Pharyngula

Turn out the troops and give them hell

Scott Hatfield is asking for assistance: one of the old school Liars for Jesus, Don Patton, is going to be speaking at his public high school. This is disgraceful. Patton is a sleazy fraud, and to have him abuse public school facilities with his dishonesty is completely inappropriate; confine him to the churches, where nonstop lies are a regular feature.

Scott asks what can be done. Here’s my general prescription for dealing with these slimy hoaxsters:

  • Advertise. These guys feed on an ignorant audience; they get a lot of praise by packing auditoriums with the most stupid people they can find by farming the churches. Counter that by recruiting at colleges. Get people to volunteer to drive attendees to the venue. It doesn’t take much — getting a few people to raise their hands and ask informed, critical questions usually discombobulates them.

  • Research. Find out ahead of time what the subject of the talk will be, and study the actual science. Usually, you don’t have to have an advanced degree to counter the creationists — you will discover that their talks tend to be far more moronic than you would ever believe.

    One difficulty here is that creationists tend to be nonspecialists themselves. While Patton’s idee fixe is that the earth is young, he’s such a blithering boob that he’ll probably wander all over the place, and if you start to pin him down on radiometric dating, for instance, he’ll skitter over to biblical archaeology.

  • Find experts. Getting a skeptical audience is a good step, but finding an expert who can refute the guy on details is invaluable. I note, for instance, that the title of the talk at the high school is “The Record of the Fossils”. Get a paleontologist to show up! This has two useful effects: one, it will mean someone there can refute the creationist in detail; two, the expert will probably be so outraged at the putrid lies the kook is spreading about his discipline that you will have a lifelong ally.

  • BUY THIS BOOK: The Counter-Creationism Handbook(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by Mark Isaak. Buy a couple of copies. I guarantee you that the creationist will recite fallacies straight out of that text, and even if you aren’t comfortable with public speaking, you’ll be able to get up to the microphone at the Q&A and simply read the short refutations provided. Wave the book around and tell people where they can get a copy. You might even let your town bookstore know that you’re going to be plugging it so that they get copies in stock.

  • Be polite. Seriously, I get lots of credit at creationist talks simply because I don’t show up and throw tomatoes or gnaw on a baby’s arm while I’m there. Critique the claims of the speaker without compromise and in the strongest possible terms, but do so professionally. For instance, Patton is one of those frauds with a fake Ph.D. from an unaccredited institution — don’t touch that one, unless he starts slandering the qualifications of legitimate scientists first. Focus on his arguments. Criticize him, and the audience will tend to side with him; show that he isn’t as smart as he claims he is, that he doesn’t understand some basic idea that anyone in the audience can grasp, and they’ll begin to doubt him. They might want to believe in creationism, but if you can show him up as a poor representative for creationism and Christianity, they’ll turn on him.

  • Get an evolution-friendly blogger on your side. You know, one who will tell all his readers in the Fresno area to turn out with blood in their eye. Maybe you can also advertise a pre-talk session at a local bar where the sensible evolutionists can meet up, get to know each other, talk about their expertise, and coordinate a little bit.

Rarely, you can go over the creationist’s head and complain to whoever is providing the venue and get them to back out — that might be a possibility here, since it is a little shocking that a public school is hosting the event (it’s after hours, though, and they may be leasing the auditorium, which makes it more difficult to block). I don’t generally favor that, though: let the enemy occupy a position, and then send in the scientific troops to attack it, I say. In some ways it actually makes your position stronger that they are using secular facilities to promote religious nonsense — the church-based audience is on unfamiliar ground.

Comments

  1. #1 FishyFred
    April 12, 2008

    Don’t bother blocking it. It’s completely legal to rent out the auditorium for a talk after school hours.

  2. #2 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 12, 2008

    As always, appreciative of your support…SH

  3. #3 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 12, 2008

    It’s completely legal to rent out the auditorium for a talk after school hours.

    Yes, but is it wise, is it sound policy for school administrators to undermine their own efforts to educate children according to the actual state standards they are required to reach? The YEC Patton is fundamentally at odds with the California State Science Standards, and this is the crux of the issue for me.

  4. #4 MikeG
    April 12, 2008

    Well, wise or not, once they make it a limited public forum, there’s not much they can do about who rents it.

    Other than that, go get ‘im Scott!

