Pharyngula

How I spent my weekend

I gave two talks this weekend to the Critical Thinking Clubs of St Paul and Stillwater. Herewith a brief account of the events therein.

The Sunday morning session was the most conventional. The title was “Progress and Opportunities in Evolution”, and the focus was on the utility of evolutionary theory — not my usual bailiwick. Hey, it helps us understand the pattern of life, isn’t that good enough for you? Fortunately, I’d recently read David Mindell’s The Evolving World, so I cribbed shamelessly from it (and freely admitted it, and waved the book around at the meeting). This was a traditional Keynote/PowerPoint talk, the audience was a collection of skeptics and informed science fans, so it went smoothly (if a bit long), and got lots of intelligent questions and discussion. It was all great fun.

The Monday evening meeting in Stillwater was a little different. The audience was large and mixed, with a substantial number of creationists and ID sympathizers present. I knew this ahead of time and tried to plan for it. This talk was shorter to leave more time for Q&A, and much narrower in scope — I read a short chapter from my book in progress. The subject was on the fact that complexity is trivial to generate and that the genome exhibits overwhelming evidence for a dominant contribution from chance, while order and integration of parts is the more interesting issue … and that too can be generated by undirected, natural processes. The hypothesis of design is unnecessary and unsupported by any evidence. And then I opened the floor to questions.

Here’s something you have to keep in mind when creationists are in the audience: they know nothing about the basics of science. There were almost no questions at all about the subject of what I’d said, but instead went all over the place. That’s fine, of course, and I commend them for trying to get to the basics, but my talk did not lay the foundations for answering questions about the meaning of the word “theory”, recent discoveries in human evolution, addressing quote-mines of the Origin, Piltdown and Nebraska Man, abiogenesis, etc. — you get the idea. Questions went on for over an hour. It reminded me of the wrangles on talk.origins in a lot of ways!

I think I’m going to have to put together a very broad and general summary of the basics of evolutionary theory and how it applies to human evolution next time I give a talk to this kind of diverse audience — I think that’s what they wanted to hear and what they were concerned about. So note to self: narrowing the topic doesn’t help, it’s the very broadest, most fundamental material you have to cover in these kinds of talks.

One interesting question was raised that actually helped to sharpen some of my ideas on strategy a bit. I got asked about origins of life scenarios, so I briefly mentioned a few, like the idea of clays as a catalyst or metabolic activity in deep sea vents. One fellow raised his hand to mention that he liked one idea: the mention of clay had him thinking it corresponded to the creation of people from clay in the book of Genesis, and therefore it reinforced his belief in the accuracy of the Bible and the compatibility of science and religion. Right there was the dilemma of the fight with creationists. Some would say simply that that’s good, here’s someone who has resolved the battle in his mind, and perhaps this is a perhaps who won’t be opposing science at school board meetings.

The guy wasn’t stupid. He was thinking, at least, and I complimented him for trying to work towards a good answer. But, you know, what he was talking about wasn’t science at all. It completely misses the lesson of thinking scientifically — he’s picking and choosing with little comprehension the explanations that best fit his preconceptions, and that is the antithesis of good scientific thought. What happens if Graham Cairns-Smith is shown to be wrong? Does he give up on science because it is no longer aligned with one translation of one version of the Bible? So of course I told him that I personally thought all religion was crap, and while he might find that idea consoling, it didn’t mean a thing.

And of course some people took umbrage at my rude dismissal of religion. Then it started getting more fun. People actually told me I should be gentler with people’s illusions as a way to win them towards my “side” … which I have to disagree with on principle. I don’t think I gain anything by lying to people about what I think, my “side” isn’t the one that is mired in delusions, and it’s not as if there’s a shortage of scientists who will happily and without qualification encourage people who try to use religious fol-de-rol to justify evolution, and vice versa.

It was all still a good rumble, even the creationists were trying to make arguments (not very good ones, of course), and it was definitely a lively group. If you’re out there on the east side of the state, you might want to think about attending a meeting or two of the critical thinking club — everyone’s welcome, it’s not at all one sided, and it’s a great place for an argument.

