Pharyngula

Noooooo! I’m a proud graduate of the University of Oregon, and I think Eugene is a wonderful place…and now I learn that damned dumb creationists were drooling stupidly in the student union. Three creationists lectured on their nonsense there.

There was Tom Alderman.

There is “a mountain of evidence that the universe was designed,” he said.

“Design has been proven to an extreme probability,” he said.

No, there is no evidence for design, let alone “proof” of design—even the fact that he is talking about proof shows that he knows nothing about how science works.

At least he nakedly revels in the religious foundation of Intelligent Design creationism.

“I’m confident that Genesis is true,” he said. “God’s deity and power are revealed in the cosmos.”

Alderman said that the Big Bang must have had a cause that is timeless and immaterial.

“It sounds like the God from the Bible,” he said.

Alderman’s qualification to pontificate on this subject is that he’s a lawyer. A Republican lawyer. Surprised?

Then there’s Geoffrey Simmons.

Simmons said many animals, such as giraffes and blue whales, have no fossils on record or any record of species from which they could have evolved. Simmons said intelligent design supports the theories of natural selection and survival of the fittest, but neither of those theories proves evolution.

“Billions of years isn’t enough time,” Simmons said. “Nobody has shown that a dog can become a cat.”

Evolution of whales? No fossil giraffes? Jebus, do I even need to mention that this bs about dogs evolving into cats is insane? This guy is totally out to lunch.

His qualifications? He’s an MD (Sorry, Orac.) If I ever visit Eugene again, I’m going to try and stay very healthy.

Next up, Jim Long. A professor at UO! Fortunately, he doesn’t say anything nearly as stupid as the other two guys, but man, he ought to be embarrassed by the company he is keeping; could he at least have had the integrity to point out that his fellow speakers were making up nonsense?

Long said that he does not include evolution in his curriculum; instead, he teaches that a creator designed the cell with impressive power and subtlety.

He’s an emeritus professor of chemistry who seems to be teaching a bit of general and organic chemistry. I doubt that he has much opportunity to teach that baloney about cells—cells and evolution wouldn’t be in his purview.

There are only a few comments on the article at the Daily Emerald site, but at least they’re all pointing out that these speakers were full of it.


Wilkins takes apart the pathetic trio piece by piece, and I’m informed that the honor of the UO is saved by the fact that Eugenie Scott will be giving two lectures there next week, and Bruce Alberts will be lecturing on the teaching of evolution the week after that.

Comments

  1. #1 dogscratcher
    May 4, 2006

    Having the lecture wasn’t bad; freedom of speech and all that don’t you know, but the reporter who wrote about it did no fact checking. There was enough counter-factuality there he should have at least gotten contrasting voices.

  2. #2 razib
    May 4, 2006

    jim long taught the full year honors gen chem lab sequence which i took my freshmen year, and, i also took an organic course from him. i had no idea he was evangelical christian until i went to his office once and saw some of his material (he has links from his website too last i checked). i am not surprised about his beliefs re: ID, but i would like to see a full transcript of what he said. he sure as hell never peeped a word about god or evolution in the 1 1/3 years i took courses from him, but he was teaching chemistry.

    btw, just an FYI, he is generally pretty well liked by undergrads. it is pretty cool that he takes time out to remember your first name and say hi to you in the hall in your first week of classes at a big university.

  3. #3 Kristine
    May 4, 2006

    There is a “mountain of evidence” for design? Agh! Where have I heard the phrase “mountains of evidence” before? I call theft from Dawkins!

    “Simmons, author of ‘What Darwin Didn’t Know’…” I think you’re being ripped off here, too, PZ. “[Simmons] said the improbability of our solar system being placed in The Milky Way Galaxy, a safe place away from black holes or exploding stars, shows an intelligent designer.” So why, pray tell, are those nasty black holes out there in the first place? No, don’t tell me. I’m sure they have an answer (like, “Universes that think naughtly thoughts get blackheads”).

    “He said the location of our planet in relation to the sun — the perfect distance to avoid scalding off our skin or freezing it the bone — shows a designer as well.” Well, hell, I’ll just run around without sunscreen or a coat and see how long I last. At least the comments were funny. “Those three Stooges didn’t know what they were talking about.” Priceless.

