Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

top navigation:

Monday, May 10th, 2004 | ISSN 1556-5696

eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

Share this eSkeptic with friends online. Subscribe | Donate | Watch Lectures | Shop


Then a Miracle Occurs:
An Obstreperous Evening
with the Insouciant Kent Hovind,
Young Earth Creationist and Defender of the Faith

by Michael Shermer

At 7:00 pm on a balmy Southern California evening, April 29, 2004, I entered the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, to a jammed house of over 500 people chock-a-block jammed into a 400-seat venue. I was there at the behest of one Pastor Jason, of the OMC Youth, a campus Christian organization, to debate Kent Hovind, Young Earth Creationist and Defender of the Faith, on:

Creation vs. Evolution.
Creation (supernatural action) or Evolution (natural processes)—which is the better explanation?

It was already 20 degrees warmer inside the hall than out, even before the dialogue heated up. Hovind’s people were there in force, handing out literature at both entrances:

  • “Ph.D.’s Who Are Creationists.” (See the National Center for Science Education’s list of “Steves” who accept evolution at http://www.natcenscied.org/.)
  • “Did Jesus Say Anything Regarding the Age of the Universe?” (The answer given is yes, because in Mark 10:6, Jesus said: “But from the beginning of Creation, God made them male and female.” You decide.)
  • “Biblical Reasons the Days in Genesis Were 24 Hour Days.”
  • “Does Carbon Dating Prove the Earth is Millions of Years Old?”
  • “The Flood of Noah: Ridiculous Myth or Scientifically Accurate?”, and
  • a 20-page booklet on “Weird Science” and “Creation vs. Evolution Questions and Answers.”

My associates Matt Cooper and David Naiditch accompanied me, staffing a small Skeptics Society book table where we countered Hovind with our magazine, books, and “How to Debate a Creationist” and “Baloney Detection” kits. (Matt sensed the deck was stacked against us when they gave us a puny three-foot table while Hovind luxuriated with a couple of eight footers—several complaints netted us near parity.)

I agreed to participate in the debate at the last minute, after the originally-scheduled date was changed and the first debater could not attend. The local skeptics/free thought campus group contacted me at once, encouraging me not to participate so as not to give Hovind—and by extension all creationists—the recognition that there is a real debate between evolution and creation. This has always been the position of such prominent evolutionary biologists as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, and they are, of course, correct—there is no debate. That issue was settled a century ago, and evolutionary theory won hands down. They are also right to note that public debate is not how the validity of scientific theories is determined. And, in any case, debate is a questionable forum to determine scientific truth because such an adversarial system more closely models the law, as Gould noted after the Arkansas creationism trial:

Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact—which they are very good at. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent’s position. They are good at that. I don’t think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial we had our victory party!

I had also been alerted to the fact that Hovind was under investigation by the I.R.S. for tax fraud and evasion, that he believes income tax is a tool of Satan to bring down the United States, democracy is evil and contrary to God’s law, and recommends the infamous anti-Semitic hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that he received his doctorate from a diploma mill, and that even Ken Ham’s creationist organization, Answers in Genesis, disavowed many of Hovind’s wackier beliefs in a fascinating web page document entitled “Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use”. I inquired of Pastor Jason if he was aware of these charges. He acknowledged that he was, and that his organization had looked into them; nevertheless, they wanted to stage a debate that had nothing to do with Hovind’s personal affairs or religious beliefs, and that was solely restricted to the scientific evidence for evolution and creation. Of course, I am aware that there is no scientific evidence in favor of creation, and that Hovind, like all creationists, can do nothing more than attack evolution in hopes that the default conclusion, obedient to the logical fallacy of the excluded middle (also known as the either-or fallacy and false dilemma fallacy), is that if evolution is wrong then creationism must be right. I entered the debate eyes wide shut to such extraneous matters. Hovind did not disappoint.

