbug and flannel. A classic example is the way politicians can go from angrily attacking each other’s intelligence and honesty to speaking movingly about what good people they were. It may be polite, but it’s also a little insulting to everyone’s intelligence. Read More…

It’s about time Christians stopped playing at science

Planet SIf you take a stroll through the website for Answers in Genesis (and to be honest, I recommend that you don’t), you’ll find a huge number of articles that deal with scientific evidence. You’ll also find numerous arguments that proper scientists can be creationists, and a huge amount of devotion to notable scientists from the past who were Christians.

In AiG world, any scientist who believed in God is taken as evidence that science doesn’t disprove creationism. I used to think this was funny, if tiresome – the idea that Isaac Newton’s theological views have any bearing on the current scientific consensus on the age of the Earth or the origins of the universe is unintentionally hilarious – but it’s part of a trend that increasingly worries me. Read More…

Let’s assume the creationists are right

Adam and Eve

I’ve recently been debating with a Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) for the first time in ages. I’d forgotten how soul-destroying it is – locked in an argument with someone who will insist that the world was created in exactly six days, that all scientific investigation to the contrary is worthless, misleading or fraudulent, and if all else fails, that God created everything to look really old in order to mislead anyone who doesn’t have genuine faith.

It’s a bizarre belief, but once someone’s got to the point of taking the Omphalos hypothesis seriously, they’ve effectively and conveniently ruled out any evidence they don’t like. There’s no way of shaking their belief, because this sort of special pleading allows them to explain away absolutely anything. So I’m going to give up arguing – clearly, as they say, Genesis is literally and unambiguously true in every respect, and anyone who says otherwise is just wrong. Read More…

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