  5. #5 AllanW
    April 12, 2008

    Couldn’t agree with this more especially the guidance on tactics.

    Confront the arguments not the person.
    Do it politely.
    Never back-off a point you know is wrong.
    Be prepared for evasive tactics with arguments and specialists in those areas.
    If they get ‘dirty’ (ad homs, questioning of motives, qualifications etc) always turn it back to facts about them and their presentation despite the overwhelming personal urge to swear :) (or is that just me?)

    You will be doing something that you know is truthful, you should know will in all probability help someone in that audience and that is a service to society so feel proud of it not apologetic or nervous.

  6. #6 bernarda
    April 12, 2008

    I would see if I could have some people show up with literature for Santa Claus and the FSM. Even a few banners for outside the hall.

  7. #7 Lee
    April 12, 2008

    Hows this one:

    My school is bringing Ann Coulter to campus on Monday.

    Do I win or what?

  8. #8 Jynx
    April 12, 2008

    First I’ll need tickets to America. Anyone wanna sponser me?
    Guess I’m stuck in this backward, Irish theocracy.
    Oh wait… that was 50 years ago. Damn Darby O’Gil for his negative stereotyping.

  9. #9 ivy privy
    April 12, 2008

    My school is bringing Ann Coulter to campus on Monday.
    Do I win or what?

    I counter with Mike “change the constitution to be more like the Bible” Huckabee on Tuesday – at Coulter’s alma mater.

  10. #10 techskeptic
    April 12, 2008

    Play Bingo at the presentation.

  11. #11 Holydust
    April 12, 2008

    Oh, how badly I wish I could see this on tape.

  12. #12 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 12, 2008

    List to the voice of experience, Scott, ‘Gatecrasher’ Myers knows what he’s talking about.

    And, yes, we’re going to need pix, sound and video recordings, souvenir T-shirts…

  13. #13 Bill
    April 12, 2008

    Darn it! Why won’t any of this stuff happen around Seattle so I can go?

    By the way, you might also want to read:
    A Magical Journey through the Land of Logical Fallacies, Part 1 http://skeptoid.com/episode.php?id=4073&comments=all
    and Part 2 http://skeptoid.com/episode.php?id=4074&comments=all
    Patton is likely to use every one of them.

  14. #14 Steve8282
    April 12, 2008

    Video tape the proceedings. If they try to stop you ask Why.

  15. #15 Laurie Soule
    April 12, 2008

    Unfortunately Fresno is a three hour drive from here. Any Sacramento area people want to carpool down to help out one of the days?

  16. #16 Richard Harris
    April 12, 2008

    I’ve had internet debates with Creationists. These people are not necessarily stupid, or ignorant. (This includes one of the UKs leading YECs, Prof Andy McIntosh.) They are in thrall to an ideology, or superstition, & ignore evidence acting against it, & distort other facts so that they appear to support their beliefs.

    I’m an engineer, so I couldn’t refute the papers that they claimed suppport their nonsense. These papers may well support their nonsense, but, as a time-poor layman, I couldn’t reasonably expect to refute their findings.

    I think that caution needs to be exercised when confronting these liers. Having an expert on hand, in a public confrontation, is vital. When it comes to highly technical matters, it’s easier to tell lies than it is to be 100% accurate.

  17. #17 Lionel A Smith
    April 12, 2008

    Could do well to have a copy of Richard Corfield’s, ‘Architects of Eternity: The New Science of Fossils’ at hand and having read it.

    See:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Architects-Eternity-New-Science-Fossils/dp/0747271798

    for information and reviews not found at Amazon.com where the book is also listed.

  18. #18 SLC
    April 12, 2008

    I would suggest, as time permits, reading everything that Mr. Patton has written or said (as available) in order to become familiar with his talking points. This was the strategy used by Ken Miller in preparing for a debate with Michael Behe. In this way, one will not be surprised by anything Mr. Patton puts forward and one will be in a position to refute it with a 30 second sound bite.

  19. #19 Jillian
    April 12, 2008

    re: Comment #18

    To that end, this might be useful: http://www.ntskeptics.org/issues/patton/patton.htm

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    April 12, 2008

    and if you start to pin him down on radiometric dating, for instance, he’ll skitter over to biblical archaeology.

    …paging Dr. Hector Avalos…

  21. #21 Josh in California
    April 12, 2008

    Ugh. This fraud is also going to be speaking on my college campus. Guess I’d better go talk to the biology, geology, and physics departments…

  22. #22 D
    April 12, 2008

    BINGO!

