Pharyngula

And deserved it is, in this remarkably ignorant article by a creationist named Peter Heck. It starts out very, very badly.

It never ceases to amaze me how intellectually condescending evolutionary naturalists can be. Keep in mind, these are folks who believe that an indescribably tiny wad of nothingness exploded into a fully functional, structured, and ordered universe of orbiting planets and complex creatures without any supernatural agency involved. They are the ones who cling to a theory known as spontaneous generation – the notion that dead matter can just suddenly pop to life. They are the ones who champion a man (Charles Darwin) who suggested that Africans were more closely related to gorillas than Caucasians. They are the ones who believe that a wolf-like animal with hooves took to the water, lost its legs, and morphed into a whale (Cetaceans). If anyone should go easy on the intellectual condescension, it’s these people. But they don’t.

Wow. Let’s begin at the top.

Scientists believe that the universe began in the Big Bang because a large body of astronomical observation and mathematical work provides evidence that it happened. It’s odd, it’s counterintuitive to us short-lived humans who don’t see a large enough span of time to see changes on an astronomical scale, and there certainly are a lot of unanswered questions about what was going on in the first instant of our origin…but the physics all points in that direction. On the other hand, of course, we’ve got creationists who believe the universe was poofed into existence pretty much as it is right now by a snap of a god’s fingers 6,000 years ago, and the reason they think that is because priests of a tribe of nomadic goat-herders said so. Who should be intellectually condescending here?

Biologists recognize that the basis of life is chemistry — that we are the product of some wonderfully interesting biochemical reactions. We do not believe in spontaneous generation, but we do know that the boundary between biology and chemistry is very, very fuzzy indeed, and that there was a transition in the history of life where chemical replicators gradually acquired sufficient complexity that they became the basis for life. Again, this is the product of evidence and experiment: we see molecular indicators of the common origin of all life, and that we see even in our own cells the hallmarks of a history with a much simpler origin. On the other hand, of course, we’ve got creationists who believe a god independently created each species fixed and eternal, and that there are few enough of these unchangeable forms that they could all be loaded on a big boat. Why do they think so? Because a few Jewish poets and mystics scribbled down a page and a half of metaphor in an old book. Who should be intellectually condescending here?

Charles Darwin had complex views on race (I recommend Desmond and Moore’s Darwin’s Sacred Cause(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) for a good overview). He did have the common biases of his time, and certainly did believe that white Europeans were the best and most advanced of all peoples. However, the creationists of the time also shared those views, and in many cases were much worse. Louis Agassiz, for instance, thought that black and white people were independently created; he found Darwin’s view, that Europeans shared blood ancestry with Africans, to be repugnant in the extreme. The views of the religious were divided between slavery-promoting, black-denigrating believers in plural origins who thought blacks were marked as inferior by their god, and abolitionists who read the Bible as describing a brotherhood of all peoples. Darwin’s idea of evolution actually provided scientific support for the unity camp — and he himself found slavery abhorrent. To claim that Darwin was deplorable because he was a racist is both a gross misreading of history (nothing new to creationists) and a logical fallacy (also nothing new), since his views on race have nothing to do with the validity of his scientific ideas. Who should be intellectually condescending here?

The evolution of whales is also a matter of fact and evidence. We have the fossils; we can see a pattern of change across geological time, from those hooved terrestrial quadrupeds to flippered ambush predators adapted to living in the shallows to four-flippered, paddle-tailed swimmers to obligate water-dwellers with flukes and no hind limbs, with many stages in between. It is a beautiful and strongly-supported example of macroevolutionary change. So yes, we believe it — you’d have to be blind to ignore the testimony of the rocks. On the other hand, of course, we’ve got creationists who are shown the succession of forms and retreat to arguments that they’re just the animals who missed Noah’s big boat. The reason they think so is because a century of ludicrous apologists for fundamentalist faith have been frantically denying the emerging evidence. Who should be intellectually condescending here?

The rest of Heck’s article professes to cite specific instances of evolutionary problems. Swine flu isn’t an example of evolution — it’s just microevolution. He makes up stories to support his claim.

If Darwin was right, we should be able to observe and replicate gene mutations that yield new information nearly everywhere we look. We simply cannot.

But we do. All the time. The mechanisms are documented and demonstrated, and we even have thorough experimental confirmation of the acquisition of new genetic properties in evolving populations.

Heck continues his creationist twaddle with more outrageous claims.

Meanwhile, what we can find are innumerable cases of destructive gene mutations, where we end up with less genetic information than what was originally present. Take the recent discovery of perfectly preserved octopus remains. The discovery revealed that these ancient octopi actually had more genetic information than do modern octopi. Call it “Darwin in reverse.” Both horizontal and destructive mutations support the creationist model…and both devastate Darwin’s.

Errm, what? I wrote about those Cretaceous octopods — there was absolutely nothing in the work to quantify genetic information. What they revealed was a pattern of change — that macroevolution thing that Heck denies — in support of evolutionary explanations for octopus origins. And evolutionary models do not demand any direction for information; lineages can be streamlined and simplified, or they can become more elaborate and complicated. Everything is in response to local opportunities.

Who should be intellectually condescending here? I think the side that presents the evidence, actually seeks out new knowledge to test their conclusions, and actually demonstrates some knowledge and scholarship deserves to be a little uppity and arrogant. It’s the people like Peter Heck, who are utterly ignorant of the science, mangle what little they know, and actively mislead people about the evidence who might deserve a little condescension. My only reservation about that is that I tend to favor treating ignorant, lying twerps with open contempt instead.

Comments

  1. #1 Rorschach
    May 18, 2009

    PZ,
    dont you have better things to do?
    The whole screed is just one big argument from ignorance,followed by some ignorant arguments.
    LOL

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    May 18, 2009

    There seem to be two cretinist positions on the Big Bang: one is that it “proves creationism,” and the other is that it’s too absurd to consider.

    They are the ones who cling to a theory known as spontaneous generation – the notion that dead matter can just suddenly pop to life.

    No, it’s abiogenesis, vs. the “spontaneous generation” that many theists did believe in. Slight similarities between the two are belied by the enormous differences, especially the scientific pursuit of abiogenesis.

