Pharyngula

Recall those threats made against evolutionary biologists at the University of Colorado at Boulder? You can read the text of some of them at the Panda’s Thumb now. This is clearly the work of a deranged Christian cultist and creationist kook. We at the Panda’s Thumb also know who the author was, since he didn’t conceal his identity in the letters, and have tracked down his website, and yeah, he’s one of those wacky creationists and a fervent convert to Christianity from Judaism (we are not linking to that information until the police or other sources confirm it).

The most genuinely contemptible reaction to this whole affair belongs to the Discovery Institute. They complain that the letters are unlikely to have come from a real religious person, because with their deep, clever minds and great insight into the workings of the religious mind, they claimed that ‘Rarely do Christian groups refer to their own “religious beliefs”’ … which is news to me. I should point out that it took only a moment with google to find individual articles on the DI’s website that use the phrase “religious beliefs” 3 times, 9 times, even 11 times. Oh, and in case they try to make the lame excuse that they are a secular organization (we can all see through that pretense, of course), it’s similarly easy to find that the Catholic League frequently uses the phrase. Perhaps Bill Donohue isn’t a True Christian™?

Then, to complete the sliming on flimsy grounds, they state that they suspect it was the work of neither creationists nor Christians — implying what? That it was some godless biologist threatening harm? — and compare it to the Paul Mirecki case, implying that he was beat up by some wicked ‘Darwinist,’ too.

This is a case where the DI is clearly shown to be wrong. Don’t expect any retractions from them, though.

Comments

  1. #1 afterthought
    July 11, 2007

    You would think they would wait long enough to know
    that the weirdo(s) were not easily identifiable.
    The DI folk seem to be very stupid. Yeah, no surprise there,
    but still… what morons.

  2. #2 flame821
    July 11, 2007

    Oiy vey, those emails are progressing quickly from annoying to alert the mental hospitals and get the tranquilizer guns ready.

    I do hope that the police are taking this seriously and that no one from the university is harmed. Who ever would have thought that teaching would become such a danger filled career?

    Hell, nowadays it seems just being a science geek is enough to get you verbally assaulted. But on the plus side, male geeks are becoming something of a fetish ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. #3 wrg
    July 11, 2007

    I suppose that statement derives from the same inappropriate literalness that leads creationists first to be creationists and then to quote-mine. Apparently, to the pathologically literal mind, a statement beginning “it basically said” must contain a direct quote from the document.

  4. #4 Shishberg
    July 11, 2007

    Blah blah No true Scotsman fallacy blah blah blah.

  5. #5 Callandor
    July 11, 2007

    Once again I’m forced to ask a question I can’t seem to find a good answer to: just how the hell do these people live with themselves? Compassion, integrity, honesty, conscience — are these all buzzwords to these nuts?

  6. #6 Alan Kellogg
    July 11, 2007

    No real man gives a damn for what some ass says no real man would do.

  7. #7 Brian X
    July 11, 2007

    wrg:

    Those who are far too sure of themselves often have a problem with paraphrasing and abstraction.

    Whoever this is needs to be watched carefully — ain’t no zealotry like the zealotry of a convert.

  8. #8 Altabin
    July 11, 2007

    OK, well I guess I was wrong to think this was a student prank (as I suggested in the last thread). But I still think we need to avoid getting too worked up about this. The report on PT prefaces the final letter with the comment:

    the following is an excerpt of what was recently sent to Professor Grant and several other faculty members in EEB. Many of the EEB faculty consider it very dangerous and possibly a death threat.

    yet the letter actually begins:

    “Pastor Jerry Gibson spoke at Doug Whites New Day Covenant Church in Boulder.
    He said that every true Christian should be ready and willing to take up arms to kill the enemies of Christian society.
    But I believe it is far more effective to take up a pen to kill the enemies of Truth.

    That is, the author is explicitly distancing himself from threats of physical violence; he will take up a pen to “kill” the enemies of truth. That is clearly a metaphor.

    The guy’s obviously deranged, but doesn’t seem in the least dangerous – just full of bluster about bringing lawsuits and accusations of Darwinists being “murderer[s] of souls” (an epithet I embrace with pride – MWAHAHAHA!). Clearly the guy should be fed to the lions – but, if they won’t let us do that anymore, he needs help (or to be ignored). I can understand why biologists at Boulder are freaked out – *really* I can. But this doesn’t seem worthy of the publicity it’s getting.

    I *would* like to know who this Jerry Gibson is, though. Google didn’t turn up anything – does anyone have any information on this person who is apparently urging others to take up (non-metaphorical) arms in the name of Christ? If that quote is accurate, then he’s the scary f#cker in this story.

  9. #9 Kimpatsu
    July 11, 2007

    Ag, the “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy. I actually hear it quite often. The conversation runs thus:
    Xian: “Xians are morally superior to atheists.”
    Me: “So what about the Inquisition, the Catholic Church’s conniving to conceal child abuse, and the bombing of abortion clinics (to name but three examples)?”
    Xian: “Ah, but the people who do that are not real Xians.”
    What bunk!