I wasn’t going to write an article about this debate, having already written about my debate with Duane T. Gish (in Why People Believe Weird Things) and having published a number of articles and essays debunking creationists’ arguments (see our booklet How to Debate a Creationist). But internet chatter on some free thought forums on the validity of such debates, as well as the assessment by two atheists in attendance that, “All-in-all, I would say that Hovind kicked some serious ass in the debate although he used every trick in the book to do it,” led me to pen a response to this and the larger issue of whether scientists have a duty to defend science when it is under attack (which, of course, we do), and what is the best strategy for marshalling such a defense.

I cannot speak for all scientists, of course, but the Skeptics Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit scientific research and educational organization with a goal (among many) of promoting and defending science. As such, it is our job to stand up to anti-science attacks, of which creationism has mounted ever since Darwin. Of course, there are ways to do this without giving public recognition to creationists that there is a real debate between evolution and creation, but if such debates are to be staged anyway, unless there is a universal moratorium among scientists to eschew all such activities, I reasoned, they are going to happen so we might as well meet them with wit and aplomb.

As a general rule that applies to most paranormal and supernatural claims, at the Skeptics Society we like to divide the world into three types of people: True Believers, Fence Sitters, and Skeptics. True Believers will never change their minds no matter what evidence is presented to them, and Skeptics already agree with us. The battleground is for the Fence Sitters—those who have heard something about the claim under question, wondered what the explanation for it might be, and perhaps speculated on their own or considered what other explanations have been proffered. Lacking a good explanation, the mind defaults to whatever explanation is on the table, regardless of how improbable it may be. If you don’t understand the physics of heat conductivity between hot coals and dead skin, the improbable theories of positive thinking, endorphins, or Chi power for how people can walk on hot coals barefoot without getting burned, emerge as probable. Before the science of biogeography was pioneered and developed in the 19th century by Alfred Russel Wallace, the default explanation for the distribution of species around the globe was independent creation and the Noachian flood (or, among more religiously-skeptical scientists, Lamarckian evolution and land bridges between continents and islands). Once Wallace and Darwin demonstrated how natural selection changes varieties into different species when they migrate into different climes, the supernatural explanation could be abandoned in favor of a natural one.

So, one reason for participating in such questionable debates is not to convert True Believers (since their positions are, by definition, non-negotiable), but to show the Fence Sitters that there is, in fact, a perfectly reasonable natural explanation for the apparently supernatural phenomenon under question. On a secondary level, we can also reinforce Skeptics with additional intellectual firepower they can use in their own debates with True Believers and Fence Sitters. On a tertiary level, we can witness to both cohorts that skeptics are thoughtful, witty, and pleasant, and sans horns, rancor, and pathos. To wit, I was handed several notes after the debate from professed Christians whose feedback lead me to conclude that at the very least they were convinced that skeptics are not Satanists. Here are two:

I am a believer of Creation. However, I wanted to tell you I respected your professionalism in your execution of what you had to say. I almost want to apologize on behalf of some Creationists present tonight.

I cannot say that I agree with you, but I would like to thank you for your professional presentation, unlike your opposition.

I began my opening statement (I went first) with a question: “How many believers in God are here tonight?” I estimate 90 percent of the audience raised their hands. I then looked at my watch and said, “Oh, would you look at the time” as I began to exit stage left. That broke up the audience and put them at ease. I then began my Powerpoint presentation with a slide of a crop circle with Skeptic.com carved in the middle of it, noting that in skepticism and science we are in search of natural explanations for phenomena—“Is it more likely that supernatural beings fashioned this crop circle or that natural beings created it with Photoshop?” Skepticism and science are verbs, not nouns, I said. These are activities to understand how the world works, not formalized positions one must defend regardless of evidence to the contrary. I then showed a slide of a cover of the tabloid World Weekly News featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and an alien, with the headline, ALIEN BACKS ARNOLD FOR GOVERNOR, concluding “Before we say something is out of this world, we must first make sure it is not in this world.” I added, parenthetically, that this is the first alien I have ever seen with a buffed build—triceps and biceps bulging after an Arnold workout! More laughter.