  4. #4 Chris Thorpe
    May 4, 2006

    PZ, fellow Duck Alum here-fellow fish person also, btw. Very dissapointed to see one of my favorite professors Jim Long, slumming with those two fools. Great guy, engaging teacher. He only taught General Chem back in the day-doubt that he would have much need to discuss evolution in his classes. But he lends an unfortunate patina of scientific credibility to the stock blather of the other guys.

    Eugene is pretty stony ground for ID to take hold in. Now, if they proposed that life was designed by a coven of anarchist Wiccans riding solar powered unicycles, maybe they’d have a shot. I’d move back in a heartbeat, even though it would mean running into Frog and his joke books every day again on 13th St.

  5. #5 BlueIndependent
    May 4, 2006

    PZ, I think it’s time for you to dash into the next phone booth, and emerge as the EVOLVANATOR!

    Joking aside, perhaps you should assemble your own team of ID-thumping biologists and give a set of speeches at UO. After all, this is about free speech…

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    May 4, 2006

    Heh. I’ve got a couple of Frog’s joke books somewhere around here, too.

  7. #7 razib
    May 4, 2006

    frog seems more low key recently.

  8. #8 razib
    May 4, 2006

    p.s. the UofO bio dept. is being pretty active in including commentary on ID (anti) in its classes. i’ve heard from friends that stuff is being included in classes like molecular genetics or microbiology where you normally wouldn’t hear much about evolution. i think it was a decision from up top and the faculty were encouraged to step out on this issue.

  9. #9 SteveG
    May 4, 2006

    I’ve been working on the unpublished writings of Hans Reichenbach, a student of Einstein who became a bulldog for relativity in the popular and semi-popular presses of Weimar Germany. It is amazing to look at the similarity in the objections to Einstein at that time (a chorus of off-key notes, he once referred to it) and the objections to evolution today. It is eery how much alike the campaigns are.

  10. #10 with a Y
    May 4, 2006

    … If the subject matter didnt give it away, the fact that this even was sponsored by a group of campus christians sealed the deal that this was NOT a scientific inquiry.

    As you may recall, in Eugene everyone is given a forum to talk, even the foolish and misguided.

  11. #11 Stanton
    May 4, 2006

    Is it wrong of me to think that this Geoffery Simmons is a gibbering moron?
    He says that there are no fossil giraffes, nor blue whales, nevermind about Shivatherium, Libyatherium, or Cetotherium
    I mean, you might as well say “Since God doesn’t exist, neither does the Bible exist.”
    That sounds just as moronic.
    I’m unsure, if I were to get an infected cut, whether to let him treat it, or die of septicemia.

    Richard Simmons sounds more intelligent than this overbearing twit.

  12. #12 Dustin
    May 4, 2006

    I’ve been working on the unpublished writings of Hans Reichenbach, a student of Einstein who became a bulldog for relativity in the popular and semi-popular presses of Weimar Germany. It is amazing to look at the similarity in the objections to Einstein at that time (a chorus of off-key notes, he once referred to it) and the objections to evolution today. It is eery how much alike the campaigns are.

    SteveG, I don’t suppose you’re going to be making those available for publication soon? “The Direction of Time” is one of my favorite books.

  13. #13 SteveyD
    May 4, 2006

    A week ago at the University of Utah, some loud guy and his quieter friend set up a little anti-evolution sidewalk show. I was just walking by to get a bite to eat, and noticed his first sign: Evolution is wrong because Hovind is offering 250,000 to prove it right. I couldn’t help but walk over there. It was encouraging that the crowd he drew was completely against him. Why is it creationists can only debate by the method of shouting over you before you can finish a statement? He asked where all the transitional fossils were, I said there were plenty of them and named Tiktaalik and Archaeopteryx. He said archaeopteryx was a fake. No proof cited of course, let alone explaining how the 10 or so specimens discovered could all be fakes. Five minutes later someone came back with a 10 page printout all about archaeopteryx for this deluded fool. When he told me Lucy was a human rib cage and a chimp femur I about flipped. I just finished a 5000 level course on Human Form, Function, and Evolution and the subject of Lucy’s hip and femur was often brought up. It’s painfully obvious that so many creationists have never even bothered to take a look at the evidence, just willingly gulp down the shit people like Hovind are shoveling at them.

