The 1920s. It was a sad, sad time in America. All the biologists got together and, inspired by Darwinian writings, embarked on a campaign to sterilize those they perceived as unfit, the campaign known to us as Eugenics. From Eugenics grew other evils, such as Planned Parenthood, Modern Evolutionary Biology, and The Nazis.
Or so intoned John West of the Creationist Discovery Institute, in a talk ending just moments ago at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus.
The talk itself was rather sad, not just the apocryphal topic. It was executed with a modicum, but only a modicum, of expertise. Armed with a PowerPoint Presentation on Steroids, West supplied Ken Burns style reconstructions (and I do mean reconstructions!) of historical figures saying offensive things steeped in a Darwinian mode. Whenever the recorded voice-overs of West’s PowerPoint slides mentioned either humans or animals, usually in the same sentence, sounds from the barnyard … mooing and lowing of cattle, that sort of thing, would rise in the background. (This did not impress the Minnesota audience … we are quite used to the background sound of farm animals and such. I can only say I’m quite glad the talk did not happen on the Saint Paul campus, where there actually is a substantial herd of cattle and several dozen swine and sheep, where the West’s bovine accompaniment may have provoked a stampede…..)
You’ve heard the argument. Darwin. Then Darwinian Biology. Then Natural Selection Turned Into Eugenics. Then the Nazis. Then Scientists Wanting to Take Over the World by insisting that scientific opinion on such thins as Global Warming, Stem Cells and HIV as a cause of Aids matter. How dare those scientists.
It was an awful talk, annoying as hell, and I don’t need to summarize it for you any further.
And the audience was about half full of trained monkeys. These were the Christian Youths of the student organization that sponsored the talk, together with the usual characters who go to all the Creationists talks … and the evolutionists talks … here in the twin cities.
In this photograph, PZ Myers has made a loud distrcting noise so that they could turn around for me to get a shot of them:
Fortunately for those of us who attended the talk for masochistic reasons and an overblown sense of duty, Mark Borrello was there to take John West down a couple of notches. Mark only got ten minutes. He was supplied with a copy of the talk/paper he was asked to critique only three days ago, even though it had been available for months. The people running the show could not manage to turn off the projector, so a blue screen of death was shining in Mark’s face the whole time. And the moderator was an incompetent boob, or actually, a very sly fox pretending to be an incompetent boob so that he could cover up his errors in procedure that always favored the DI and never favored the attending Scientists. He could not get Mark’s name right. I mean, it’s true, Mark has one of those odd ethnic names and all, but he should have at least tried. And so on.
Nonetheless, Mark Kicked Ass.
He pointed out that West Argument only involved mention of four biologists, and that many biologists were thinking, saying, doing different things than suggested by West. He pointed out West’s cherry picking of history and his quote mining. He pointed out that the same populous that favored forced sterilization also was opposed to evolution and Darwinism, which very much undermined West’s argument.
Then, after Mark got his 10 minute commentary, the audience was asked for questions. The moderator started walking towards a particular audience member even before she put up her hand .. and gave her the mike. Here is a picture of her:
We call her “the Hat Lady” because she always wears hats like this and always shows up at these events. Clearly, this was a setup. The Hat Lady’s question:
“I’d like Dr. West to respond to all of Mr. Morillo’s (sic) Points”
So, for ten minutes West blathered on an on and on.
But at one point, Mark could not take it any more. I mean, it was painful to watch. I saw him down there squirming in his seat, going absolutely nuts. Finally, Mark jumped to his feet and the two of them had a knock-down drag out in which John West was very resoundingly put in his place. Here is a picture of Mark kicking his ass:
Eventually, no matter how hard the “incompetent boob” of a moderator tried, he had to hand the mike over to … you guessed it… PZ Myers.
Here’s a picture of PZ asking his question:
PZ actually made two points:
1) “Oh, that stuff you said about what Darwin Said in the Descent of Man? I’ve got it right here on my computer … you left out a couple of things….” You can imagine the rest, and I could tell you the rest, but I’m sure PZ is going to want to blog about that the moment he gets home…
2) One of West’s evidences regarding eugenics was the effort to stem the tide of immigration in the name of Darwinian models of how society should be contorted and culled. Well, PZ pointed out that it is actually the anti-evolution right wing that has this sort of anti-immigrant policy. By this time West was tiring, and this was a knock out blow by PZ. West staggered, and fell unconscious and that was the end of the session. Here we are dancing around his unconscious, livid body:
I should also mention that Kristin Hartley got in a good shot when she pointed out that John West and his colleagues appear to not understand the Germ Theory and the link between HIV and AIDS. It was great to see Kristine and also Mike.