    Print out a couple dozen ID Creationist Bingo Cards and hand them out :)

    Found here:
    http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2007/09/bingo-creationi.html

  23. #23 Hank Fox
    April 12, 2008

    One more very important suggestion:

    GET THERE EARLY!

    Creationists can get the word out to local churches, and they’ve been known to show up in busloads an hour ahead of time, so nobody with any knowledge can get in.

    Be sure your allies know to show up well ahead of the time of the event, so the seats aren’t all taken by the cheering know-nothings.

    Bear in mind that at some of these events, the audience itself might be an enemy, cheering the speaker and booing the questioners.

  24. #24 Madhu
    April 12, 2008

    Counter that by recruiting at colleges.

    Well, the trouble is, this clown is going to speak in Fresno all week, starting at a church, followed by 2 nights on the California State University, Fresno campus, before hitting Scott’s High School! As one of the evilutionary biologists actually teaching Evolution on campus (and smalltime academic blogger), I intend to show up to as many of the non-church events as I can (I don’t think I can do this every evening for the whole week, though, Scott), and am trying to get my colleagues riled up about this as well. Unfortunately, a common first response within my department seems to be to shrug and go – well, anyone can rent an auditorium on campus and say whatever they like, why should we bother to respond! Talk about the same head-in-the-sand/ivory tower attitude that has allowed these cretinists to take over so much of the public discourse in this country. How can we let this guy use the campus venue to not only spew his ignorance, but also to bolster his own credentials by proclaiming how he is a “popular speaker at colleges/universities” all over the world?!

    Thanks for posting this, PZ – now I have something to try and smack my colleagues about the head with, and to try and get as many experts as possible to show up. I’ve also put the word out to the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists’ and Skeptics. And I should let loose my students on the campus talks as well.

    So, Josh in California, if you are referring to Fresno State, come talk to me if you want to organize a response on campus.

  25. #25 Sharon
    April 12, 2008

    Hm, I’m not sure if it was Patton, but some YEC gave a talk at McGill last year. I heard about it in my Natural Selection class, so a bunch of us trooped down to listen.

    I couldn’t stay for the Q&A period though, I started laughing and left so I wouldn’t disrupt the talk. I didn’t want to be rude. :)

  26. #26 Zeno
    April 12, 2008

    If I were in the neighborhood I’d be strongly tempted to create picket signs and brochures denouncing the speaker for ducking the issue of the the earth being a flat disk (Isaiah 40:22: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth”). What does defending creation matter if you fail to defend God’s big flat earth?

    I suspect that round-earth creationists are being paid off by the great international geologists’ conspiracy.

  27. #27 Zeno
    April 12, 2008

    The link in Madhu’s post to Patton’s Fresno schedule didn’t work for me. Here’s one that does:

    [Link]

  28. #28 Number8Dave
    April 12, 2008

    While it’s good to challenge creationists at events like this with solid evidence, the creationists in the audience are unlikely to be persuaded. This debate is not about evidence. It is about whether you base your world view on the results of investigations by human beings, or on what is claimed to be the word of God. Creationists will say human beings are fallible, so the discoveries of science are fallible; only the word of God is infallible.

    I’ve had some success by raising this issue, then pointing out that creationists are also human beings, and hence are as fallible as the rest of us. That being the case, I then ask, isn’t it at least possible that when they say Genesis is the word of God, they could be wrong about that? It’s not possible to go up Mt Sinai, like Moses allegedly did, and ask God himself whether he directly inspired the writing of Genesis, we have to take the creationists’ word for this. They’re human, they’re fallible, they could be wrong.

    Bear in mind also that the creationists are running the show, they are likely to shut down any awkward questioners very quickly. But if you can draw attention to yourself as an obvious skeptic during the Q&A session you may find that if you hang around afterwards you will be approached by some keen young creationist(s) keen to set you straight. You may then be able to engage in some interesting, one-on-one discussions where you can have more of an impact even if only on one or a few people.

    Another point that you may be able to score off Don Patton specifically – he’s a close associate of Carl Baugh, the Paluxy River dinosaur/human tracks guy. If he trots out the Paluxy tracks you could point out that these have been so thoroughly discredited that even other creationists urge people not to use them as support for creationism – http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/2996

  29. #29 Tirumari
    April 12, 2008

    The Counter-Creationism Handbook is absolutely amazing. I got a copy from my professor in a seminar (it was an intelligent desing vs evolution seminar) and it’s helped me ever since. Good luck Scott, let us know how it turns out!