    More importantly, it doesn’t just miracle into life like cretins believe. It’s all about actual causes, which are what they really hate.

    They are the ones who champion a man

    No, we champion a theory, moron. It’s because you don’t understand anything about science that you focus on the man and his foibles. We’ve moved well beyond, while you’re fixated on a Victorian dude.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  3. #3 Alyson Miers
    May 18, 2009

    Keep in mind, these are folks who believe that an indescribably tiny wad of nothingness exploded into a fully functional, structured, and ordered universe of orbiting planets and complex creatures without any supernatural agency involved.

    I guess, kinda. It really helps if you keep in mind that the universe had a lot longer than 10,000 years to take shape. I suppose a lot of naturalistic claims tend to look absurd if you insist on believing that God created the heavens and Earth millenia after the domestication of the dog.

    They are the ones who cling to a theory known as spontaneous generation – the notion that dead matter can just suddenly pop to life.

    Wrong again!

  4. #4 Somnolent Aphid
    May 18, 2009

    it had to be octopods. now it’s personal. bring it mr. heck.

  5. #5 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    May 18, 2009

    My only reservation about that is that I tend to favor treating ignorant, lying twerps with open contempt instead.

    Well, nothing wrong with showing contempt for non-thinking god besoaked idiots who wouldn’t recognize hard evidence if it bit them on the ass. Yep, I’m an uppity condescending evilutionist too…

  6. #6 Rob Sparling
    May 18, 2009

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/science/14rna.html?em

    didn’t know where to post this but it seemed an interesting article.

  7. #7 Kobra
    May 18, 2009

    Wow. Let’s begin at the top.

    I was thinking the same thing, only preceded by an expletive.

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    May 18, 2009

    dont you have better things to do?

    NO! Heck is symptomatic of a huge problem in this country: the arrogance of ignorance. Somebody has to step up every once in a while and respond to their lies.

  9. #9 Benjamin Geiger
    May 18, 2009

    Let me be the first to say: Gosh darnit.

  10. #10 chgo_liz
    May 18, 2009

    You can be condescending, PZ, because you know exactly what you’re talking about, but us poor laypeople can’t.

    I always feel tongue-tied (finger-tied?) when I see these sorts of screeds, because I know all the facts are out there, but I can’t reproduce them cogently and succinctly enough to respond quickly when I see them. I could take the time to research and then provide links to a few hundred/thousand web pages which explain each of the fallacies described, but the average Joe Schmo isn’t going to bother reading the links anyway, let alone understand them.

    They keep repeating the same talking points, and it works. We don’t seem to have the stock paragraphs (boilerplate) to drop into our responses the way they do.

    We really need to have pithy factual paragraphs ready to go, so those of us who don’t work in the sciences can still counter this nonsense whenever we see it.

    The facts of science, in 250 words or less. Someone, please, create this impossible masterpiece!

  11. #11 The New Anarchist
    May 18, 2009

    I had a fundie land in my anarchist blog territory. He quickly got lost, kneeled devoutly and offered to stop leaving comments. Bet you wish it were that easy.

  12. #12 Scaryduck
    May 18, 2009

    We need to point and laugh at these creationist assclowns.

    So here I am, pointing, laughing.

  13. #13 Ahnald Brownshwagga the Monkey
    May 18, 2009

    @ 10

    I won’t write anything cuz im short on time, but this is good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mhX2Kas558&feature=channel_page

  14. #14 Patricia, OM
    May 18, 2009

    Wait…belief that dead matter can suddenly spring to life…er, isn’t that exactly what jezus is supposed to have done?
    Now I am confused.

  15. #15 Victor
    May 18, 2009

    You can rate it…

  16. #16 Holbach
    May 18, 2009

    You don’t have to convince me, as it is part of my education and rationalism to accept what we know as true. And there is no sense and an absolute waste of time to even try to convinve Rorschach @ 1 of the obvious and blatant reality of evolution and the Big Bang. Stick with your imaginary god Rorschach to remain forever ignorant and demented. The only sad thing is that you have reaped the benefits of evolution and science undeservedly, and I only wish I could deprive you of them. Your imaginary god isn’t going to do it, as much as nothing can do anything. Moron.

  17. #17 JD
    May 18, 2009

    The tard canard continues. And ticks are part of man’s fall from grace.

  18. #18 Michael Johnson
    May 18, 2009

    A little OT: My friend Ben the other day came up with what I thought was a pretty clever objection to the idiots who think the world is 6,000 years old. It’s: how is it that we can see stars more than 6,000 light years away? Either they think the speed of light is faster than it is, or they think that things are much closer together than they are. But one can pretty decisively prove that neither is the case. Is this an objection that anyone presses?

  19. #19 Rorschach
    May 18, 2009

    NO! Heck is symptomatic of a huge problem in this country: the arrogance of ignorance. Somebody has to step up every once in a while and respond to their lies.

    Maybe they should teach the Dunning-Kruger effect in public schools in the US
    LOL

    Scary how many bad thinkers’ bad writings get published in major newspapers etc over there.

  20. #20 Glen Davidson
    May 18, 2009

    It’s: how is it that we can see stars more than 6,000 light years away? Either they think the speed of light is faster than it is, or they think that things are much closer together than they are. But one can pretty decisively prove that neither is the case. Is this an objection that anyone presses?

    Yeah, it’s pretty old, so much that many of us really don’t want to bother with it any more, since it just gets too stupid arguing with those who won’t accept it.

    But yes, there are “models” where light is supposed to have gone faster in the past, and one has been that astronomical objects are close, just a lot smaller as you go farther away.

    Like I said, it just gets too stupid…

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  21. #21 Iason Ouabache
    May 18, 2009

    And there is no sense and an absolute waste of time to even try to convinve Rorschach @ 1 of the obvious and blatant reality of evolution and the Big Bang.

    I’m pretty sure Rorschach was saying that Heck’s arguments were ignorant, not PZ’s

    @Michael Johnson: The star light problem has plagued the Creationists for a very long time. They have no answer for it so they try to hand wave it away. Here’s the Talk.Origins page on the whole issue.

