The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Creationists Came

Long post warning.

Ok, after spending some relaxing time cooking dinner (a nice shepard's pie) and watching Silence of the Lambs I'm ready to write about the last two painful days of sitting through some lectures put on by the Institute for Creation Research. I have to say that it was enlightening with respect to seeing how these folks actually think (if that's the right word) about the world/Universe around us.

The good stuff first: They were quite nice to me, especially once they found out that I was an actual skeptic/non-believer. Several people approached me and attempted to convert or convince me of the error of my ways and to get me to, in one case, head on over to his church. Never rude or anything, just concerned. A guy named Paul who ministers at a church close by in Oshawa took a particular interest in me...or I guess my eternal soul, which was in jeopardy.

Ok, on to the weird and/or bad stuff. First was Friday night. I showed up, perhaps naive, to face a crowd of about a hundred folks there to see Bruce Malone talk about the "Evolution Delusion". After that was a man named Dave Hunt who was going to talk about "Spiritual Deception in the Name of Christ". Well, was I in shock or what after the first lecture - I actually expected to hear something (anything!) new or perhaps thought-provoking by way of evidence. What I heard was old and busted "arguments" about monkeys at typewriters, tornados blowing through junkyards, incredulous remarks about the astounding complexity of protein strands and the "randomness" of evolution and the staggeringly astronomical odds against us just popping into existence.

Then he went on to tell us how God made everything literally "pop into existence".

Malone didn't seem to see a problem or contradiction in what he was saying at all and neither did the adoring crowd. They tittered along with the "my grandpa wasn't a monkey" jokes and they nodded in agreement when he did a demonstration where he took the "magic tin of evolution" (which was what looked like a coffee can) and took a pen apart into its seven parts, put the parts in the can, and shook it up. Shockingly it didn't go back together to form the pen! The odds that it would form a pen are...well, let's just say it's impossible to form a pen. He added the "spark" of life in the form of a firecracker to the tin, which made a loud BANG and everyone was quite entertained, and there was the pen! But it was a trick, that bastard. Evolution couldn't have happened!

I was dumbfounded that such out-dated, horrifingly poor strawmen were being trotted out and slain, but moreso that the audience actually bought them. The fact that we are all related by DNA was explained away by saying simply that God is the common Creator and as such He chose to use the same stuff to make us. It was the "God said it, I believe it, that's that" argument.

Dave Hunt's presentation was no better. He is big on using "common sense" to sort through things. Mr Hunt is an author (read as much as you can of this before your head melts) who seems to hold some rather large duffel bags of hate in him - but more on that later.

Friday gave me the opportunity to see the Argument from Ignorance in full force. Hunt actually said, "What good is part of an eye?!" Yeah, it was that bad. Malone used the same argument but went with the more modern version, Behe's bacterial flagellum. He also commented on the complexity of protein strands and how if just ONE of the codons is in the wrong place we get a disease.

Basically what they were both saying was the God-of-the-gaps retardedness: "the problem is really really hard to solve...so God did it."

Malone talked about the Big Bang theory and how it's just silly to think that something came from nothing, and mentioned Stephen Hawking as saying that any explanation of the beginning of the Universe by necessity had to include a Creator. This will likely be news to Hawking.

I wanted to ask a question that night but they ran out of time. I had to wait until today to go back for another dose of Vitamin J (Jebus, that is).

Saturday at 1pm gave me a talk by Dr John Barnett. He's a minister with the Tulsa Bible Church in Oklahoma and did a talk about the "Astounding Evidence for Divine Inspiration of Scripture". He said that there were no scientific discoveries made that weren't predicted in the Bible and that, despite all the books and chapters of the Holy Book being written by different people in different places, that it was one cohesive unit with no contridictions.

Wow. That takes some balls to say. No contridictions? What about these? The size of cantelopes, they are. To quote Bill Hicks, "He must have a specially fitted uniform in which to place those giant testicles".

He said that God put an "authentication code" in the bible, specifically in Jeremiah 1:12
Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Odd, that seems pretty random. He went on to list seven ways to explain his authentication:

1. Jesus believed in the bible, therefore it's true (he neglected to mention that the bible was written WAY after Jebus was killed). He also said that he was on a radio show with some "liberal priests" and he asked the host if he trusted The Word. He said he wanted to see if "this guy was ready to say he didn't trust Jesus - he lived in Tulsa, the buckle of the Bible Belt". Bullyish intimidation at best.