Comments

  1. #1 llewelly
    August 14, 2007

    Mud in your eye.

  2. #2 sailor
    August 14, 2007

    Being “gentle” with people is this context is in a sense being condescending to them. One has to respect them enough to give a straight answer. If they cannot take it they will go into denial. Of course belligerence is another matter…

  3. #3 Bob
    August 14, 2007

    So note to self: narrowing the topic doesn’t help, it’s the very broadest, most fundamental material you have to cover in these kinds of talks.

    Definitely. I gave several talks on atheism at a school in South Florida, and the talks followed the same line…

    And, in the end, it’s just like teaching (at least in lower-level philosophy classes)…

  4. #4 Bob Kaufman
    August 14, 2007

    Regarding Stillwater. You do not have to lie to people but it would be best if you showed some respect for them before you dished them entirely. Disdain does not foster openness in your audience.

    I do not think I am wrong about this. I may not be a scientist but I do know what opens people up and closes them off. Your approach last night closed people off.

    I do not think that is your goal.

  5. #5 Great White Wonder
    August 14, 2007

    I may not be a scientist but I do know what opens people up and closes them off.

    Sure you do, Bob. You’re really cool.

  6. #6 raven
    August 14, 2007

    PJ Meyers:

    I got asked about origins of life scenarios, so I briefly mentioned a few, like the idea of clays as a catalyst or metabolic activity in deep sea vents.

    Abiogenesis is a different theory than evolution. Evolution is about life changing through time, how and why.
    It is a fact. Darwinian evolutionary theory is the leading theory explaining that fact.

    Abiogenesis is about the origin of life. Creos like to wave that one around because in fact, we know far less about it. Really some hypothesis and a few experiments. It is just far harder to figure out what happened 3.6 billion years ago and may have only happened once. The most definitive evidence that it happened, we are here now.

    Given that we know huge amounts about one and little about the other, it makes sense to separate the questions. One doesn’t have to know anything about abiogenesis to study evolution.

    IMO, the best thing to do when we reach the limits of knowledge is say, “I don’t know.” Seen nobel prize winners say this all the time. Science isn’t done. It will never be done. That’s the beauty and the difference from a few pages of mythology written 4,000 years ago. Creatinism is done. They can’t add anything new, correct for new information, it is static, dead, boring, ridiculously false.

  7. #7 Tom @Thoughtsic.com
    August 14, 2007

    Not surprising that they were the same old arguments. And bad ones at that.

    When you corrected them, did they seem genuinely interested in the correction?

  8. #8 RamblinDude
    August 14, 2007

    The whole business of being politically correct with the religious crowd is problematical. They don’t live in a world of facts, hell, they don’t live in a world of truth; they live in a world of emotions and that is pretty much all that they care about. Always with the emotions; the joy of being filled with the spirit of Jesus; weeping over Jesus; being concerned about people hurting Jesus’ feelings, being angry that people are hurting Jesus’ feelings, and of course, feeling special because Jesus loves them. Their preoccupation with emotions is what defines them. And that is why their ploy is to railroad you into playing the game their way, to be preoccupied with being polite and Jesus-like, being preoccupied with not hurting peoples feelings. If they succeed in doing this then they become the ring masters, and in the end the results won’t be the slightest bit different. learning is not their priority.

    If one is honest in dealings with these people–truthful in speech, unpretentious in diplomacy–then they are going to react to that honesty on a visceral, instinctive level, no matter what their initial reaction is to the method of delivery. The truth of your words will be appreciated, even if it’s only subconsciously. The truth is more important than the etiquette; they must learn that. It will help to guide them back to the real world.

  9. #9 Mango
    August 14, 2007

    Regarding the different approaches to talking with theists, Carl Sagan wrestled with the same issue over 10 years ago in “The Demon Haunted World.”