  22. #22 PZ Myers
    May 18, 2009

    Actually, the most common answer to that objection is that the light was created in transit to us. It’s all part of god’s massive plan to mislead us with faked evidence.

  23. #23 Benjamin Geiger
    May 18, 2009

    Glen Davidson:

    The other one is the claim that the universe was created with light en route from the stars to Earth. (Reductio ad absurdum, of course, is Last Thursdayism.)

  24. #24 Jackal
    May 18, 2009

    @ Michael Johnson

    A little OT: My friend Ben the other day came up with what I thought was a pretty clever objection to the idiots who think the world is 6,000 years old. It’s: how is it that we can see stars more than 6,000 light years away?

    But of course, Gawd created the light enroute. Just like he created some objects with a smaller proportion of carbon 14 than the objects we create now, and just like he created the fossils in the rocks. There is no limit to Gawddidit!

  25. #25 Adam
    May 18, 2009

    This idiot needs to read a science book from the 20th century. Spontaneous generation? Really?? If he even spent 2 minutes on Google, he’d know that was refuted in the 19th century. What a fucktard.

  26. #26 Owlmirror
    May 18, 2009

    My friend Ben the other day came up with what I thought was a pretty clever objection to the idiots who think the world is 6,000 years old. It’s: how is it that we can see stars more than 6,000 light years away? Either they think the speed of light is faster than it is, or they think that things are much closer together than they are. But one can pretty decisively prove that neither is the case. Is this an objection that anyone presses?

    Yes.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CE/CE411.html

    (and see also the next one (CE411.1) — there is a hypothesis that the speed of light was faster during the 10-43 second of inflation. Creationists latch onto this like ticks onto a deer, and parasitize science for their confused nonsense.)

  27. #27 raven
    May 18, 2009

    Being condescending to Peter Keck would be an undeserved compliment.

    He is just an ignorant Death Cult religious fanatic stringing old tired lies together once again.

  28. #28 Benjamin Geiger
    May 18, 2009

    Adam:

    That’s precisely what he’s trying to imply: by relabeling the Big Bang as “spontaneous generation”, he props up a straw man, claiming that we still believe in something Louis Pasteur disproved.

  29. #29 Anonymous
    May 18, 2009

    @18

    God put the stars really far away, then he put the light from those stars closer to earth so that we could see them.

    It’s really infuriating how tricksy God can be when He puts His mind to it.

  30. #30 Michael Johnson
    May 18, 2009

    Thx everyone for the info on the stars objection. Ha ha, light in transit. I didn’t even consider that one.

  31. #31 JD
    May 18, 2009

    And God does it with his left ring finger, mostly. If you look really closely while He’s making stuff.

  32. #32 littlejohn
    May 18, 2009

    I just love it when complete morons sneer at people who actual know things. People like Heck are probably unreachable by reasoned debate.

  33. #33 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 18, 2009

    relabeling the Big Bang as “spontaneous generation”

    No, the origin of life. For which the description “that dead matter can just suddenly pop to life” is, well, not quite appropriate by lots and lots of orders of magnitude.

  34. #34 Ken Cope
    May 18, 2009

    If the universe was created with so much care that when examined, no evidence of artificial authorship is discernible, everything appearing to be attributable to rational causes with no supernatural instigation or intervention involved, then the universe is a hoax by a trickster god in charge of an infinite army of demons, who can always fling just enough photons at us to make us believe that the universe is bigger and older than what it says in trickster god’s scary book. If you doubt the book, the demons have already gotten you. But don’t worry. In trickster god’s scary book, we learn that he raped a virgin and made sure his son would be tortured and killed in some kinda human sacrifice so we can cannibalize him every Sunday!

  35. #35 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 18, 2009

    Well some of the comments don’t disappoint

    Like that last paragraph. And why aren’t we seeing apes morphing into humans, etc?

  36. #36 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 18, 2009

    How did I manage to fail at closing the <span> tag?

  37. #37 Helioprogenus
    May 18, 2009

    What’s important here is to realize that Heck’s job as an ignorant fool, blind to scientific progress, is successful in preaching to the same choir that huddles in their houses on Sunday evenings fearing an imaginary place of damnation, and never actually living a life that they don’t take seriously. These morons are just a Jewish cult that somehow went out of control. Because of that, they give way too much credibility to themselves, and their progenitor cult, and in doing so, attempt to make our lives more difficult. Well, is it wrong to wish painful death on these types of people?

  38. #38 Newfie
    May 18, 2009

    We really need to have pithy factual paragraphs ready to go, so those of us who don’t work in the sciences can still counter this nonsense whenever we see it.

    Evidence?

  39. #39 Rorschach
    May 18, 2009

    And there is no sense and an absolute waste of time to even try to convinve Rorschach @ 1 of the obvious and blatant reality of evolution and the Big Bang

    Holbach,are you drunk or something?
    LOL

  40. #40 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 18, 2009

    Another brilliant commenter. They need to get these people together and start a think tank

    How many monkeys have you seen evolve in your lifetime, or for that matter, in history books (not just a science book)? If your answer is that, that happened millions of years ago and no books existed, then tell me how old homo sapiens (wise) humans are? You say about 200,000 years. When and what was the first form of writing? (we actually agree on this) 3200 BC and Heiroglyphics (which is mainly drawing and symbols that depict a message) So you expect us all to swallow that it took wise humans approximately 197,000 years to accomplish this simple form of writing? Forgive me for saying so, but evolutionists are so stuck on their science that they forget concrete history.

  41. #41 JeffS
    May 18, 2009

    The problem with creationists is you can present the evidence to them, and they just ignore it or laugh at it and make something up or bring up a tired point to ‘refute’ the evidence.

    Creationist beliefs have no basis in reality, so any evidence pointing to facts means nothing to them. If they do understand and comprehend what the evidence means, creationists seem to ignore it or perhaps they just shake their heads thinking ‘satan is up to his old tricks!’

    Its frustrating. Think of all the good that could be done if time didn’t need to be wasted on Creationist BS. I’m not referring to PZ’s post necessarily, but the court time. The time of the children that grow up believing these LIES (there is no doubt creationist have to know their ‘truths’ are lies as they are the ones who make them up in spite of the evidence, they didn’t even need to make up their crazy anti-evolution talking points until the truth was shown to them).