Then I got serious, explaining that there is no such thing as the creationist position to debate. There are, in fact, at least 10 different creationisms, as outlined in Eugenie Scott’s brilliant heuristic (available in Skeptic Vol. 10, No. 4). These include: Flat Earthers, Geocentrists, Young-Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Gap Creationism (in reference to a large temporal gap between Genesis chapter I:1 and chapter I:2, allowing an old earth), Day-Age Creationism (a “day” may be a geological epoch, allowing an old earth), Progressive Creationism (blending Special Creation with modern science), Intelligent Design Creationism (order and design in the world is proof of an intelligent designer), Evolutionary Creationism (God uses evolution to bring about the universe and life), and Theistic Evolution (nature creates bodies, God creates souls). I noted that Hovind would have to defend his creationism not just against evolution, but against all the other creationisms, including Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis, who have publicly disputed many of Hovind’s arguments.

Riffling through more slides I showed how many Christians, in fact, fully embrace the theory of evolution—I estimate 96 million American Christians, based on a 2001 Gallup Poll in which 37 percent of Americans (107 million people) agree with this statement: “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.” Since roughly 90 percent of Americans are Christians, this means about 96 million American Christians accept common genealogy, descent with modification, and an old earth (the figures are rough, but close enough to conclude that a hellova lot of Christians accept evolution). I then added that worldwide one billion Catholics embrace evolution, as explained by Pope John Paul II in a 1996 encyclical entitled Truth Cannot Contradict Truth (science and religion are both right):

New knowledge has led to the recognition that the theory of evolution is more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

I concluded this portion of my opening statement by noting that even Evangelical Born-Again Christians accept evolution, quoting President Jimmy Carter, in his response to an attempt by a Georgia school superintendent to ban the word “evolution” from biology textbooks:

As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox’s attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia’s students. The existing and long-standing use of the word ‘evolution’ in our state’s textbooks has not adversely affected Georgians’ belief in the omnipotence of God as creator of the universe. There can be no incompatibility between Christian faith and proven facts concerning geology, biology, and astronomy. There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat Earth in order to defend our religious faith.

I then moved to the most important slide of my presentation: the famous Sidney Harris cartoon of two scientists at a blackboard filled with equations, with the words “THEN A MIRACLE OCCURS” in the mathematical sequence. The caption has one scientist saying to the other: “I THINK YOU NEED TO BE MORE EXPLICIT HERE IN STEP TWO.” Again and again throughout the evening I drove home the point that creationists are doing nothing more than saying “then a miracle occurs.” This is the “god of the gaps” argument—wherever an apparent gap exists in scientific knowledge, this is where God interjects a miracle. I also noted, quite emphatically, that neither Hovind nor any other creationist would ever present positive evidence in support of their creationist position, because no such evidence exists. They can always and only attack the theory of evolution and hope that no one notices that they have said nothing that would lead to a creationist conclusion. They offer no mechanism for creationism.

(William Dembski’s “explanatory filter” is an attempt to reveal positive evidence for design, as is Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity,” both of which are thoroughly debunked in a number of scientific papers and books, and succinctly summarized in our How to Debate a Creationist booklet at www.skeptic.com.) Amazingly, even though I made this point at least half a dozen times throughout the evening, the two atheists in attendance who recounted my defeat on the Internet both completely missed this point: “Never did he even try to get Hovind to defend the proposition that creationism is true.” And: “I can assure you that he in no way pointed out that Hovind was neglecting his responsibility to show how and why creationism is true.” To the contrary, that was my primary argument and the foundation of everything I said.