  30. #30 madhu
    April 12, 2008

    Thank you for fixing the link, Zeno. I don’t know what happened between my previewing my previous message (when the link seemed to work) and it getting posted.

  31. #31 madhu
    April 12, 2008

    Re #19: What’s up with that site you linked to Jillian? Something odd seems to be going on as two of the prominent links promise much but lead to blank “watch out for new developments” pages. And a third is extended email correspondence (from as early as 2002) between Steve Rudd (described as Don Patton’s webmaster) and John Blanton of NT Skeptics, which is even curiouser, because some of the things Rudd asks about (backup evidence on Patton’s Ph.D., for example) are still not up on the site.

    Anyone know what’s going on there? It is most curious.

  32. #32 AllanW
    April 13, 2008

    Here’s a point to consider;

    This thread is a very specific, detailed exhortation to action. Many of the posters have usefully added to the dialogue some tips, tricks and points that could improve the effectiveness of any actions to be taken. The post count is 31 at this point.

    Compare this post-count to other issues and threads where the vocal posters push the posting into the hundreds or thousands with a back-and-forth exchange of viewpoints, outrage and vituperation.

    I’m sad about this. I accept that many of the posters cannot physically take part in attending these meetings and actually doing the work that needs to be done but I think it reveals more about the vast majority of supporters of this site than is comfortable.

    My point? Put a fraction of the effort you put into posting on this site each and every day into researching and organising effective methods in your local area of countering Creationist nonsense and we all make progress as a society. Continue avoiding this work and you become one of the many who fiddle while Rome burns.

    Look at yourself in the mirror.

  33. #33 wazza
    April 13, 2008

    Allan, most of the people here would turn up if there was something creationist in their neighbourhood. But we all know most of the arguments against creationism. There’s nothing to add here. 31 posts about covers it, I think, especially since they’re recommending books and sites which provide more comprehensive tips. I, for one, came here and saw I had nothing to add to the conversation, because everything else I could think of was covered already.

    Good luck, those of you hitting this event. May the Doughy One grace you with the touch of His Noodly Appendage.

  34. #34 AllanW
    April 13, 2008

    Thanks for the response wazza, much appreciated. I think you may be a little complacent and hope you’re not. ‘most of the people here would turn up if there was something creationist in their neighbourhood'; not being provocative or anything but have you any evidence for this? All I’m looking for is a small list of recent Creationist events open to the public and some local or regional press coverage that shows there was some opposition to the ideas being presented.

    I’ll be very heartened if I’m deluged here with links demonstrating this :)

  35. #35 wazza
    April 13, 2008

    Well, personally, I live in a liberal city in a liberal country, but some of the commenters above have mentioned events they’ve gone to. And in high school I used to debate science and morality at lunchtime with the xians.

  36. #36 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 13, 2008

    If I were in the neighborhood I’d be strongly tempted to create picket signs and brochures denouncing the speaker for ducking the issue of the the earth being a flat disk (Isaiah 40:22: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth”).

    A circle with four corners, eh?

    Cool. The Bible contradicting itself, and both assertions are demonstrably wrong :-D

    While it’s good to challenge creationists at events like this with solid evidence, the creationists in the audience are unlikely to be persuaded. This debate is not about evidence.

    Make it about evidence by holding up a “[citation needed]” poster. Like this.

  37. #37 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 13, 2008

    If I were in the neighborhood I’d be strongly tempted to create picket signs and brochures denouncing the speaker for ducking the issue of the the earth being a flat disk (Isaiah 40:22: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth”).

    A circle with four corners, eh?

    Cool. The Bible contradicting itself, and both assertions are demonstrably wrong :-D

    While it’s good to challenge creationists at events like this with solid evidence, the creationists in the audience are unlikely to be persuaded. This debate is not about evidence.

    Make it about evidence by holding up a “[citation needed]” poster. Like this.

  38. #38 Christophe Thill
    April 13, 2008

    “They might want to believe in creationism, but if you can show him up as a poor representative for creationism and Christianity, they’ll turn on him.”

    PZ, you’re absolutely right. A good framing is essential.

    Hey??? What did I say??? Don’t hit me!