    The creationist message from coast to coast seems the same, regardless of who is pitching it: “We lack the mental capacity and/or the desire to understand evolution, therefore it is wrong (and you are going to Hell for believing it).”

  14. #14 386sx
    May 4, 2006

    Alderman said that the Big Bang must have had a cause that is timeless and immaterial.

    “It sounds like the God from the Bible,” he said.

    Alderman’s qualification to pontificate on this subject is that he’s a lawyer. A Republican lawyer. Surprised?

    I’m only surprised that he thought it sounded like the God of the Bible. I would have thought that it sounded to him like the almighty dollar. Or maybe a giant bow tie. Or maybe an American flag pin on a really big lapel or something.

  15. #15 udargo
    May 5, 2006

    “He [Dr. Geoffrey Simmons] said the improbability of our solar system being placed in The Milky Way Galaxy, a safe place away from black holes or exploding stars, shows an intelligent designer. He said the location of our planet in relation to the sun — the perfect distance to avoid scalding off our skin or freezing it the bone — shows a designer as well.”

    Does anybody remember that episode of Three’s Company where the dumb blond (Chrissy? Played by Suzanne Sommers) reduces her doctor to tears of delirious laughter with a series of observations about how clever God is, saying things like “and isn’t it great how he designed our face so that our nose is in just the right place and our ears are in just the right place so that we can wear eyeglasses?”

    I mean, when someone can get that confused about a basic cause and effect relationship is there any appropriate response other than delirious laughter?

    Boy, I wish I could get a copy of that little routine she did. The way I remember it, it would be great to have at a debate over ID.

  16. #16 quork
    May 5, 2006

    There is “a mountain of evidence that the universe was designed,” he said.

    Maybe he’s talking about Mt. Rushmore.

  17. #17 Marc Geerlings
    May 5, 2006

    [begin quote]
    The improbability of our solar system being placed in The Milky Way Galaxy, a safe place away from black holes or exploding stars, shows an intelligent designer.
    [end quote]

    Reminds me of Douglas adams famous puddle of water:

    To illustrate the vain conceit that the universe must be somehow preordained for us, because we are so well suited to live in it, he mimed a wonderfully funny imitation of a puddle of water, fitting itself snugly into a depression in the ground, the depression uncannily being exactly the same shape as the puddle.

  18. #18 Robin Zebrowsk
    May 5, 2006

    I’m a graduate student at the U of Oregon, and when I saw the fliers around campus for this drivel I actually took pictures of them so I could remember just when the talk was. And stay far far away.

    Thankfully, I was at a conference in France at the time, but I’m glad you posted about it. I had been wondering how it went.

    I’m not surprised people in Eugene would rather believe in magic, but I’m annoyed that it had to happen in the academic setting.

    I *really* need to hurry up and get cafe scientifique up and running here in Eugene.

  19. #19 Skemono
    May 5, 2006

    The creationist message from coast to coast seems the same, regardless of who is pitching it: “We lack the mental capacity and/or the desire to understand evolution, therefore it is wrong (and you are going to Hell for believing it).”

    Yeah. Some of them are even honest enough to admit it:

    I don’t get evolution so I just believe in intelligent design because that’s what I’ve been taught and that’s what I know more about.

    Granted, she’s only 14, so she probably hasn’t learned to toe the line and claim that it was the evidence that swayed her.

  20. #20 zilch
    May 5, 2006

    udargo, Pangloss said it, in Voltaire’s Candide, in 1759:
    “It is demonstrable,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for all being created for an end, all is necessarily for the best end. Observe, that the nose has been formed to bear spectacles — thus we have spectacles. Legs are visibly designed for stockings — and we have stockings. Stones were made to be hewn, and to construct castles — therefore my lord has a magnificent castle; for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Pigs were made to be eaten — therefore we eat pork all the year round. Consequently they who assert that all is well have said a foolish thing, they should have said all is for the best.”