  10. #10 386sx
    July 11, 2007

    Wow no wonder Mr. Crowther likes dinosaurs walking with people. He is a dinosaur walking with people. Wow Mr. Crowther learn how to use the google thingy. It’s the latest rage dood!!!

  11. #11 mena
    July 12, 2007

    flame821 (#2), male geeks were always a fetish.
    Well, maybe that’s just me. ;^)

  12. #12 Skeptic8
    July 12, 2007

    Gents,
    What can we expect from Islam with respect to these topics as a realistic assessment? Our “fatih based” President proposes to bring many of his Iraqui ‘friends’ to the USA without ‘converting’ them first. Will they join with the ‘fundamentalist’ believers to to initiate a Christian realignment of our secular sinfulness or opt for a Dominionist compromise with Shariah law? Let’s look beyond our borders!

  13. #13 raven
    July 12, 2007

    The DI is lying. Not even a good lie. Unbelievable. The cops have a lot of evidence on this guy, a years worth of harrassment of UC, Boulder.

    He isn’t a hoaxing, mischeivous grad student having some fun. He is a christian of some sort and a creo.

    He is also deranged. The escalating pattern of delusions and threats is a bad sign. Psychs. look at escalation in craziness as the best indicator that someone will end up killing a few people. Or a few dozen. This isn’t brain surgery. Even Egnor could figure it out. Well maybe not him but most neurosurgeons could.

    The hallmarks of fundie cultists.
    1. They lie a lot. Constantly.
    2. They are very good at hating. They hate a lot.

    These are representatives of the “who would Jesus torture, rape, and kill faction of Xianity.”

  14. #14 John McKay
    July 12, 2007

    I was rather horrified at how lightly many of the Panda’s Thumb readers took this nut. They made jokes about how bad his arguments and grammar were while ignoring the fact that he is clearly a stalker on a trajectory toward violence. In the few samples printed there, he goes from “I think you should be nicer to me” to “I demand you pay attention to me” to “I will report you to people who will end your career” to “I know people who think you should be killed.” Having the police tell him how things work is not going to help at this point. This guy needs to be brought in for a psychological evaluation with the word “stalker” specifically mentioned. He is more than a sincere believer who got a bit carried away with his words (or whatever “boys will be boys” excuse the local police want to offer for inaction). He’s dangerous.

  15. #15 chiropetra
    July 12, 2007

    “Compassion, integrity, honesty, conscience — are these all buzzwords to these nuts?”

    — By their fruits ye shall know them. (I think that’s from the Bible somewhere.)

    Or in this case, by their fruitcakes…

  16. #16 MartinM
    July 12, 2007

    Perhaps Bill Donohue isn’t a True Christian??

    Given the attitude of most evangelical fundies towards Catholics; probably not, no.

  17. #17 MGrant
    July 12, 2007

    I share a name with Professor Grant. Small world.

    I really have nothing more to say. That’s weapons grade stupid he was faced with in those emails.

  18. #18 Peter Kemp (Aussie Lawyer)
    July 12, 2007

    For the legal record: While threats such as in that last example linked by PZ:

    He said that every true Christian should be ready and willing to take up arms to kill the enemies of Christian society…

    For all these reason all God-fearing and Truth-loving persons must say,

    They must go!

    may not attract criminal sanctions by action of the police, there are civil law remedies in most Western jurisdictions (and I have no reason to believe the USA is different). The civil common law distinguishes between assault and battery.
    http://www.expertlaw.com/library/personal_injury/assault_battery.html

    An assault [civil]involves:

    1. An intentional, unlawful threat or “offer” to cause bodily injury to another by force;
    2. Under circumstances which create in the other person a well-founded fear of imminent peril;
    3. Where there exists the apparent present ability to carry out the act if not prevented.

    Now, in a UK case, “heavy breathing” on the telephone (without conversation) was held to be an assault.

    So my message to academics or anyone else threatened in likewise fashion as above (assuming you can identify the assholes) is see your lawyer for a civil remedy if police decide the “threats” don’t attract a police (statutory) prosecution.

    The operative element is “imminent fear” but by the UK case law, that has been determined to be rather flexible.

  19. #19 Peter Kemp (Aussie Lawyer)
    July 12, 2007

    (BTW with a civil suit, your lawyer can subpoena their personal details from their ISPs–(I concede that it would be much more difficult with web based email addresses).

  20. #20 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 12, 2007

    I wonder how the DI and some trolls I’ve come across on this topic are going to react once the identity is fully released?

    Duck and hide?

    Revisionism?

    Deflection?

  21. #21 RamblinDude
    July 12, 2007

    The Discovery Institute is now involved in this unpleasantness, and nutjobs like this will take silence to mean ‘silent approval’.

    If the DI doesn’t condemn this looney fanatic and distance themselves from his agenda, then they are accomplices.