2. The prophets/apostles believed. Good for them. Who cares?

3. The "absolute unity" of the Bible, whatever the hell that means. Please see the above link to the Skeptic's Bible and the contridictions.

4. The "incredible survival" of the Bible. Great, what about the "incredible survival" of Marcus Aurelius? Hamlet?

5. The fact that the Bible is "absolutely scientifically accurate". Wow. Again, that's an astonishing amount of testicle. Just for contrast, see this clip of an Islamic scholar talking about the "scientific accuracy" of the Koran. Oh, and apparently gravity is explained in the Bible in Job 38:31
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?

Did you all understand that? Now do you see how a curved space-time makes matter follow an accelerated path? It's crystal clear!

6. The Bible is historically accurate. Well, I guess we should re-write some texts because Job 9:6-7 says:
Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.

Hm. That seems to say that the Earth is on pillars and that the Sun can be commanded to not rise, hence the Sun goes around the Earth. Screw you Nic Copernicus...screw you hard.

7. Finally, "His promise that only He can predict the future and have it come true". Yeah, prophesy. Barnett said, "Every prophesy in the Bible has been fulfilled literally, to the T" and "Trust the only God who knows the future". Please see the above fifteen minute talk by the Muslim scholar about that claim.

Personally, I think they're both full of ca-caa.

Barnett then mentioned Peter Stoner's calculation of the probability of prophesy and accuracy as being next to impossible, thus proving the Bible as a prophetic book. Well, check out the Wikipedia entry for Stoner, in particular the critic who said:
...the author has fallen into the commonest error of using only these facts which bolster his hypothesis, and of discarding or controverting those which do not. For example, his discussion of the theory of evolution is not only misleading; it displays an abysmal ignorance of recent evolutionary studies.

Yeah, "abysmal ignorance". About as accurate a phrase as I could ever think of.

It all came back to the "God said it, I believe it, that's that" argument, and if that works for you, fine. But when they start in with the it's science! crap, that's when it's not ok anymore. After Barnett's talk, I asked a question that went something like this:
When modern "psychics" try to help police find, say, a missing body, they often will say something like "I see and 'H', and water, and I smell gasoline", and then the police follow evidence and leads and eventually find the body. The "psychic" can then look at the scene and say, "Look over there, it's a hotel, that's the 'H' I saw, and in the lobby there's a fake waterfall, that's the water, and there's cars in the parking lot, that was the gas smell." Well what they're doing is retro-fitting what they said into what was found to have actually happened. Please explain how what you are doing with the bible being scientifically accurate is not the same thing.

He verbally tap-danced a bit, but basically he admitted that he believed in psychics and that he essentially is retrofitting and wouldn't be able to convince me otherwise.

I had, at that point, outed myself as a skeptic in a room full of true-believers. The speakers took a 10 minute break and I tried to grab a coffee but was approached by a gentleman who gave me these:
Mmmm...Chick Tract goodness
Yeah, Chick Tracts. Painful, but the fella seemed nice enough. While he was trying to talk to me, a gentleman who I noticed during the lecture who looked like Daniel Dennett approached me. His was one of the only other heads in the room that remained unbowed during the ending prayer that Barnett did and he said, "Mike? I didn't recognise you without your horns."

It was a welcome relief to have another person there who was as skeptical as myself. He introduced himself as Tony Burns and we chatted through the break - during which another man told me about Evidence That Demands a Verdict, which includes data from the aforementioned dumbass, Peter Stoner, and a third fella who interjected to give me an "e-bible" on CD-ROM:
Creationists Holy Bible E-Sword
and a booklet called Final Destiny:
Creationist Final Destiny
This is an odd title, because as George Carlin says, "All destinies are final, that's the meaning of the word, destiny, final...if you haven't gotten where you're going, you're not there yet."

On page five of "Final Destiny", it says "There is no risk in accepting the Bible as our final authority." Unless, of course, you're gay, or have a foreskin, or you like to fuck animals, or you say bad things about your parents. I could go on and on, but what's the point, really?