    Thank you for rebutting the ignorance PZ. Sure, it won’t change the minds of any creationists, but it could help a free thinking individual with little understanding of Biology who, in their ignorance, confuse these lies for an actual well thought out argument.

  42. #42 ArchangelChuck
    May 18, 2009

    Seems like anti-intellectual bullshit, like Heck’s article, is all that creationists and their apologists can muster.

  43. #43 vinny
    May 18, 2009

    Actually, CD posits the possibility of a more advanced culture than white Europeans a few times in DOM, and he also presents quite a few caveats and checks and balances as well, grading ‘savages’ better in certain areas, if I remember correctly.

  44. #44 felixthecat
    May 18, 2009

    Hee-hee! That has got to be one of the most stupid opinion pieces that I have ever read. Good for the lulz, but not much else.

    He does make the valid point that- uh….sorry, I was thinking about an observation Spongebob made, not Peter Heck.

  45. #45 raven
    May 18, 2009

    Helio the genocidal maniac:

    Well, is it wrong to wish painful death on these types of people?

    Yeah, it is. There are 2 billion xians on the planet .

    About all you prove is that atheists can also be insane crackpots and not in a nice way.

  46. #46 John Atkeson
    May 18, 2009

    What I want to know is how did PZ become a regular reader of One News Now?

    It’s not exactly shocking to find a nut when you dig your fists into elephant dung…

  47. #47 penguinsaur
    May 18, 2009

    I get so sick of hearing creationists whine about how were abunch of condescending assholes. If you dont want people calling you an idiot dont say such idiotic things. Its that simple, the funny thing is after a long whine about how ‘evolutionists’ are assholes to everyone else they laugh at those idiots who believe horoscopes and preach about how everyone who doesnt agree with them deserves to be brutally tortured in a fiery pit for eternity.

  48. #48 Rorschach
    May 18, 2009

    Helio @ 37,

    Well, is it wrong to wish painful death on these types of people?

    Yeah.
    How;s life mate?? Long time no see !!

  49. #49 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 18, 2009

    What I want to know is how did PZ become a regular reader of One News Now?

    I’m sure PZ will confirm this but I’m betting he gets flooded with emails containing these types of articles from Pharyngula readers and dingbats (and some combination of the two). I know I’ve sent many a link to him that has turned into a post.

    And Yes I am a member of both groups above.

  50. #50 Holbach
    May 18, 2009

    Rorschach @ 39

    My apologies. Read it too quickly and had to rush out before I gave it much thought and time.

  51. #51 John Atkeson
    May 18, 2009

    What I want to know is how did PZ become a regular reader of One News Now?

    It’s not exactly shocking to find a nut when you dig your fists into elephant dung…

  52. #52 chgo_liz
    May 18, 2009

    Thanks to Ahnald @ #13. Is it too much to ask for some written ammunition too? So many creationists either won’t bother to click on a link or won’t listen through the entire video (English accents being so hard to understand, don’t you know).

    Everything I’ve found is always so detailed and therefore long…and, usually requires at least some modicum of intelligence to understand.

    I’m thinking 1- to 2-sentence responses to each of the top 50 or so idiotic claims. Something easy to cut-&-paste whenever the situation warrants it.

    Someone has to have done this already, right?

  53. #53 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    May 18, 2009

    dont you have better things to do?

    Of course not. It’s summer. He gets to spend the next few months loafing around trying not to be bored.

    (I’m kidding, goddammit!)

  54. #54 raven
    May 18, 2009

    We really need to have pithy factual paragraphs ready to go, so those of us who don’t work in the sciences can still counter this nonsense whenever we see it.

    There is. That was a good idea. So much so that it has been done.

    The talkorigins website has all the creationist lies and all the science refuting them. It is a long, long list. I found it invaluable when confronted with their lies. The creos just recycle the same old nonsense over and over and some of it dates back centuries. Once you’ve heard them once, you’ve heard them forever.

  55. #55 Kobra
    May 18, 2009

    Peter Heck uses WALL OF TEXT! It was not very effective.

    PZ Myers uses FACTS AND LOGIC. It was super effective.

  56. #56 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 18, 2009

    The talkorigins website has all the creationist lies and all the science refuting them. It is a long, long list. I found it invaluable when confronted with their lies. The creos just recycle the same old nonsense over and over and some of it dates back centuries. Once you’ve heard them once, you’ve heard them forever.

    Unfortunately, TalkOrigins seems to be in need of some serious updating / expansion of references.

  57. #57 Ernest
    May 18, 2009

    Let me just say “HECK” of a job “PETER”.

  58. #58 raven
    May 18, 2009

    I’m thinking 1- to 2-sentence responses to each of the top 50 or so idiotic claims. Something easy to cut-&-paste whenever the situation warrants it.

    Someone has to have done this already, right?
    .

    There is. That was a good idea. So much so that it has been done.

    talkorigins.org talkorigins.org talkorigins.org< ./b>

    http://www.talkorigins.org

  59. #59 Sven DiMilo
    May 18, 2009

    evolutionists are so stuck on their science that they forget concrete history

    Classic.

    (hint: fossils)

  60. #60 raven
    May 18, 2009

    Unfortunately, TalkOrigins seems to be in need of some serious updating / expansion of references. .

    Yeah really. It is a volunteer effort and people get bored or busy or something.

    It is still good though. The creos just recycle their lies and many of them are centuries old. They still go on about whales not having any transitional fossils decades after we found a predicted and elegant series of whale fossils with legs

  61. #61 zaardvark
    May 18, 2009

    Keep in mind, these are folks who believe that an indescribably tiny wad of nothingness exploded into a fully functional, structured, and ordered universe of orbiting planets and complex creatures without any supernatural agency involved.

    If these people really have a problem with the Big Bang theory, you’d think the least they could do is [i]understand[/i] the basics of what the theory describes. It wasn’t a “tiny wad of nothingness”, it was a tiny wad of [i]everythingness[/i]. This is a fatal misunderstanding. It also didn’t explode; it was an expansion of spacetime. Completely different.