The remainder of my 25-minute opening statement was dedicated to showing how the various lines of evidence converge to the conclusion that evolution happened. Here I did not pretend to be able to cover the vast numbers of natural facts that support evolution; instead, I focused on consilience—the “jumping together” of facts not related to one another. For example, paleoanthropologists have presented us a fossil record of human evolution quite in accord with that developed independently by geneticists. As I noted, it’s not like these scientists all meet on the weekends in some grand conspiracy. “Okay, look, there are these creationists like Hovind out there, so we’ve got to get our story straight. Let’s agree that we’ll tell everyone that humans and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor between six and seven million years ago, okay?” Interestingly, this approximates what many creationists think is actually happening in science, although Hovind’s is the weirdest conspiracy theory I’ve ever encountered along these lines, as he elucidated it in 1996, in his “Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution”:

There is definitely a conspiracy, but I don’t think that it is a human conspiracy. I don’t believe there is a smoke filled room where a group of men get together and decide to teach evolution in all the schools. I believe that it is at a much higher level. I believe that it is a Satanic conspiracy. The reason these different people come to the same conclusion is not because they all met together; it is because they all work for the devil. He is their leader and they don’t even know it.

(Another note given to me after the debate from “an Evangelist Christian—Born again,” reiterated this fear: “I just want to tell you that we fight against a spiritual world and Satan will do anything to blind your eyes from the truth. I just ask you to consider this as a possibility! I will be praying for you!”)

The moment Hovind spoke the debate was over. “I am here to win you over to Christ,” he began. “And I’m here to win Michael Shermer over to Christ.” With that, Hovind lost the debate. He was not there to debate evolution v. creation, or natural v. supernatural explanations. He was there to witness for the Lord (what we used to call “Amway with Bibles” when I was an Evangelical Christian at Pepperdine University). Everything he said from there on was superfluous: Dogs come only from dogs. Variations do not lead to new species. Design implies a designer. There is an afterlife. The Bible is literally true in everything it says. Humans used to live 900 years. There is no right and wrong without God. Noah’s flood explains geological formations and species distribution. Dinosaurs and humans lived simultaneously. Dinosaurs on the Ark were very young and small. Dinosaurs died in the flood. Radiometric dating is unreliable. Jesus said the universe is young. The Bible explains dinosaurs (“behemoth,” “leviathan”). The theory of evolution is a religion that leads to communism, abortion, and atheism. Evolutionists are liars. Scientists are arrogant (they call themselves “Brights”!). Creationists are not allowed to publish in scientific journals. Creationism is censored from public schools. Microevolution may be true, but macroevolution, organic evolution, stellar evolution, chemical evolution, and cosmic evolution are all lies perpetrated by the lying liars who worship at the faux religion of evolution. And, of course, Jesus died for our sins.

I began my 10-minute rebuttal by noting that Hovind is the only guy I know who can deliver a two-hour lecture in 25 minutes (he is the fastest talker I have ever met, with a voice like Ross Perot and a finish to each sentence that bespoke “so there!”). This elicited audience amusement. I again emphasized that Hovind had said nothing in support of the creationist position, that he only attacked the theory of evolution in hopes that the audience would then accept creationism by default, and with regard to his divine explanations for the origin of species, I reiterated “I think you need to be more explicit here in step two.” I explained that creationists do not publish in scientific journals because they do not do science; and that creationism is not taught in public school science courses because there is nothing to teach—“God did it” makes for a short semester.

Because Hovind had said he was pro-science, I emphasized that if Young Earth Creationists like him are right, then all of science goes out the window, not just evolutionary biology. If the earth is only 6,000 years old, then most of cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, geology, paleontology, archaeology, genetics, etc. are wrong. (Hovind gave several commercial plugs for his Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park that teaches children biblical-based science. For example, you can build your own Grand Canyon out of sand to see how quickly it can be done. You can participate in Jumpasaurus, a trampoline game where you toss a ball through a hoop and learn how you can do two things at once for Jesus. And your kids won’t want to miss out on the Nerve-Wracking Ball, where a bowling ball hangs from a tree limb and the child releases it to swing out and back just short of hitting him—he wins the game if he doesn’t flinch, thereby demonstrating his faith in God’s laws.)