  21. #21 JP
    May 5, 2006

    ‘nother UO alum here. This is definitely not surprising. The fundies feel especially opressed in places like Eugene, so I would expect they need to make themselves feel good with periodic displays of this sort.
    It’s more surprising that there wasn’t an anti-evolution talk by Eugene’s more prominant anti-science faction: the “hippies”. Y’know, the “I take any drugs except pot or ‘shrooms, because they are natural, man.” and alt-medicine is better than real medicine people because scientists are controlled by corporations.

  22. #22 JP
    May 5, 2006

    Rather: “I don’t take any drugs except pot or ‘shrooms, because they are natural, man.”
    Damn morning.

  23. #23 SteveG
    May 5, 2006

    Dustin,

    It will be coming out in the beginning of July under the title “Defending Einstein: Hans Reichenbach’s Early Writings on Space, Time and Motion” from Cambridge University Press.

    “Direction of Time” is a wonderful book. It is such a shame he isn’t better known. He was such a clear thinker and great writer. I conducted oral history interviews with his widow and daughter. Amazing guy.

  24. #24 The Science Pundit
    May 5, 2006

    “p.s. the UofO bio dept. is being pretty active in including commentary on ID (anti) in its classes.”

    I thought the UfO bio dept. was all about realleans and scientologists? You know “Intelligent Panspermia” and all … oh wait a minute, you said UofO. Never mind. 🙂

  25. #25 llane1@unl.edu
    May 5, 2006

    “mountains of evidence” = mountains of bullshit

  26. #26 Orac
    May 5, 2006

    Ack! Not another creationist physician! Look at his book What Darwin Didn’t Know: A Physician Dissects the Theory of Evolution.

    It’s a perfect example of what I’ve been bitching about, doctors falsely using their status as physicians to lend a false authority to their creationist twaddle!

  27. #27 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 5, 2006

    “Alderman said scientists believe humans are complex machines without free will. Scientists prejudice their conclusions by ignoring the human consciousness”

    I’m amazed that they don’t appeal to the soul any longer. But it still clashes with ID’s own “”A single cell … It’s like all the factories in this country combined.”” of course.

    “Simmons said scientists do not ask what happened before the Big Bang.”

    I’ve lost count of all the cosmologies proposed that embeds Big Bang in a larger setting, cyclic universes, ekpyrotic universes, endless inflation multiverses, … There must have been hundreds of scientists working on this, at least several orders of magnitude more than working on ID. ID is a fly dropping on the back of a large cat. (Elephant? Noo, governments are dusty elefants; science is a sleek and fast cat.)

  28. #28 Kristine
    May 5, 2006

    “When he told me Lucy was a human rib cage and a chimp femur I about flipped.” And I bet he didn’t mention her pelvis, which shows that she walked as upright as you and me, because he couldn’t say the word without blushing, the skunk.

    Don’t diss Lucy, creationists! I brook no dissing of Lucy.

  29. #29 rrt
    May 5, 2006

    It occurs to me there might be an interesting (if labor-intensive) approach to countering such presentations.

    Depending on the location of the talk, a team of people could set up a few tables, chairs, and conference-boot-style displays, easels, etc., preferrably at the back of the presentation space, but just outside, if necessary. They would also take wireless laptops (internet access), a printer or two, a compact copier, extension cords, and a bunch of books/materials.

    The team would then quietly pin up the facts/rebuttals to the creationist claims as they come up. Sure, they’d end up lagging behind, but some would be easier than others, such as posting nice color printouts of giraffe and whale fossils within a few minutes of Mr. Simmons’ ridiculous utterances regarding them. Some preparation would allow some responses to be very quick, such as “oh, ‘why are there still apes?’ That’s all ready to go in the filebox there, under ‘A’.” Presumably one person would be making a list of whoppers and handing them out to the rest of the team to chase down.

    Ideally, the team would gradually attract attention, and some members would be designated to interact with them…all very quietly, of course. The idea here is that this would not be a disruptive action at all on the part of the team…the only thing disruptive would be (potentially) the audience’s response to the evidence.

    Crazy?

  30. #30 Sastra
    May 5, 2006

    “‘Isn’t it wonderful that God put us here on earth, where there’s water and air and the surface temperature and gravity are so comfortable, rather than some horrid place, like Mercury or Pluto?’ Where else in the solar system other than on earth could we have evolved?” (Steven Weinberg)

  31. #31 Keith Douglas
    May 5, 2006

    A note: My father is a chemist by training and lets me borrow his Chemistry and Engineering News issues when he’s done reading them. I’ve noticed that (appallingly) there are routinely creationists and anthropogenic climate change deniers writing to complain about the editorial policy of the journal (which, rightly, espouses the scientific consensus on both issues).

    udargo: There’s an easy reference for that argument – Voltaire, in Candide.