  39. #39 Sinbad
    April 13, 2008

    [O]ne of the old school Liars for Jesus, Don Patton, is going to be speaking at his public high school. This is disgraceful.

    Only if the Constitution is disgraceful (assuming the HS auditorium is a limited public forum similarly available to others).

    Yes, but is it wise, is it sound policy for school administrators to undermine their own efforts to educate children according to the actual state standards they are required to reach?

    Whether it’s wise is irrelevant unless and until you amend the Constitution to remove the First Amendments protection of free speech. However, I do think it’s wise because free speech is so important. Repression, even of stupidity, is loathsome.

  40. #40 wazza
    April 13, 2008

    Sinbad, the provisions for free speech don’t apply. It’s not that he shouldn’t be saying it, but that the place he’s saying it in implies support from a government institution, which is against the establishment clause of the same amendment

    holy crap. Since when did I know the clauses of the amendments of the constitution of a country I’ve never spent more than six weeks straight in?

  41. #41 Sinbad
    April 13, 2008

    Sinbad, the provisions for free speech don’t apply.

    Nonsense.

    It’s not that he shouldn’t be saying it, but that the place he’s saying it in implies support from a government institution, which is against the establishment clause of the same amendment

    You’re obviously ignorant about the First Amendment. When a public entity creates a public forum (e.g., allows schools to be rented for public use), it must do so fairly to all. Prohibiting use due to the content of the speech is an impermissible prior restraint. That the school is public and the speech perhaps religious does not establish an impermissible endorsement any more than religious speech going through the U.S. Mail does. Were this speech given in a mandatory school assembly, it would be a very different story.

    holy crap. Since when did I know the clauses of the amendments of the constitution of a country I’ve never spent more than six weeks straight in?

    Quite obviously, never.

  42. #42 Holbach
    April 13, 2008

    Heckle the freaking reatrd! Just put a consistent jabbing insistent of demonstrating proof for their insane beliefs!
    Hey Patton, let’s see your imaginary god1 How come you are using all the benefits of science just to get here and spew your retarded insanities!

  43. #43 Joe Blow
    April 13, 2008

    Be polite. Critique the claims of the speaker without compromise and in the strongest possible terms, but do so professionally.

    No, I think it’s better to call him a “demented fuckwit” and tell anyone who speaks in his favor to fuck off. That’s how you win friends and influence people and frame the debate.

  44. #44 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 13, 2008

    You’re obviously ignorant about the First Amendment. When a public entity creates a public forum (e.g., allows schools to be rented for public use), it must do so fairly to all. Prohibiting use due to the content of the speech is an impermissible prior restraint.

    I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that common sense would indicate that there are limits. The institution can not be reasonably be expected to host events that are fundamentally at odds with their educational mission, especially when students are present, which is manifestly the case here.

    Would you allow a Holocaust denier to use a public high school as a venue for their views? A pedophile advocate? A Klansman? A ‘swinger’s’ club? I don’t think so. At some point, the sheer grinding inappropriateness and potential for mischief to the school’s population has to constitute a ‘clear and present danger’ that outweighs the free speech interests of others. It is not as if there are not other fora for Young Earth creationism. I am not in the least opposed to the group’s intention to rent facilities at my local university, for example. The marketplace of ideas, and all that. And of course, they are entirely free to push this at their local church.

    But, pushing this crap, which is contrary to the state’s own science standards, at a public high school? This is clearly contrary to our mission. Clearly. This clearly undermines the effectiveness of our instruction. Clearly. There is clearly a valid secular interest in not allowing this particular speech at this particular venue. To take the opposite view, that the civil liberties of this recrudescent cult trumps everything else, strikes me as spectacularly clueless.

  45. #45 Joe Blow
    April 13, 2008

    But, pushing this crap, which is contrary to the state’s own science standards, at a public high school? This is clearly contrary to our mission. Clearly. This clearly undermines the effectiveness of our instruction. Clearly. There is clearly a valid secular interest in not allowing this particular speech at this particular venue. To take the opposite view, that the civil liberties of this recrudescent cult trumps everything else, strikes me as spectacularly clueless.

    Sounds to me like a pretty good argument against government-controlled education.