I noted that the fakes and mistakes of science, trotted out by Hovind and other creationists, were all discovered, publicly revealed, and corrected by scientists, not creationists, and that the self-correcting machinery of science is what makes it so successful. I punctuated this point by noting the parallels between evolution deniers and Holocaust deniers, the latter of whom accuse Holocaust historians and survivors of lies and deceit in the same manner as the creationists accuse scientists, and that the strategy is no more effective and no less malevolent when employed by creationists. Finally, I suggested a number of tests of evolutionary theory: if Hovind could produce just one example of a trilobite embedded in a fossil bed containing hominids, I would concede that the theory of evolution is in trouble. No such disconfirmatory evidence exists, and creationists know it, which is why they always dodge this challenge.

During my rebuttal Hovind was furiously scanning through his hundreds of Powerpoint slides, preparing something for every point I made, most of them irrelevant and orchestrated to elicit derision and laughter. Even during the Q&A, Hovind was so facile at this process that by the time the moderator finished reading the question, he had a slide ready to go!

After the debate I was surrounded by a mob of Bible-totting students, most of whom were exceptionally polite, friendly, and desirous to know “why did you give up your faith?” The question is genuinely asked out of curiosity, but there is often a substrate inquiry implied in the voice and revealed in the eyes: “this couldn’t happen to me, could it?” When I answer in the affirmative that, indeed, it could happen to anyone who is intellectually honest in their search for answers to life’s most ponderous questions, I am sometimes accused of a false faith ab initio: “You were never really a Christian.” How convenient, and cognitively bullet-proof. But tell that to my annoyed siblings and non-Christian friends, who tolerated my nonstop evangelizing for seven years. The sentiments were quite real.

Who won the debate? Intellectually, I did, with Hovind once again conceding defeat on the last question of the evening: “What is the best evidence for the creation?” He answered: “The impossibility of the contrary” (evolution). In that simple statement, Hovind confessed the scientific sin of all creationists: Disproving evolution does not prove the creationist contrary. “And then a miracle happens” is not science. To Hovind and all creationists I say: I think you need to be more explicit here in step two.

If you were there and assessed the outcome from audience enthusiasm for either Hovind or me, however, then a different result might have been assessed, one that was, on one level, foreordained. With nine out of ten people in attendance for the sole purpose of rooting their team to victory, I stood about as much chance of winning them over as the Los Angeles Lakers would in convincing the fans of their bitter rivals, the Sacramento Kings, that they are the better basketball team, regardless of the score. The home-court advantage is a potent force in intellectual venues no less than athletic ones.

The problem is that this is not an intellectual exercise, it is an emotional drama. For scientists, the dramatis personae are evolutionists v. creationists, the former of whom have an impregnable fortress of evidence that converges to an unmistakable conclusion; for creationists, however, the evidence is irrelevant. This is a spiritual war, whose combatants are theists v. atheists, spiritualists v. secularists, Christians v. Satanists, godfearing capitalists v. godless communists, good v. evil. With stakes this high, and an audience so stacked, what chance does any scientist have in such a venue? Thus, I now believe it is a mistake for scientists to participate in such debates and I will not do another. Unless there is a subject that is truly debatable (evolution v. creation is not), with a format that is fair, in a forum that is balanced, it only serves to belittle both the magisterium of science and the magisterium of religion.

14 Comments »

14 Comments

  1. Aaron Myers says:

    Dear Mr. Shermer,

    First, let me say “thank you” for writing this article. I appreciate your candor and your unwavering commitment to skepticism. As a believer in Christ myself, I see nothing wrong with the need for “evidence to believe” (i.e. doubting Thomas). The Lord Jesus didn’t bash Thomas for his skeptical attitude; instead, He met him where he was and gave him the scientific evidence that he needed – real visual proof (physical holes in his hands and side).