    He advised not being too heavy-handed:
    p. 298 “In the way that skepticism is sometimes applied to issues of public concern, there *is* a tendency to belittle, to condescend, to ignore the fact that, deluded or not, supporters of superstition and pseudoscience are human beings with real feelings who, like the skeptics, are trying to figure out how the world works and what our role in it might be. Their motives are in many cases consonant with science. If their culture has not given them all the tools they need to pursue this great quest, let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.”

  10. #10 RamblinDude
    August 14, 2007

    “He advised not being too heavy-handed:”

    I would advise that, too. There is a point where unrestrained contempt becomes counter productive and you are no longer making the world a better place. Indulging in being an asshole will only create problems–no matter who you are dealing with. But being honest, without being phony about it, and without being cruel, is something that the religious crowd has got to come to terms with.

    I grew up with all that phony, try-to-be-like-Jesus crap and it really pushes my buttons. It’s not real, it’s not honest.

  11. #11 mndarwinist
    August 14, 2007

    PZ, you would not make a good politician, but that’s not what you signed up to do. You are a scientist, and you are supposed to care about what is true and what is backed by evidence. Keep doing what you are doing, and leave political correctness to those who do it for a living.
    If someone demands that you accept 1+1+1=1 before they listen to the evidence you have to present to them-you can tell them they can think that way if they so please, but you don’t have to endorse it. And anyway, that is not the subject that you are covering.
    Incidentally, trying to reconcile a biblical statement about the origin of life with a working hypothesis while the entire book of genesis has been refuted-now I call that grasping at straws.

  12. #12 PZ Myers
    August 14, 2007

    Theories of abiogenesis rely on exactly the same principles as the theory of biological evolution: random variation in replicators that is selected for better ability to replicate. That these are chemical replicators rather than biological ones doesn’t make any difference: the boundary between chemistry and biology is imperceptible.

    And no, I did not disrespect the people there. Like I wrote above, I do not think the creationists there were stupid — they were trying to learn. I stated my opinion of religion. If that turns people off, then that’s not really my problem, since I’m not trying to run a popularity contest. By stating my opinions without reservation, they have the opportunity to argue with them in a way that would not be possible if I hid them.

  13. #13 mndarwinist
    August 14, 2007

    PZ, you had a post on this the other day-is simple “frankness” on our part regarding what we think tantamount to disrespect? I don’t want to tell anyone that they are silly because they believe 1+1+1=1. In fact, I know many brilliant people who think that-just goes to show how nicely the human mind can compartmentalize. But I don’t really see why I should pretend that I agree with that while I don’t. Truthfulness should be considered a virtue, not hypocrisy.

  14. #15 AlanWCan
    August 15, 2007

    I did an honours dissertation on Cairns-Smith’s mineral origins of life in the late 80s, and it turned out he was on the chemistry faculty at my university (Glasgow), so he was a natural as an external adviser. Very nice guy, helpful, mild-mannered, very calm, thorough. One of the first things I asked him was about hate mail from creationists and he said that he actually gets fan mail for the same reason you mentioned–that it kinda acts as a scientific background for their out of dust myth.
    If you can find a copy of Genetic Takeover: And the Mineral Origins of Life or even the lighter Seven Clues to the Origin of Life: A Scientific Detective Story I’d highly recommend them. He’s a wonderful thinker IMO.

  15. #16 Bob O'H
    August 15, 2007

    …my “side” isn’t the one that is mired in delusions…

    I think a problem in communication is that both sides think this (naturally), so if you start the discussion from this standpoint, then you’ve already lost the parts of your audience who you want to persuade.

    Bob

  16. #17 cm
    August 15, 2007

    There is a point where unrestrained contempt becomes counter productive and you are no longer making the world a better place. Indulging in being an asshole will only create problems–no matter who you are dealing with.

    I’ve read in the comments previously of the strategic value of being considerate of the feelings of religious people, but what about the idea that it is just right to be considerate of others’ feelings?