So that was the end of the first talk. I'll do a post on the second and third talk tomorrow or thereabouts, but right now it's wine time, friends. My brain needs alcohol. It was cool to meet Tony and I look forward to getting together with the Toronto Skeptics/Secularists soon.

More to come....

13 Barbaric Yawps:

At 25/2/07 1:36 am, Blogger RBH said...

Man, I have to admire y our fortitude. And your self-control: how did you suppress your giggle reflex?

 
At 25/2/07 2:58 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, Tony here. Thanks for the mention in today's post. Here's some more information about the Centre for Inquiry Ontario that I think you and your readers will find interesting.. They originally were the Secular Freethought Centre but recently aligned with CFI. You can find the CFI Ontario home page . Another site of interest to you and your readers might be the discussion forum for the Freethought Association of Canada.

The CFI Ontario inaugural event will take place March 10 at the centre which is located at 216 Beverley St in Toronto. You can find information about the event here. Not included on the list of guests when I posted this is . I think you'd like Rob's books. You can also find information about Freethought Association Canada and CFI Ontario . The organization is young and I find the web presence a little confusing but I'm confident they will pull it together in time. There's an amazing amount of work being done to get this off the ground.

The other upcoming event of interest is March 22: God and Evolution: Is Intelligent Design Ruining Science Education, featuring prof Brian Alters. I believe this will take place in the McLeod auditorium on the UofT campus but it's late and I don't have the motivation to track that down right now.

Send me an email if you have questions.

 
At 25/2/07 3:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... the preview had all the links in the right places. No way to edit the previous post.

Tony

 
At 25/2/07 9:06 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

That's fantastic! Thanks Tony ;)

 
At 25/2/07 4:22 pm, Blogger Steve Watson said...

Having just survived our own similar experience here in Ottawa, you have my sympathies (see my withdrawal rants over at Sandwalk).

 
At 25/2/07 7:24 pm, Blogger StefRobrts said...

I've always wondered what they say at those things, but I would go insane if I had to listen to it first hand. Thanks for taking one for the team and reporting back!

 
At 26/2/07 10:27 am, Blogger Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

Nice recap Mike. Looking forward to more. However I spent a long weekend consuming more adult beverages that I probably should have and I'm betting my head hurts less than Had I had to attend these spew fests.

 
At 26/2/07 6:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's "contradiction." Not "contridiction."

Otherwise - cool post. Creationists are fascinating specimens of a particularly bizarre form of mental illness. I commend you on your capacity to wade into their midst and escape with your brain intact.

 
At 26/2/07 6:44 pm, Blogger Zeno said...

You brave, brave, foolish man. I admire your heroic endurance. Thanks for confirming that all is well instead the hermetically sealed creationist bubble. The folks inside tell each other the same stories over and over again (and why shouldn't they? their Bible is full of twice-told stories) and foreign matter (like evidence) is carefully screened out. Their saving grace is that a lot of them are deliberately nice to outsiders, hoping to save another soul (which they imagine you have somewhere).

 
At 26/2/07 7:10 pm, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Thanks for the correction, Anon. Fast typing and blowing off spell-check has its downside.

 
At 26/2/07 8:28 pm, Blogger Jake said...

Shit. I wish I'd known, I would *totally* have been there.

BTW, are y'all members of any T.O. skeptic/atheist/freethought/etc. societies? I've been looking for one since I moved here.

 
At 26/2/07 9:06 pm, Blogger Jeff said...

I sat through the last lecture on the Friday night and I'm just glad that my friend's birthday (Read: a lot of bear) was waiting for me afterwards. When is there going to be a freethinkers meeting in Whitby?

 
At 27/2/07 5:39 am, Blogger Atheist in a mini van. said...

You deserve more than a few barbaric yawps for sitting through that bachenalia of bullshit. I would've had a hard time remaining "respectful" during some of those examples- the urge to laugh and point might've over-powered my normally quiet demeanor. *pauses* Ok. Who am I kidding? I'd have required two leaders of oxygen and some catgut to fix the carnage that resulted from busting a gut laughing.

Kudos to you, good man!!

 

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