    This being said, I have only one question for you and all other evolutionary scientists: How did it all begin? If science has taught us anything, it has taught us that you can’t get something from nothing – (no matter what that something is, whether it be gas, physical matter, etc., and no matter how small that something is). So that’s it – are you willing to break scientific law and say that actually something can come from nothing?

    Sincerely,
    Aaron Myers (a skeptic myself with regard to the evolutionary explanation for the birth of that very first “something”)

    • Patrick dePoortere says:

      I feel it is a shame that Mr Shermer: “believe[s] it a mistake for scientists to participate in such debates and I will not do another”. There is no doubt that in reaching out to those “cognitively bullet-proof” he has sown the seeds of rational thought and poked holes into the devices of the emotional dramatists.

      Oh and as a Catholic I have to say Pope John Paul II’s 1996 encyclical: Truth Cannot Contradict Truth, is inspired by Pope Pius XII 1950 encyclical: Humani Generis.

  2. -Fred Thorlin says:

    Some how, I suspect, when we get to add up all of the matter and subtract the anti-matter we will get a zero. You are right. You start with zero. You end with zero. And it is zero sum in between. But it is fun.

  3. Jeff Brinkman says:

    “If science has taught us anything, it has taught us that you can’t get something from nothing – (no matter what that something is, whether it be gas, physical matter, etc., and no matter how small that something is). So that’s it – are you willing to break scientific law and say that actually something can come from nothing?”

    As has been stated by many others more eloquent than myself, the earliest life was likely no more than simple molecules that could replicate. We’re not talking fully developed DNA here, but perhaps something more akin to simple RNA. In any case, it has been shown that given a source of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and a source of energy, amino acids will form. This may be all that was needed for the start of life. If this is, in fact, how life started, then it did indeed start from something, not nothing. I don’t think you could find a scientifically-educated evolutionist that claims life sprung from nothing.

    Regarding “evidence to believe”, a third-hand account from a 2000 year old book of a miracle isn’t scientific evidence. If you believe that it is then you do not fully understand the definition of either science or evidence.

  4. Andrew says:

    Skeptics and doubters make me laugh, its humerous seeing how closed-minded they are, rejecting everything there is, and for Mr. Shermer, i have nothing to say for him, all he does is try to shatter peoples dreams, hopes and beliefs….demolishing there faith by saying what they believe is wrong, well hopefully Shermer is reading this so he can see how wrong ‘HE’ is. Who is he to say whats real and what’s not? who is he to assure to everyone that what people believe is pure nonsense? who the hell does he think he is? Every show ive seen him on all he does is question everything, if someone says ‘up’, he says ‘down’, if someone says ‘left’, he says ‘right’…thats all he does, is trying to disprove what people believe, and belief is one of the most powerful emotion there is imaginable, and all he does is try to ruin that for people. I have no respect for him whatsoever.

    • matthatter says:

      That is SO BACKWARDS! Did you not understand any of what he wrote? It’s not about shattering dreams or any of that. It’s about looking for solutions & answers to questions, and following the evidence, even if you personally dislike the idea.
      You tell me what’s close-minded: I am willing to put ideas to the test in order to better understand the world around me, and then follow the evidence. Sometimes I have to adjust my worldview as I acquire more data, because I don’t know everything;
      or:
      The bible/koran/torah tells me what happened. I can’t really test any of it, & even the stuff I could test is irrelevant, because no matter what they may show, I won’t change my mind cuz God already told me what happened.
      Tell me Andrew, which one of those statements was close-minded? Ideas are only rejected when they show themselves to fold under testing, but it’s always open to revision. How much flexibility does religion offer?
      As for why he’s saying that to this audience, it’s because THEY INVITED HIM TO DEBATE! Are you KIDDING ME!? You know what a debate is, & why we have them, don’t you? He was there because there are people who are trying to eradicate the teaching of a valid, solidly founded branch of modern science because it offends them. That’s why. Do you REALLY NOT UNDERSTAND ALL OF THIS, or are you just being combative?
      I’ll wait to write more. For all I know you won’t reply. It IS an old thread. Hope to hear from you.