  17. #18 Will
    August 15, 2007

    I wish I had known, I really would have liked to be there, especially since it is my hometown (Stillwater). It would have been really good to see a somewhat representative sample of my ignorant city. I used to work at the Starbucks in downtown Stillwater, I knew there were a lot of creationists there. Now I sometimes read another book with the shiny eye-catching cover of The God Delusion sitting on the table I sit at.

  18. #19 Tsjok45
    August 15, 2007

    ” Is the idea that it is just “right” to be considerate of others’ feelings, a good Idea ? ”

    No it isn’t ALLWAYS ….
    Feelings are motivations and drives that keep people going ( = even in the wrong directions ; if one is stubborn enough to be guided only by his own emotions and wisthfull thinking )
    Emotions must be allways counterbalanced … They are basically egoistical and egocentric , and devoid of rational cautiousness …
    We MUST show comprehension and empathy for the feelings of others but that doesn’t mean we must allow and accept any of the actualised consequences of following them limitlesly and unbalanced
    ( especially in terms of reality checking ; which is a feedback ) …

    P.S.
    Excuse my clumsy explication and the _no doubt _ many mistakes ; I’am not a native English speaker ….
    This is really nothing more then my two cents ….
    ONLY an opinion

  19. #20 RamblinDude
    August 15, 2007

    but what about the idea that it is just right to be considerate of others’ feelings?

    What about the idea of just speaking your mind honestly without dancing around in pretty little minuets of faux politeness? What about not insincerely displaying reverence for their god and his offspring from the very beginning, and them getting used to the shock and horror of it early on?

    If you’re simply honest about where you stand then you don’t have to worry about strategies and social maneuvers–it’s a time saver. You set an example of forthrightness and your integrity doesn’t get a buzz cut from getting sucked into the crazy, wacky world of people who are incessantly preoccupied with feeling eternal joy.

    Consideration of people’s feelings? Of course, (we’re all in this together, after all), but not at the price of being cowed into prolonging falseness.

    The truth’s the thing–not the play.

  20. #21 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 15, 2007

    Abiogenesis is a different theory than evolution. Evolution is about life changing through time, how and why.

    This seems surprisingly difficult to grasp for some, even when it isn’t obfuscation.

    Most theories of systems can describe them in general. Nature is symmetric, the same laws apply anywhere. Such general theories must be supplemented with the observed setting.

    And since nature *really* likes symmetries laws apply in a great number of conditions. Most of these theories can then be built around a local description that can be applied anywhere. And the observed setting reduces to boundary conditions.

    I.e. you don’t have to observe a full “snapshot” of the process to see how it develops. Find out the local description and the conditions on the boundary, and you are set to go. (Maybe that is confusing too for those who thinks in terms of all-knowing gods directing everything.)

    For example a model of a river. The same model of a streaming liquid can be applied anywhere. So you choose initial and final area cuts through the river where it suits your study of its water flow.

    It is quite another problem to describe the precipitation and movement in the drainage area that created the river. It may be difficult to distinguish from mud at times, but it is still water. From mud to Mississippi, as creationists like to say.

    if you start the discussion from this standpoint, then you’ve already lost the parts of your audience who you want to persuade.

    The general idea is that since this isn’t about sides in a debate club but about verifiable facts, the side who is truthful to the facts will win over the individuals who sooner or later have to face those facts. It isn’t like evolution doesn’t visibly happen today, say in infections gaining resistance to medicine.

    So piling on incontrovertible facts on creationists and seeing that their in-group is considered nuts by knowledgeable people their cognitive dissonance should increase to the breaking point. I don’t think there is any persuasion involved.

    The probably larger group of undecided fence sitters should appreciate clarity as well, waffling and insecurity doesn’t sit well with most people.

  21. #22 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 15, 2007

    Abiogenesis is a different theory than evolution. Evolution is about life changing through time, how and why.

    This seems surprisingly difficult to grasp for some, even when it isn’t obfuscation.

    Most theories of systems can describe them in general. Nature is symmetric, the same laws apply anywhere. Such general theories must be supplemented with the observed setting.

    And since nature *really* likes symmetries laws apply in a great number of conditions. Most of these theories can then be built around a local description that can be applied anywhere. And the observed setting reduces to boundary conditions.