    Also, mocking rational people by pointing out their rationality… well it can’t even be called mocking; it’s just intellectual self-mutilation.

  62. #62 Dave X
    May 18, 2009

    I wonder how he thinks large chunks of 13,000,000,000 years is “spontaneous”?

  63. #63 Janine, OMnivore
    May 18, 2009

    Perhaps in Mr. Britt’s next piece, he could lay off the condescension towards creationists and instead enlighten us all as to why he defends a theory whose author proclaimed that blacks were genetically inferior to whites. To me, I think that’s the very definition of junk science.

    Is there no fact that Heck gets right. Even I know that Darwin knew nothing about genetics. To me, I think that’s the very definition of junk thought.

  64. #64 Brian Coughlan
    May 18, 2009

    Sent the following to Pete :

    Dear Peter!

    You do realise that the rest of the world can read this rancid tripe? I’m a European who keeps an eye on the American scene, and although I am repeatedly staggered by the scientific illiteracy of religious Americans, you are in a league all of your own. What a lethal mix of ignorance and arrogance!

    Absolutely everything in your article was wrong, it’s claims have been endlessly refuted and to anyone remotely familiar with evolution (or cosmology) they are hilarious. To paraphrase C.S.Lewis; You are either a shockingly ignorant person, a very bad person or simply insane. Asshat, Disingenous Asshat or wackaloon. Take your pick, but you absolutely fall into one of those categories.

    Regards,

    Brian Coughlan

  65. #65 John C. Welch
    May 18, 2009

    Actually, the most common answer to that objection is that the light was created in transit to us. It’s all part of god’s massive plan to mislead us with faked evidence.

    I love that rejoinder, because it gives me my opening for “So God’s a dickhead then? Wow. Explains a lot though.”

    they really hate that.

  66. #66 Donnie B.
    May 18, 2009

    And God does it with his left ring finger, mostly. If you look really closely while He’s making stuff.

    So you’re saying God is married to his creation?

  67. #67 Anonymous
    May 18, 2009

    “Keep in mind, these are folks who believe that an indescribably tiny wad of nothingness exploded into a fully functional, structured, and ordered universe of orbiting planets and complex creatures without any supernatural agency involved.

    God, what a great sentence. He actually believes that his case is made more credible by insisting on magic as a required ingredient.

  68. #69 Ryan F Stello
    May 18, 2009

    Thanks for this description of the basics, I’ll have to permalink for a friend of mine.

  69. #70 Holbach
    May 18, 2009

    airbagmoments @ 68

    Yeah, read his awful dreck yesterday. Damn, what insane puke. His third sentence of the first paragraph exactly paraphrases how we think and feel about crap religion. Of course, my remarks would be a little more strident and right to the point about religious insanity. He at least is aware of what rational people think of him and his demented ilk. Ever notice how his smirky smile mirrors that of a moron? His brain matches the size of his name.

  70. #71 Rugosa
    May 18, 2009

    So is Anthony McCarthy.

    http://haloscan.com/tb/echidne/3089492082533953933

    He is apparently convinced that there is an actual cult of Darwin-worshippers, who believe the Origin is some sort of irrefutable gospel. He helpfully points out in comments that evolutionary theory has changed and expanded since Darwin’s time. Bet all you PhD scientists out there didn’t know that!

  71. #72 Prof. Henry Armitage
    May 18, 2009

    Wow. Peter Heck certainly is an ignoramus, even down to the use of the term “octopi”.

  72. #73 Peter
    May 18, 2009

    Bravo Zulu PZ.

    Thank you for holding these people responsible for the ignorance they spout. Thank you for taking the time out of your life to respond to their deceptive claims.

    Thank you for being the voice many of us wish we had.

    The clarity and brevity of your writing is admirable, and enviable. Please don’t stop, ever!

    -Peter

  73. #74 cicely
    May 18, 2009

    Helioprogenus @ 37:

    Well, is it wrong to wish painful death on these types of people?

    Right or wrong, it’s certainly a fast way to give up the moral high ground, and puts you in no position to comment on the hatefulness when some theist gloats about how we are all going to Hell for an eternity of hideous torture, while he laughs.

    Although, what you wish for in the privacy of your own mind is your own business, of course.

  74. #75 Peter
    May 18, 2009

    Bravo Zulu PZ.

    Thank you for holding these people responsible for the ignorance they spout. Thank you for taking the time out of your life to respond to their deceptive claims.

    Thank you for being the voice many of us wish we had.

    The clarity and brevity of your writing is admirable, and enviable. Please don’t stop, ever!

    -Peter

  75. #76 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    May 18, 2009

    @cicely #74: There’s a significant difference in degree between wishing someone a painful death and wishing someone a painful eternal afterlife, but yeah, it’s the same sort of hate going on.

  76. #77 Charles
    May 18, 2009

    I couldn’t get past the very early error of “tiny wad of nothingness.” The Big Bang didn’t start with nothing. It started with a singularity, a point containing everything, matter, energy, (well, mass didn’t really have meaning at that energy level) including space itself. A spot so dense that the physical models tend to barf trying to describe it.

    … But that’s a rather minor point, even though it highlights this joker’s incomprehension of scientific theories.

  77. #78 Helioprogenus
    May 18, 2009

    You all do realize that it was a rhetorical question said tongue-in-cheek.

    Yeah, it’s been a while Rorschach.

    It’s funny that an off hand comment can be taken so seriously, but then again, when there are no creationists trolls to bash, a rhetorical question can cause some fervent discussion.

    Besides, wishing a painful death on somebody is much different than actually causing it. It’s one of those little thought exercises that can let you release the anger. Imagine, you hear this bullnugget Heck, then imagine a painful death on him, then you actually come to feel bad for him, and you’ve come full circle. You just realize that you killed him in your mind in the most horrible fashion possible, and suddenly, your acute anger is reduced to the typical generalized frustration at mindless drones.

  78. #79 genesgalore
    May 18, 2009

    dead matter??? lol!!! all “matter” is alive with electrons and protons, with gluons and bosons. people who are so sloppy with science should be slammed and never heard from again in the public sphere.