  5. Tony says:

    To Andrew I say that Mr. Shermer is only interested in the truth. The sort of anger you direct at him is no doubt similar to that directed at Copernicus when he attempted to help the church recognize the truth that the earth travels around the sun and not vice versa. The church believed that Copernicus was spewing pure nonsense too. I have the greatest respect for a person who attempts to reveal the truth to those who refuse to accept it in the face of irrefutable evidence, especially when that person knows it will draw anger and hatred from others.

  6. Will says:

    Maybe Andrew is a parody of a creationist. He cannot mean what he says seriously, can he?

    • Faye Kane, homeless brain says:

      Will, until 6th grade, I thought all the other kids were only PRETENDING to be that stupid.

      Then one day, when one of them backed up his “faith” with “works” by hitting another boy in the face, I realized that this is serious, and that “yes, the other kids really ARE that stupid”.

      If you haven’t already, you will soon discover the disappointment of:

      a) the horror of how stupid everyone else really is

      b) the horrible things stupid people do in the name of the stupid things they believe

      c) how those things they do are supplemented by more horrible stuff that evil smart people fool them into doing, like marching against better health care that costs the county half as much just by calling it “communism” and “nazism”.

      When you see WTF is really going on, I hope it leaves you more courageous than it left me, because the repeated blows of what I call “Cosmic Disappointment” induced me to quit my nuc engineer job, abandon “humanity”, and live for 3 years (so far) in a cave in the woods where I read hyperbolic geometry naked all day. (Yes really. Pix, google: faye kanecave lived here homeless now).

      PLEASE don’t listen to Dr. Shermer when he says to do what he and I do, which is just blow off the stupid people merely because the truth will win in the end.

      Yes, it will. But by being nonchalant (like him) and cowardly (like me), you doom yet more generations of stupid people to remain wrong, more evil people to get rich, and more smart kids to suffer the Cosmic Disappointment.

      ♥,

      – Faith “I hate my first name” Kane

  7. W. Corvi says:

    I was talking with a young-earth creationist one time about my field (astronomy), and evidently feeling beaten, he blurted, “On your deathbed, you’ll have real doubts!” I sweetly replied, “On YOUR deathbed, so will you.” He about went NUTS! This seemed to be the crux – he was very unsure of his own claims, but thought that if he could get me to believe them, it would strengthen his own, even if that getting me was in his own mind of winning the debate. I think he already HAD severe doubts, and it bothered him that I didn’t.

    The setting was, I was showing people the moon through my small telescope. Someone asked about the age of a certain crater. This fellow started preaching that the moon was made just a few thousand years ago, in its current form. He tried to deny that the craters were due to impacts, but were somehow instilled there by god. However, there is OVERWHELMING evidence that they were made by impacts, over billions of years. All visible in the telescope as we looked.

    • Faye Kane, homeless brain says:

      “This seemed to be the crux – he was very unsure of his own claims, but thought that if he could get me to believe them, it would strengthen his own”

      YES Corvi, that’s exactly right! That’s why they pontificate their ridiculous mythology so loudly. Christians who actually believe what Christ said are the ones who comfort the grief-stricken and never mention his name until someone else asks them why they care.

      They’re the ones who fed me in the homeless shelter and the only way you knew it was Christ-related was the sign on the door… and the fact they were feeding me.

      Christ didn’t want you to capitalize his name! He didn’t give a damn what you thought of his name or his book or the name of his book, he cared about HOW YOU TREAT OTHER PEOPLE.

      He wasn’t MAGIC, he was a damn good example.

      The “magic” is in US.

      But as for the aggressive loudmouths who confuse gentle compassion with belligerent ignorance: next time, after you crack his stupidity-shielding, don’t leave it at that or it will just grow back. Fire Phasers of Truth through the crack with something like “and the fact that I upset you means you even have doubts right NOW!”

      When he sputters and becomes even more off guard, hit him again. And again, and again, ruthlessly, until he shuts the fcuk up.