  46. #46 Joe Blow
    April 13, 2008

    But, pushing this crap, which is contrary to the state’s own science standards, at a public high school? This is clearly contrary to our mission. Clearly. This clearly undermines the effectiveness of our instruction. Clearly. There is clearly a valid secular interest in not allowing this particular speech at this particular venue. To take the opposite view, that the civil liberties of this recrudescent cult trumps everything else, strikes me as spectacularly clueless.

    Sounds to me like a pretty good argument against government-controlled education.

  47. #47 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 13, 2008

    I agree entirely with Scott that it is very bad timing to hold this event at this time.

    Having made the customary disclaimer about not being a lawyer, I would suggest that while the school may be legally entitled to rent out this hall to Patton, they are not legally required to do so. They could have turned down the request and, if the decision was challenged, pointed out that it would be inappropriate for such an event to be held in the middle of the state’s testing period.

  48. #48 Sinbad
    April 13, 2008

    I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that common sense would indicate that there are limits. The institution can not be reasonably be expected to host events that are fundamentally at odds with their educational mission, especially when students are present, which is manifestly the case here.

    So there’s no free speech rights when government policy is opposed? So a school can and should refuse to rent out its facilities for — say — sex education training because it opposes its abstinence only policy? Or, better yet, the government can prevent a peaceful protest against the war in Iraq because such protest opposes a crucial governmental policy? Nonsense.

    It’s amazing how so-called liberals are all too frequently willing to forget about the First Amendment in order to censor and silence those with whom they disagree.

    At some point, the sheer grinding inappropriateness and potential for mischief to the school’s population has to constitute a ‘clear and present danger’ that outweighs the free speech interests of others.

    Speech advocating violence or illegality, your proposed pedophile advocate for example, can constitutionally be precluded from renting a public forum. Advocating numbing stupidity doesn’t fall into that category. Otherwise, politicians could never get a hearing.

    I would suggest that while the school may be legally entitled to rent out this hall to Patton, they are not legally required to do so.

    If the school had a well-established policy of not renting its facilities during testing periods, a failure to rent during that period would almost surely be upheld. It’s discrimination based upon speech content that’s precluded, not reasonable administrative rules and standards consistently applied.

  49. #49 AllanW
    April 13, 2008

    Thanks for confirming my view. This thread has still only attracted forty-odd posts and degenerated into a two-person slanging-match about free speech rights and the First Amendment.

    No links about activity against Creationist speakers, no substantive rebuttal of the point made and every opportunity taken to disappear into fruitless, verbal exchanges that achieve nothing.

    Spend a little of your time and money supporting the organisations that actively combat Creationism or get involved yourselves. Anything less is just whistling in the wind and you are part of the problem not the solution.

  50. #50 Kseniya
    April 13, 2008

    Sounds to me like a pretty good argument against government-controlled education.

    Sure. For a given value of “pretty good”.

  51. #51 Kseniya
    April 13, 2008

    Otherwise, politicians could never get a hearing.

    Heh.

  52. #52 Joe Blow
    April 13, 2008

    It’s amazing how so-called liberals are all too frequently willing to forget about the First Amendment in order to censor and silence those with whom they disagree.

    Liberals believe that only popular speech is worthy of protection.

    you are part of the problem not the solution

    Par for the course with feel-good leftists, because at least they’re doing something, which gives them a good feeling.

    For a given value of “pretty good”.

    That would be the value understood by anyone with a functioning brain.

  53. #53 arensb
    April 14, 2008

    I’m nowhere near the Fresno area, so I won’t be able to attend, but I have a set of mined quotes by Patton from way back when, in case it’s of any use to anyone.

  54. #54 Janine, ID
    April 14, 2008

    Liberals believe that only popular speech is worthy of protection.

    Joe Blow

    Joe Blow, you are not even trying anymore. What about those times that liberals championed free speech for civil rights, women’s rights, labor protests, socialists and any other host of progressive causes. Some of those became popular over time. Some never did.

    Dumbass.

  55. #55 sacredchao
    April 14, 2008

    Please forgive my stupid city. I apologize on it’s behalf.

    One of these events is actually at Fresno State as well. Thats where my wife is currently working on her Bio degree, with an emphasis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

  56. #56 Ray Ingles
    April 14, 2008

    A useful question to ask a young-Earth creationist: Why can’t anyone make any money applying young-Earth geology?

    Finding oil is a very important and high-stakes issue for oil companies. Literally trillions of dollars are riding on it. Exxon’s exploration budget alone is around $20 billion per year. When the chips are down and they need to find the most likely spots to drill – what kind of geology do they use? Flood geology, or mainstream? Which one actually delivers the goods?