    I.e. you don’t have to observe a full “snapshot” of the process to see how it develops. Find out the local description and the conditions on the boundary, and you are set to go. (Maybe that is confusing too for those who thinks in terms of all-knowing gods directing everything.)

    For example a model of a river. The same model of a streaming liquid can be applied anywhere. So you choose initial and final area cuts through the river where it suits your study of its water flow.

    It is quite another problem to describe the precipitation and movement in the drainage area that created the river. It may be difficult to distinguish from mud at times, but it is still water. From mud to Mississippi, as creationists like to say.

    if you start the discussion from this standpoint, then you’ve already lost the parts of your audience who you want to persuade.

    The general idea is that since this isn’t about sides in a debate club but about verifiable facts, the side who is truthful to the facts will win over the individuals who sooner or later have to face those facts. It isn’t like evolution doesn’t visibly happen today, say in infections gaining resistance to medicine.

    So piling on incontrovertible facts on creationists and seeing that their in-group is considered nuts by knowledgeable people their cognitive dissonance should increase to the breaking point. I don’t think there is any persuasion involved.

    The probably larger group of undecided fence sitters should appreciate clarity as well, waffling and insecurity doesn’t sit well with most people.

  22. #23 Just Al
    August 15, 2007

    This is commentary on the various responses to this post, and not (necessarily) on PZ’s approach to the confirmation bias displayed by one of his questioners. But there is a difference between stating your standpoint unequivocally, and being contemptuous. Once contempt works its way into the conversation, you will have very typically turned off not only the person you’re debating (and it has become a debate at that point, whether it had been before), but numerous others who were undecided and simply listening.

    It is human nature to take sides, to try and resolve issues down to simple matters of black and white. Science does not work that way, and those that work with or simply follow science have already purged this urge from their system. But many that follow religion have not, and in some cases, their choice of religion is precisely because they desire this distinct classification into good/bad. You work against yourself when you force yourself into one of the sides by simply saying, in so many words, “You’re stupid.”

    Remember that Carl Sagan countered thousands of debaters by simply saying, “There isn’t evidence for it.” He made it a point not to express a further opinion about the person that believed despite evidence – the point was, until something concrete comes up, it’s not a subject of serious conjecture. At the same time, he expressed his boundless fascination with science itself. In this way, he drew people in without blocking them off.

    It may be important to recall that atheism is considered cold, heartless, nihilistic, and so on, by most religious folk, and this impression is actively fostered by the churches. This is one of the major strikes against it in most peoples’ eyes. By being unnecessarily harsh, you are confirming this misconception. And the key word there is “unnecessarily.”

    And there’s also the concept that someone is harsh because they are defensive, which denotes insecurity – seems too subtle, but think of the fervent confidence of most fundies. The way their point is made isn’t through evidence, it’s through unwavering focus and righteousness. That’s convincing to many people. Frightening, but true.

    I think it’s great to immediately catch something like the clay thing and point out that it’s not a popularity contest, but a matter of what best fits the evidence, and this may not be a theory that you like. That’s science. I suspect that bringing a personal stance on religion into it unasked isn’t necessary. It’s a great way to make the session evolve (ahaha) into a debate that simply won’t go anywhere, and shore up the whole black/white thing.

    I’m not advocating dodging the issue for the sake of people’s feelings, but I am also not advocating forcing your standpoint into peoples’ faces, and unfortunately, that’s what happens many times. It’s a question of whether you want to proclaim that you are right, or let people arrive there on their own.

  23. #24 raven
    August 15, 2007

    Abiogenesis is a different theory than evolution. Evolution is about life changing through time, how and why.

    TL:
    [“This seems surprisingly difficult to grasp for some, even when it isn’t obfuscation.

    Most theories of systems can describe them in general. Nature is symmetric, the same laws apply anywhere. Such general theories must be supplemented with the observed setting.”]

    A simple definition would clear up confusion.
    Abiogenesis is the generation or origin of life from nonlife.