      You gotta remember: people’s LIVES are at stake here, the lives that will sink into the black, boiling tar of shame and guilt and sadness and fear if they become infected by this guy—and then spread the infection themselves.

      Remember NEVER to be afraid to attack hostile, disruptive stupid people with the most devastating weapon there is, because to the extent that truth matters, it CANNOT be defended against.

      You need never be afraid to, because to the extent it matters, truth also makes a completely invulnerable shield. Lies bounce off it when you reveal them as lies, and turn the wrath and ridicule of the observers back on the liars.

      When I think of Clarence Darrow light-sabreing Blowhard Bryan using only his tongue, I close my eyes and mentally bow to a superior Jedi.

      I urge you to discover the empowerment of pulling down a bellowing stupid person’s rhetorical pants and showing everyone his tiny, rhetorical d1ck.

      Once you do that, you’ll be add1cted. It’s just like being born again!

      …There is only one flaw in the above (and turn on the italic font here):

      Truth rarely matters when the audience is also unusually stupid

      …as Dr. Shermer discovered.

      ♥,

      — faye kane homeless brain

      • Faye Kane, homeless brain says:

        …And always remember:

        If we can’t do it with a ☺ on our face, if we can’t do it with ♥ in our ♥, then we ain’t got no right to do it at all, children.

  8. Karl says:

    I watched the entire debate on YouTube. Thank you Mr. Shermer for taking part in it.

    I did not see this debate live. At the time of the debate I was going through the personal painful process of discovering my understanding of science had been distorted many years from church sources. Later in 2005 I finally made my switch away from the church and then attended lectures of the Skeptic Society with Shermer.

    It was such a breath of fresh air for me. A new beautiful world view. I just wanted to say that if you ever question the validity of the work – I can tell you there are silent voices like mine where your message has gotten through.

    I am a layman that works in areas unrelated to science. But having gone from reading solely religious sources to subsequently reading from people like Shermer, Dawkins and Randi – I have my brain back.

    Yes, you probably lost the debate to the crowd in the room. But not to the hundreds of thousands that have viewed the debates on YouTube. You are awesome. You are brave. Thank you.

  9. Faye Kane, homeless brain says:

    Wow, that’s beautiful.

get eSkeptic
our free newsletter

Science in your inbox every Wednesday!

eSkeptic is our free email newsletter, delivered once a week. In it, you’ll receive: fascinating articles, announcements, podcasts, book reviews, and more…


Popular Articles
on skeptic.com

Here are the articles that people have been sharing over the last few days.

Carbon Comic

Carbon Comic (by Kyle Sanders)

Carbon Comic, which appears in Skeptic magazine, is created by Kyle Sanders: a pilot and founder of Little Rock, Arkansas’ Skeptics in The Pub. He is also a cartoonist who authors Carbon Dating: a skeptical comic strip about science, pseudoscience, and relationships. It can be found at carboncomic.com.

Help the
Skeptics Society
at no cost to you!

Planning on shopping at Amazon? By clicking on our Amazon affiliate link, which will open the Amazon Store in your Internet browser, the Skeptics Society will receive a small commission on your purchase. Your prices for all products remain the same, yet you’ll provide essential financial support for the work of the nonprofit Skeptics Society.

amazon.com

See our affiliate links page for Amazon.ca, Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble links.

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

Reality Check

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future

The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Topics include: chiropractic, the placebo effect, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the questionable benefits of organic food, detoxification, and ‘natural’ remedies.

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

Copyright © 1992–2014 Skeptic and its contributors. For general enquiries regarding the Skeptics Society or Skeptic magazine, email skepticssociety@skeptic.com or call 1-626-794-3119. Website-related matters: webmaster@skeptic.com. Enquiries about online store orders: orders@skeptic.com. To update your subscription address: subscriptions@skeptic.com. See our Contact Information page for more details. This website uses Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and AddThis tracking software.