  79. #80 Andrew
    May 18, 2009

    A fantastic entry. I’m bookmarking this to show to those who confidently assert these stupid arguments again and again and again and again and again…

  80. #81 MrMarkAZ
    May 18, 2009

    It never ceases to amaze me how intellectually condescending evolutionary naturalists can be …

    And it never ceases to amaze me how intellectually deficient creationists can be as they repeatedly consume and regurgitate the same disproven arguments like the coprophagous canine. Except that in the canine’s case, he genuinely can’t help it; the creationist chooses to do so.

  81. #82 LaplaceD
    May 18, 2009

    I didn’t know condescension involved fully articulated point-by-point rebuttals. Don’t you have better things to spend your time doing, PZ?

  82. #83 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    May 18, 2009

    Don’t you have better things to spend your time doing, PZ?

    Refuting creationist nonsense he can do in his sleep.

  83. #84 Crudely Wrott
    May 18, 2009

    I left this comment for Mr. Heck at 4:17pm, a couple minutes ago. It’ll be interesting to see how if it appears and how long it might take. ahem

    So, Peter. What was your master’s thesis about? It certainly wasn’t biology or history of science or the relationship between chemistry and biology or geologic evidence of the past or anything remotely related to qualifying you to write this article. Warmed over sops of incredulity in the face of challenging ideas are all you have to offer. Stick to politics where you can be wrong and still have a dedicated following. Ooops, you already do that, don’t you?

    His name is Heck? Isn’t that a polite word for where I’ll spend eternity in torment or is this another deception perpetrated by Invisible Supernatural Spooks?

    Only the Shadow knows! Mwah ha ha ha haaaa.

    *4:25pm–my comment not yet posted*

  84. #85 Crudely Wrott
    May 18, 2009

    4:40pm now and my comment hasn’t appeared. Neither has Brian Coughlan’s (at #64).

    Then I saw the date of the article, May 11.

    Comments are probably disabled by now.

    Nevertheless, my snark stands.

    @ Helioprogenus: I have often used expressions or entertained thoughts that could be interpreted as wishing a long painful death for someone. Of course, I mean I wish to throttle and dismember and incinerate the ideas or actions that they promote.

    Now I better understand the admonishment to not kill the messenger. Still, some mental images are so satisfying.

  85. #86 386sx
    May 18, 2009

    Charles Darwin, world famous geneticist. Lol creationists sure are dumb.

  86. #87 Ragutis
    May 18, 2009

    Heck my ass. Reading that was hell.

  87. #88 SteveM
    May 18, 2009

    One of the comments from that site:

    I am an evolutionary biologist at a major East Coast university. THe first thing that I ask new students is: “Have any of you ever seen a cow evolve into a whale?” No one ever answers yes, of course. Evolution is a lie, but to keep our jobs and lives safe, we have to teach it. The governemnt [sic] says so.

    WTF? How can somebody call themselves an evolutionary biologist while not believing evolution? I have yet to meet an electrical engineer that doesn’t “believe” Maxwell’s Equations. I’ve never seen an electron, but I do not doubt its existence.

  88. #89 Tim H
    May 18, 2009

    I am currently the proud owner of a letter a local creotard sent me. There were several creationist letters-to-the-editor in the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette back in March. I responded. (My response was printed the day PZ was in town.) One of the twits sent me a reply Friday.
    Most of it is mindless unsupported rant, but there was a gem buried in it. He claims Archaeopteryx is “100% Avian” and therefore not evidence that evolution occurs. I’ve got a reply worked up that asks him how many birds with teeth and a long bony tail he can see out his window.
    The moron constantly claims “Creation Science” explains everything and evolutionists slander Christianity, but he never mentions the bible. He won’t admit what his source is, because he wants to pretend he’s talking about science. So I ask him–
    —By the way, what does a creation scientist do? If such a person as a creation scientist exists, surely he must study creation events, and atempt to describe them through natural processes. Obviously, his results would be consistant with other sciences like chemistry and physics. Where does one find a creation event to study? How does one study a creation event? What do you try to measure? What instruments are used? What does a creation event look like? (I’m curious-I’ve never seen one.) How long does a creation event last? Presumably there must be some transfer of matter and/or energy, or the creation event would violate the First Law of Thermodynamics. What kind of energy is involved? If the energy is in the form of EM, what frequency range is used? And when can we expect creation to be demonstrated in the lab? —
    I mean, really. If creation science wants to ever thrive, it can’t just be anti-evolution. It needs to spread its wings and embrace the posative. I want creation equations!

  89. #90 Crux Australis
    May 18, 2009

    PZ, I think I just fell in love with you. Which is strange, because you’re a male. And a biologist.

  90. #91 raven
    May 18, 2009

    I am an evolutionary biologist at a major East Coast university. THe first thing that I ask new students is: “Have any of you ever seen a cow evolve into a whale?” No one ever answers yes, of course. Evolution is a lie, but to keep our jobs and lives safe, we have to teach it. The governemnt [sic] says so.

    Obvious lie from a devout xian. They do that all the time, lying is known as xian morality. . This guy has most likely never even seen a university.

  91. #92 386sx
    May 18, 2009

    Take the recent discovery of perfectly preserved octopus remains.

    Lol, “perfectly preserved octopus remains”. Creationists sure are goofy.

  92. #93 comsympinko
    May 18, 2009

    “he found Darwin’s view, that Europeans shared blood ancestry with Africans, to be repugnant in the extreme.”

    And there you have it.

    The whole argument distilled down to one simple concept: there’s no way a good white creationist can possibly believe that they’re related to those god damned brown people.

    I mean, if there actually is a universal human brotherhood based on common descent, how in the world could they continue to justify slaughtering them by the millions and condemning the rest to lives of poverty and starvation by stealing everything they’ve got?

    That really wouldn’t be very philadelphian.

  93. #94 386sx
    May 18, 2009

    Take the recent discovery of perfectly preserved octopus remains.