    Evolution is how and why life changes through time.

    The two theories are related and most likely share a mechanism in common, variation and selection.

    But the evidence (data) for them is vastly different. Evolution has a 3.6 billion year fossil record. It is going on today in medicine and agriculture where it causes serious problems. It can be demonstrated in a lab by simple experiments.

    The data for abiogenesis is way more limited. Never been done in a lab. Some theories, a few experiments, some plausible mechanisms. Plausible doesn’t mean correct. The strongest piece of data is that, as mysterious as it is, it is a fact. We are here.

    For a general audience of nonscientists it makes sense to separate the two. One can study and explain evolution without knowing anything about abiogenesis, which is what we have been doing for 150 years. KIS, Keep It Simple.

  24. #25 rob
    August 15, 2007

    Abiogenesis is the generation or origin of life from nonlife.

    Evolution is how and why life changes through time.

    In the absense of a good definition of life, I don’t see a real distinction.

  25. #26 CrispyShot
    August 15, 2007

    Stillwater is Michelle Bachmann’s stomping grounds, is it not?

  26. #27 forsen
    August 15, 2007

    Respecting people is not the same thing as respecting their beliefs… as if that needed to be said.

  27. #28 Greg Peterson
    August 15, 2007

    Slightly off-topic, except that it deals with local creationist efforts: Last night the Twin Cities fundamentalist Christian talk radio station, KKMS, had a guy from the DI on, and he just lied. I mean, he’s supposedly a medical doctor, so if he is really that ignorant of science, then I wouldn’t let him trim my toenails, so I actually HOPE he lied. It was just stunning…but the highlight was a discussion over whether carbon dating could be sufficient to establish the timing of the Big Bang. I know…where the hell to go with such monstrous ignorance? I don’t envy you what you experienced, PZ. Trying to have a conversation with the under- and miseducated is like trying to play tennis without a net.

  28. #29 Bob Buresh
    August 15, 2007

    Talk was interesting, but it unfortunately turned listeners off towards the end due to the rancorous interchanges with those questioning your explanations and resenting your candid and largely negative comments about religion.

    Suggest responding to ID queries/criticisms more neutrally by noting that scientists use a variety of responses in responding to religiously motivated persons: trying to work together on issues of commonality (e.g. global warming coalition), reviewing positive (e.g. charity, compassion) and negative outcomes (e.g. religious wars, intolerance)of religion in history, and outright dismissal or disdain or religion. Your over-emphasis of the latter approach did not likely win over any neutral or pro-ID minds! I say this only in the interest of constructive suggestions–I may agree with your observations about religion, but if we use a broader, more respectful approach we might have better results!

  29. #30 PZ Myers
    August 15, 2007

    Better results in what? That’s the issue: begging that we hide a disrespect for religion actually undermines my goals, which is to see more open questioning of traditional assumptions.

  30. #31 Steve_C
    August 15, 2007

    Wow. They really don’t get it.

    Always handle the religious with kid gloves?

    Nah. They need cold hard honesty.

  31. #32 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 15, 2007

    For a general audience of nonscientists it makes sense to separate the two.

    Hmm. Maybe I was clear as mud, since that view was what I was trying to set in perspective. By pointing out that we doesn’t necessarily start a specific evolutionary study all the way back to the first population of replicators.

    But then I forgot KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid; as I was taught). 😛

    I still like my river analogy, though. A river source description studies the origin of river water from non-river sources. A fluid model is how and why river water changes through time.

  32. #33 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 15, 2007

    For a general audience of nonscientists it makes sense to separate the two.

    Hmm. Maybe I was clear as mud, since that view was what I was trying to set in perspective. By pointing out that we doesn’t necessarily start a specific evolutionary study all the way back to the first population of replicators.

    But then I forgot KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid; as I was taught). 😛

    I still like my river analogy, though. A river source description studies the origin of river water from non-river sources. A fluid model is how and why river water changes through time.

  33. #34 cm
    August 15, 2007

    Wow. They really don’t get it. Always handle the religious with kid gloves? Nah. They need cold hard honesty.