    Let’s assume the Earth is only a few thousand years old. Where did the oil come from? Was it created in the ground with the rest of the Earth? If so, is there a way to predict where it might be found? Or perhaps it really did form from plants and dinosaurs, but about 10,000 times faster than any chemist believes it could? Any way you look at it, a young Earth and a Flood would imply some very interesting scientific questions to ask, some interesting (and potentially extremely valuable) research programs to start. How come nobody’s actually pursuing such research programs?

    Why don’t creationists put together an investment fund, where people pay in and the stake is used as venture capital for things like oil and mineral rights? If “Flood geology” is really a better theory, then it should make better predictions about where raw materials are than standard geology does. The profits from such a venture could pay for a lot of evangelism. Why isn’t anyone doing this?

    (Of course, we know why. But I’ve never seen a young-Earther give a decent answer to this question, and it’s from a different-enough angle that it can spark some thinking in ‘on the fence’ observers.)

  57. #57 Kseniya
    April 14, 2008

    That would be the value understood by anyone with a functioning brain.

    How amusing, coming as it does from someone who uses WorldNetDaily as a primary source. How’s that working out for you, Mr. Blow?

  58. #58 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 14, 2008

    So there’s no free speech rights when government policy is opposed?

    Didn’t say that. You’re boxing with shadows if you think I did say that. But, for the record, there is no absolute right to free speech, as you should well know. I’ve made the argument that because the speech in question contradicts the state standards in more than one particular, that it is counter to the mission of the schools, and thus constitutes a ‘clear and present danger’ to the school’s effectiveness, in which the state does in fact have a compelling secular interest. If you’re a lawyer or you have something more to offer to this discussion than a paranoid rant about talking liberties, I’d encourage you to put it on the table and engage my actual argument on its merits.

  59. #59 Sinbad
    April 14, 2008

    But, for the record, there is no absolute right to free speech, as you should well know.

    As Justice Holmes famously noted, one can’t falsely yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.

    I’ve made the argument that because the speech in question contradicts the state standards in more than one particular, that it is counter to the mission of the schools, and thus constitutes a ‘clear and present danger’ to the school’s effectiveness, in which the state does in fact have a compelling secular interest.

    State education policy doesn’t trump the Constitution. Otherwise, abstinence-only policy would trump the free speech rights of Planned Parenthood. By the way, the compelling state interest test applies to due process and equal protection clause cases and the clear and present danger test was modified by Brandenburg and subsequent cases. First Amendment law isn’t exactly uniform, but in general, the government may not even forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action (the Brandenburg doctrine). Speaking against evolution in a school auditorium after school hours isn’t anywhere near that level. Simply put, the state can’t invoke prior restraint without a huge reason (think publishing troop movements before the fact in wartime, and even that would be fought hard). You might want to stick to biology.

    If you’re a lawyer or you have something more to offer to this discussion than a paranoid rant about talking liberties, I’d encourage you to put it on the table and engage my actual argument on its merits.

    Your claims don’t even roughly comport to the state of the law, so you haven’t offered an “argument” of any sort. More to the point, those who want to suppress expression always think that suppression is for the best of reasons because the issue is reeeeeally important and that the civil libertarians are paranoid ranters. Well done.

  60. #60 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 15, 2008

    Well, your response was lawyerly and (I’ll concede) probably a lot more informed where the law is concerned than mine.

    But, since this mere biologist doesn’t seem able to parse this in a way that makes a legal ‘argument’ that you would recognize, could you please explain where it is that I am recommending that the schools (as an agency of government) are either (in your language) forbidding or proscribing “advocacy of the use of force or of law violation”?

    After all, I don’t recall threatening the creationists with harm, or applying force to them, or proscribing them from advocating the use of force, or any other term. I admit in advance that this seems jargon-laden and I may misread you, but just what is it that you seem to think that I’m suggesting?

    Consider this: the state I live in has social science standards that acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust. Would you defend the ‘right’ of a Holocaust denier to rent public school facilities to hold multiple presentations of their views on consecutive evenings, in direct contradiction of those standards? I would certainly argue that they should be free to express their views—but, if the state is obligated to provide them with fora for same as a community service, what kind of speech could be prohibited, and on what grounds?

    I look forward to your reply.