  22. #22 G. Tingey
    July 12, 2007

    Well, let’s remember the words of a Papal legate, just before one of the worst-ever massacres commited for religion:
    Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet.

    The anniversary comes up in ten days time – 798 years ago

  23. #23 Graculus
    July 12, 2007

    BTW with a civil suit, your lawyer can subpoena their personal details from their ISPs–(I concede that it would be much more difficult with web based email addresses).

    – Peter Kemp (Aussie Lawyer)

    Or as we say to assholes here: “Your identity is 2 subpeonas away” (1 for email, 2 is for postings to forums and blogs).

    Here (Canada) both direct and indirect threats are criminal offenses… “Uttering” and “Criminal Harassment” (stalking is under criminal harassment). All they have to be is credible. Some whackjob shoving letters under your door would make it automatically credible.

  24. #24 rrt
    July 12, 2007

    Altabin: I disagree that the guy’s “pen is mightier than the sword” allusion significantly mitigates his threat. As others have mentioned here, he made a specific effort to convey “I know of people who want you dead…” That he followed it up with something like “…but I don’t think that’s necessary” doesn’t mean much. The whole point of the exercise was not to share his enjoyment of writing, but to get the allusion to death established from the very beginning.

  25. #25 Brownian
    July 12, 2007

    Ha! I called it when I discussed this on my blog on Tuesday:

    Alright, let the comments informing me that these people aren’t true Christians commence.

    The religious are so predictable.

  26. #26 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 12, 2007

    From the first e-mail quoted at the Panda’s Thumb:

    your sarcastic attitude is not at all becoming to an Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education of a major american university. judging from your response to me, you dont seem very skilled in human relations. i thought universities respected and cultivated a diversity of opinion. in fact that is why it derives from the root word universe.

    Neglecting everything else, the language geek in me has to note that university does not come from the word universe, but rather from the Latin universus meaning “whole” or “entire”. This became universitas which in Late Latin meant “corporation” or “society”, giving eventually the Old French universitei (attested in the 13th century) which entered English around the year 1300. Universe, meaning “the whole world” and equivalent to the Greek-derived Cosmos, is not attested in English before 1589.

    University is not the descendant of universe; they are, rather, verbal cousins.

  27. #27 Kristine
    July 12, 2007

    I should point out that it took only a moment with google to find individual articles on the DI’s website that use the phrase “religious beliefs” 3 times, 9 times, even 11 times.

    But the DI is not a religious organization, remember. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    So, Crowther, maybe this “not very religious” harasser is an ID advocate then? Huh? They’re not religious, remember.

  28. #28 RamblinDude
    July 12, 2007

    I goofed. I totally missed the part where they said, “If true, it is of course reprehensible.”

  29. #29 Kseniya
    July 12, 2007

    That “if true” speaks volumes, though, doesn’t it?

    On the other hand, we have the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing.

    Ack.

  30. #30 Shawn Wilkinson
    July 12, 2007

    Something tells me their post will mysteriously disappear in time.

  31. #31 another
    July 13, 2007

    In #5, Callandor asked:

    [J]ust how the hell do these people live with themselves? Compassion, integrity, honesty, conscience — are these all buzzwords to these nuts?

    They live in fear. They even admit as much, calling themselves god-fearing. This fear compels them to give up compassion, integrity, honesty and conscience in a craven attempt to please their imaginary sky-father.

    This is the frequently ignored downside of Pascal’s famous wager.

  32. #32 Ichthyic
    July 13, 2007

    They live in fear. They even admit as much, calling themselves god-fearing. This fear compels them to give up compassion, integrity, honesty and conscience in a craven attempt to please their imaginary sky-father.

    sounds more like a massive case of displacement behavior to me.

  33. #33 Altabin
    July 13, 2007

    Hey, the letter-writer turns out to be a certain “Michael Philip Korn,” who has also been writing to the blog “Southern Exposure.” He makes what seem to be direct threats (“[this] may be the last warning you receive from a Christian who has mercy and compassion upon your errors”), and claims responsibility for the Colorado letters (“as you know, i am in regular communication with evolutionary biologists, geologists, and astrophysicists at the university of colorado in boulder. they almost all are in total denial of these uncomfortable truths.”) He is more than ordinarily stupid creationist, convinced by recent claims to have discovered Noah’s Ark, which I think even AiG have distanced themselves from.

    The letters are here.

  34. #34 Altabin
    July 13, 2007

    Damn you, html tags! In plain text, the link is:

    http://rarely-tidy.blogspot.com/2007/02/truly-holy-certifiable-crap.html

  35. #35 JDP
    July 13, 2007

    The real concern is that the University of Colorado has so far taken no action against this man, despite a litany of violations, and is only considering barring Mr. Korn from the CU campus. This is not an appropriate response to this situation.

  36. #36 Keith Douglas
    July 14, 2007

    Blake Stacey, OM: And the Greek itself has another origin – a cosmos is an ordering, and has the same root as the word cosmetics.

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