    I don’t see anyone proposing that. I see people proposing to use one’s mind and heart when dealing with anyone, including religious people. Modulate yourself based on circumstances. That requires thinking and empathy.

    I also wouldn’t describe it as “dancing around in pretty little minuets of faux politeness?”, either. Faux politeness? Isn’t all politeness faux in some sense, and isn’t that point? Being a decent man or woman is more complex than can be described in a few simple terms. There are times that require vigorous scorched-Earth defenses of reason, and there are times that require of us, morally require of us, compassion for those who stake much of their emotional lives in their beliefs. When you go to the local hospital chapel and read in the chapel’s guestbook, “Jesus, please save my daughter,” you are obligated as a person to treat that person differently than you would in a courtroom in Dover, PA.

    I am sure we actually all agree with this, everyone here. I don’t think the contention is real.

  34. #35 Leon
    August 15, 2007

    Abiogenesis is the generation or origin of life from nonlife.

    Evolution is how and why life changes through time.

    In the absense of a good definition of life, I don’t see a real distinction.

    Think of it like reproduction. It’s like the difference between conception and a fetus’s development in the womb.

  35. #36 Leon
    August 15, 2007

    I have to agree with cm and others. We’re not talking about hiding your beliefs or showing false respect for religion. It’s one thing to say you don’t agree with someone, and something else to say their belifs are stupid. It’s about common courtesy.

    Telling a partially religious audience “I think all religion is crap” is simply going to turn people off to whatever else you have to say. I’m not suggesting you should get all squishy and hem and haw about how “there are really good things about religion, but…”

    Something more like “I don’t find religion convincing; it tends to contradict itself and when its claims can be scientifically tested they’re often inaccurate” will show that you’ve looked closely at religion and not dismissed it out of hand. When you say something like “I think it’s bullsh**”, people take that statement about their religion personally, and it’s very hard to get them past the immediate reaction that follows.

  36. #37 RamblinDude
    August 15, 2007

    CM: We have so much fun.

    Once again, we seem to be only slightly out of phase, but, still, out of phase. “Isn’t all politeness faux in some sense…?” No. IMO. It’s honest and energizing to be polite–when it’s appropriate.

    Otherwise I agree completely with what you wrote.

    We are, first, human beings.

  37. #38 Jim Duncan
    August 16, 2007

    Your problem is that you don’t understand your own statement (“the antithesis of good scientific thought”).
    The real antithesis is your abilty to leap to conclusions from one erroneous perception (that you were talking to a room full of creationists and ID proponents). One wonders if you make the same conclusions from a dried skull found under a rock. At the very least your inflamatory statements regarding religion and the intelligence of the audience makes it difficult for anyone to take you seriously at all. You appear to a be man with issues and little more. Professors teach and if in teaching you are able to show strong arguments then people may believe. Just to let you know – the religions I know of are not much concerened about how we got here but where we are going. If I’m right then I will get to light my cigar in heaven on your flaming hair.

  38. #39 Steve_C
    August 16, 2007

    Oh right.

    If you don’t respect religion you can’t be taken seriously?

    What the hell?

    Another nitwit.

    Look. His heaven is someone else’s torture for his pleasure.

    How very catholic of him.

  39. #40 Mark C
    August 23, 2007

    Hey PZ,
    I attended both of the CTC meetings. I had not attended the Stillwater group before. Having been used to the flavor of the St. Paul group, to find so many ID’s/Creationist types was a bit of a surprise. The conversations kept me thinking of the theological responses to “Origin of Species’ at the time. At the time, the theolgoues screamed holy hell regarding Mr. Darwin, and today they sing, or is scream the same old, tired tune.

    I was the guy who asked you if any mammals were part of the Cambrian explosion. 🙂

    Give em Hell…

  40. #41 MarkIn Texas
    September 12, 2007

    I am Mark C. Any other posts here will be under MarkIn Texas, since that’s how I’m better know.

    Maintain the objective.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.