    Why doesn’t he give a citation for that? He must have been in a hurry or something…

    Yahhh…

  94. #95 386sx
    May 18, 2009

    Perfectly preserved hamburger buns…

    http://www.geocities.com/scaryrabbitz/moldbuns.JPG

  95. #96 chgo_liz
    May 18, 2009

    Raven, thanks! The FAQ section — simple Q & A in a few sentences (with links to the longer passages which we know they’ll never read) — is probably my best bet. Anything that takes longer than 2 sentences or has larger than 3 syllable words isn’t going to be read, let alone understood.

  96. #97 Jadehawk
    May 18, 2009

    When and what was the first form of writing? (we actually agree on this) 3200 BC and Heiroglyphics (which is mainly drawing and symbols that depict a message) So you expect us all to swallow that it took wise humans approximately 197,000 years to accomplish this simple form of writing? Forgive me for saying so, but evolutionists are so stuck on their science that they forget concrete history.

    I was gonna ask why those morons are so hung up on writing specifically (what with the fact that we find visual art centuries and millennia older than that), but then I remembered that those people worship text. for them, it may indeed seem that before there was text, there was nothing (“In the beginning was the [written] word”).

    so, instead I’ll ask why it surprises them or anyone else that the oldest written down myths coincide in creation with the invention of print…?

  97. #98 Jadehawk
    May 18, 2009

    arrrgh…. substitute “writing” for “print”, and forgive this modernist oopsie

  98. #99 Qwerty
    May 18, 2009

    My favorite word in PZ’s post: Twaddle.

    Twaddledom – (pronounced twaddledumb) creationists who pretend to know all about evolution, but actually know little or nothing about evolution.

  99. #100 Marcie
    May 18, 2009

    Great post, PZ.

  100. #101 Rey Fox
    May 18, 2009

    Yeah, refuting an article from One News Now sort of brings “pearls before swine” to mind. Not the comic strip, that’s the second thing that it brings to mind.

  101. #102 Anonymous
    May 18, 2009

    “Spontaneous generation?”
    Wow, somebody hasn’t picked up a science textbook in, oh, about 200 years.

  102. #103 Monado
    May 18, 2009

    Tim H. [#89] wins the thread!

    Another area of research is how many creators were involved. I think we can safely say that the creator of jellyfish produced a model of elegance and efficiency, the inventor of the octopus eye beat out the inventor of the human eye, which has an unfixable blind spot; and avian breathing systems surpass those of mammals. So how many creators can we deduce? Any committees? Reworks? Recalls?

  103. #104 Keith Pinster
    May 18, 2009

    The interesting thing about this whole issue is that for some odd reason, creationists feel the need to insist that the only way they can be right is if science (pretty much ALL science) is WRONG! These knuckleheads don’t understand that we are not disproving god, we just explaining how things happened in a scientific way. If they had a brain between them, they would just say “ya, god created the stuff that the big bang ejected and caused it to blow.? And ?god caused the ?spark? that got life going?. Cool, we both win. We find out the truth and they get to have god involved. Simple. But, NOOOooooo. They have to rail against science to somehow ?prove? that god exists by insisting that science is wrong. Well, guys, you can?t ‘prove’ science is wrong WITHOUT SCIENCE! Except for those morons that just say ?it?s in the bible!? Like their ?faith? is proof enough and everyone else just needs to sit down, shut up and accept it. Amazing!

  104. #105 MarkR
    May 18, 2009

    You don’t know the half of it, PZ. This guy is from my neck of the woods – he writes a column for our local paper the Kokomo Tribune, and on top of that, his full time job is a teacher at a local high school. He’s spreading this bullshit to a whole another generation.

  105. #106 cicely
    May 18, 2009

    Posted by: Helioprogenus @ 78:

    You all do realize that it was a rhetorical question said tongue-in-cheek.

    Oops. Sorry about the friendly fire. I got caught up with the whole gloating over another’s torment (in real life or hypothetical afterlife) thing. The irony hits me every time a religious zealot goes on about how atheists can’t possibly be other than immoral, unethical necropedaphilacs (and probably Democrats, to boot) while bringing new and contrary meaning to the concept of Christian Love.

  106. #107 cicely
    May 18, 2009

    sigh

    That should probably be necropedophiliacs. Or maybe necropedophiles. Pedonecrophiles? Not my area, and I gladly admit my ignorance of the finer technical points of the appropriate nomenclature.

    Anyway. Move right along, now. Nothing more to see here.

  107. #108 Cowcakes
    May 19, 2009

    Peter Heck should have studied his Lincoln before writing that article.

    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

  108. #109 Anonymous
    May 19, 2009

    Is it any wonder his middle name’s “WhatThe”?

  109. #110 Sean
    May 19, 2009

    “Who should be intellectually condescending here?” Nice! Great work PZ!!!

  110. #111 Piltdown Man
    May 19, 2009

    On the Darwin-as-racist issue …

    PZ Myers:

    Charles Darwin had complex views on race … He did have the common biases of his time, and certainly did believe that white Europeans were the best and most advanced of all peoples.

    To be precise, he believed that Africans were more closely related to gorillas than Caucasians. Heck is simply right on that point — why be mealy-mouthed about it?

    However, the creationists of the time also shared those views, and in many cases were much worse.

    A 19th-century white European Christian would obviously have believed his religion was better and more advanced than African religion. He would also probably have believed his civilization was better and more advanced than African civilization. But he would not have believed that Africans were more closely related to gorillas than Europeans.

    Louis Agassiz, for instance, thought that black and white people were independently created; he found Darwin’s view, that Europeans shared blood ancestry with Africans, to be repugnant in the extreme.

    According to Wiki: “Agassiz … became a prolific writer in what has been later termed the genre of scientific racism. Agassiz was specifically a believer and advocate in polygenism, that races came from separate origins (specifically separate creations), were endowed with unequal attributes, and could be classified into specific climatic zones, in the same way he felt other animals and plants could be classified. … Interestingly, his stance in this case was considered to be quite radical in its time, because it went against the more orthodox and standard reading of the Bible in his time which implied all human stock descended from a single couple (Adam and Eve), and in his defense Agassiz often used what now sounds like a very “modern” argument about the need for independence between science and religion … Agassiz’s racism was by no means unique for his time or context, though his reading of it into a formalized and scientific context gave it a sense of legitimacy, and allowed it to be easily exported to other contexts.