  61. #61 Sinbad
    April 15, 2008

    But, since this mere biologist doesn’t seem able to parse this in a way that makes a legal ‘argument’ that you would recognize, could you please explain where it is that I am recommending that the schools (as an agency of government) are either (in your language) forbidding or proscribing “advocacy of the use of force or of law violation”?

    You misunderstand. Prior restraint of speech is very difficult to accomplish. It requires that the speaker do something like advocate immediate violence (a general call to revolution won’t even likely be enough). My point is simply that even idiots have the right to rent government facilities. The answer to speech we dislike or disagree with is more speech in opposition.

    Consider this: the state I live in has social science standards that acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust. Would you defend the ‘right’ of a Holocaust denier to rent public school facilities to hold multiple presentations of their views on consecutive evenings, in direct contradiction of those standards?

    My wife is also a California public school teacher but yes, to the extent that the school creates a “limited public forum” by renting out facilities, everybody gets a fair shot at renting them. The ACLU would surely agree.

    [I]f the state is obligated to provide them with fora for same as a community service, what kind of speech could be prohibited, and on what grounds?

    To be clear, the school isn’t obligated to provide a forum. It could choose not to rent out its facilities across the board (not likely with CA budgets being limited the way they are). But if the school does provide the forum, it must do so fairly to all. That’s why churches without their own buildings so frequently rent school facilities on Sundays.

    As noted above, prior restraint is almost never allowed. The circumstances must be quite extreme — advocating immediate violence or the like. As a practical matter (and in my view), trying to prevent people from speaking rarely helps one’s cause. It makes those looking to suppress seem weak and afraid (not to mention oppressive). I’d take ‘em on straight away.

  62. #62 Kseniya
    April 15, 2008

    Sinbad, I trust your explanation is accurate; it’s certainly clearly stated. Thank you.

    No need to be snarky with Scott, though. You’d be hard-pressed to squeeze a harsh word out of that fellah even with a steamroller. ;-)

    The answer to speech we dislike or disagree with is more speech in opposition. [...] I’d take ‘em on straight away.

    I must agree.

    (And a quick review of the OP reminds us that this is pretty much what PZ advocates as well.)

  63. #63 Scott Hatfield, OM
    April 15, 2008

    You’d be hard-pressed to squeeze a harsh word out of that fellah even with a steamroller. ;-)

    Actually, every time I feel obliged to type the word ‘creationist’ I experience a harsh sensation that is roughly equivalent to one Caledonian-style putdown. I get provoked just like everyone else here on occasion. I just try not to show it, because I do use my real name and I want to be an effective advocate for science education. And, with all due respect to Sinbad, I think school districts can set reasonable limits or conditions for use of their facilities that proceed from their desire to limit their own liability. I do believe that in general the best solution to speech is more speech, and there will be plenty of that in evidence in my neck of the woods next week.

  64. #64 Sinbad
    April 17, 2008

    And, with all due respect to Sinbad….

    Which is, in translation of course, no respect at all.

    I think school districts can set reasonable limits or conditions for use of their facilities that proceed from their desire to limit their own liability.

    To the extent you’re speaking of across-the-board conditions, consistently applied, schools can of course do that. But to the extent you mean (as I think you do) that schools can somehow ignore the Constitution “to limit their own liability,” — sorry — that’s just nuts; any liability which might attach would be due to the district’s failure to uphold constitutional speech rights. More to the point, there’s not the remotest jurisprudential evidence to support it. And you do think evidence is important, right?

    I do believe that in general the best solution to speech is more speech, and there will be plenty of that in evidence in my neck of the woods next week.

    Good.

  65. #65 Kseniya
    April 17, 2008

    Which is, in translation of course, no respect at all.

    Why? Because he doesn’t completely agree with you?

    I don’t think you’d have responded that way a few months ago. Hmmm… losing patience with the lefties? :-)

  66. #66 Sinbad
    April 18, 2008

    Why? Because he doesn’t completely agree with you?

    No ill will — just a pet peeve. When someone says “with all due respect,” they typically disagree without offering any respect (irrespective of what’s due). In this case, poor Scott is utterly clueless about the law, but disagrees incoherently anyway while not offering even a whiff of respect. Even if not ill-intended, that’s dishonest.

  67. #67 Kseniya
    April 20, 2008

    No ill will — just a pet peeve.

    Understood.

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