    SteveG: I’m pleased to see a fellow philosopher using social science methods to obtain data … 🙂 (re: interviews)

  32. #32 tim gueguen
    May 5, 2006

    If there is such a thing as parallel universes no doubt some equivalent of these guys is busy arguing that the fact that their planet Ijondsf isn’t closer to the sun Jospi’klll is proof of Intelligent Design. After all if it were closer water would get above the freezing point, which is of course incompatible with intelligent life like theirs. “The fact that we live on a planet like this is proof of a Designer. If we lived closer to the Jospi’klll there would be liquid water everywhere and we’d drown.”

  33. #33 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 5, 2006

    Let’s continue attacking ID when it has exposed its throat, it’s fun. (It does so alarmingly often, but that’s what happens when you lack a head.) The latest Big Bang embedding cosmology is published in Science as we write, a type of counterargument fact that will never disturb an IDiot. (Lacking a head ID seems to lack eyes. Alas, it is poorly designed.)

    A note about todays Science paper is here http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1768191,00.html?gusrc=rss , and a Cosmic Variance post discussing the bad journalism in that note is here http://cosmicvariance.com/2006/05/04/bad-science-journalism/ .

  34. #34 echinosc
    May 5, 2006

    Interestingly, just up the road in Corvallis (home of Oregon State University) in the same week, Stevan Arnold, an evolutionary biologist, gave a public seminar: “Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Biology: When Worlds Collide”
    http://www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2006/05/01/news/community/monloc01.txt

    OK, PZ…maybe I wanted to mention it as a not-so-subtle beavs vs. ducks ribbing, but it was well attended!

  35. #35 NelC
    May 5, 2006

    “…isn’t it great how he designed our face so that our nose is in just the right place and our ears are in just the right place so that we can wear eyeglasses?”

    Wasn’t that Dr Pangloss in Candide? What an unexpected place to find such a classic.

  36. #36 megpie71
    May 6, 2006

    Well, I’m willing to believe that the universe was designed… by a committee. This would explain so very much – such as the existence of things like the platypus, the common cold, the fact that the toast falls butter side down on the carpet, and a few other oddities like that. Then again, I’m pagan pantheist, and my personal creation mythos involves a committee of the trickster gods getting together to create themselves a playground (again, it explains *so* much).

    In the meantime, I’m willing to accept physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, and soforth as an explanation for why we’re here (both philosophically and geographically). Heck, for all we know, these may well be the tools of the gods (and who says they’ve finished whatever it was, anyway?).

  37. #37 Paladin165
    May 6, 2006

    “even the fact that he is talking about proof shows that he knows nothing about how science works.”

    Well, the thing that bugs me about this site is, you guys sure act like you have proof of atheism. And you can be pretty mean-spirited about it too.

  38. #38 mechadendrion
    May 7, 2006

    I can’t believe you’re shocked that a school with a class in “ghost hunting” would allow an ID debate. There is an appalling number of retarded hippies (that’s right hippies…in EUGENE) that believe in ID just because it’s not part of the mainstream science that invented deoderant.

  39. #39 Gary Hurd
    May 8, 2006

    Perfect timing, my cheap (used- like new) copy of “What Darwin Didn’t Know” just arrived. Along with it came “Darwinian Fairtales” by David Stove. I recon’ that combined they account for a net temporary lost of 15 IQ points, or roughly one sigma. About the same as a six pack of beer in an afternoon.

    In fact that is a darn good idea- I’ll combine the books and the beer and maybe later Fox TV will make some sense. The hangover will hurt, but that is always the risk one takes in this buisness. At least it isn’t a long term debility.

  40. #40 island
    May 9, 2006

    I hope that you read all of my comments, PZ.

    http://www.dailyemerald.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/05/04/4459ebe96853b

    island has a website, therefore he is a crackpot
    -PZ Meyers

    I rest my case.

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