    In other words, a crackpot pseudo-scientific idea led Agassiz to espouse what, from from the perspective of orthodox Christianity, was and is a heresy, namely polygenism.

    The article goes on:

    In the context of ethnology and anthropology of the mid-19th century, Agassiz’s polygenetic views became explicitly seen as opposing Darwin’s views on race, which sought to show the common origin of all human races and the superficiality of racial differences. Darwin’s second book on evolution, The Descent of Man, features extensive argumentation addressing the single origin of the races, at times explicitly opposing Agassiz’s theories.

    The Descent of Man being the book which advanced the view that Africans were more closely related to gorillas than Caucasians.

    PZ:

    The views of the religious were divided between slavery-promoting, black-denigrating believers in plural origins who thought blacks were marked as inferior by their god, and abolitionists who read the Bible as describing a brotherhood of all peoples. Darwin’s idea of evolution actually provided scientific support for the unity camp ? and he himself found slavery abhorrent.

    That’s a bit of an oversimplification of what “the religious” believed at the time, but that aside, isn’t the real problem thi

  111. #112 Piltdown Man
    May 19, 2009

    contd.

    … isn’t the real problem this: that while Darwin’s idea may have confirmed the common descent of the human species, it also maintained the common descent of all species, thus leaving the door open to believe that one human subgroup was “less evolved” than another – eg that Africans were more closely related to gorillas than Caucasians.

    None of which disproves Darwin’s theory, of course, but it’s troubling that people are so reluctant to consider the implications.

  112. #113 Piltdown Man
    May 19, 2009

    cont.

    … isn’t the real problem this: that while Darwin’s idea may have confirmed the common descent of the human species, it also maintained the common descent of all species, thus leaving the door open to believe that one human subgroup was “less evolved” than another – eg that Africans were more closely related to gorillas than Caucasians.

    None of which disproves Darwin’s theory, of course, but it’s troubling that people are so reluctant to consider the implications.

  113. #114 John Morales
    May 19, 2009

    No, Piltdown, that’s not a problem with the theory but rather with people, since the beliefs you refer to are counterfactual and pseudoscientific and are thus wrong.

    Furthermore, Darwin described an idea for a mechanism that explains biological observations, and that others misinterpret or twist it to suit their purposes doesn’t relate to its correctness or otherwise.

  114. #115 Christophe Thill
    May 19, 2009

    This is so typical, no, archetypal, that it’s almost precious. It proves, once more again, that people tend to see others, not through glasses, but in a mirror. They think the rest of the world is similar to themselves. They believe in concepts backed by no evidence, just because an old book says so. And they think scientists do the same. For them, evolution is not even a theory (in the scientific sense), it’s a belief, one that you choose, but you could just as well have chosen the opposite. They have gods and prophets, and they think scientists have their own prophet too. And everything rests on the personality of those prophets: if it was ever proven that Darwin cheated in a card game at Down House one evening (not that I think he was the kind of guy to do so, mind you), then his entire work would crumble down!

    And those guys are sincere, really sincere. they’re just as sincere in their ignorance as they are ignorant in their sincerity. Normally, ignorance is easy to cure: just open a book. But when you are deliberately illiterate…

  115. #116 Kel
    May 19, 2009

    … isn’t the real problem this: that while Darwin’s idea may have confirmed the common descent of the human species, it also maintained the common descent of all species, thus leaving the door open to believe that one human subgroup was “less evolved” than another – eg that Africans were more closely related to gorillas than Caucasians.

    No, that’s the opposite of what evolution says. Evolution doesn’t say that one is less evolved than another – that’s an absurdity. Rather it says that all life shared a common ancestor – we aren’t higher or lower forms of life, rather different iterations of survival machines. It’s only through misunderstanding what evolution says (usually that life is a chain where we are higher forms) that it can be used to justify such statements.

  116. #117 Piltdown Man
    May 19, 2009

    Kel @ 116:

    Evolution doesn’t say that one is less evolved than another – that’s an absurdity. Rather it says that all life shared a common ancestor – we aren’t higher or lower forms of life, rather different iterations of survival machines. It’s only through misunderstanding what evolution says (usually that life is a chain where we are higher forms) that it can be used to justify such statements.

    You’re right, “less evolved” was an inept and misleading phrase, for which I apologize — although I was careful not to use expressions like “higher” or “lower”.

    I had an unsatisfactory debate with Owlmirror a while back on this topic, and expressed myself more clearly there:

    [Darwin's theory] claims that all life shares a common ancestor – ie that species or subgroups within species can evolve into different species. Species thus become “provisional” entities, part of a fluid continuum of life. In theory a particular human population could diverge from the rest of humanity. From there, it’s just a short step to claiming that a particular group of humans is closer in evolutionary terms to its predecessor than the rest of us. Such a claim might not be true but it could be. Evolutionary theory may not require one to believe that blacks are closer than whites to gorillas, as Darwin did, but it makes it possible to do so.

    John Morales @ 114:

    the beliefs you refer to are counterfactual and pseudoscientific and are thus wrong

    In what way precisely? Evolutionary theory does admit the possibility of human subgroups diverging into separate species, does it not? As I said in my discussion with Owlmirror:

    If one accepts that evolution has occurred, it would appear that the process has (broadly speaking) involved a development from the simple to the complex – in the case of humanity, increasingly large brains which eventually reached a point where they somehow gave rise to language, art, ethics etc. But if evolution occurs in response to environmental pressures, then this increasing complexity is purely because environmental pressures have so far favoured increasing complexity – there’s no teleological ‘ascent’ or ‘progress’ going on here. Ergo, there is no reason why – should environmental pressures demand it – evolution might not go into reverse, so to speak, as simpler, stupider life-forms find themselves flourishing in the new conditions. Perhaps [some of us] are destined to devolve into shambling hominids chipping flints!

  117. #118 Kel
    May 19, 2009

    You’re right, “less evolved” was an inept and misleading phrase, for which I apologize — although I was careful not to use expressions like “higher” or “lower”.

    It’s not really you that is the problem, it’s those who justify their racism by using that phrase. Same thing with survival of the fittest, the way this phrase is misused is very disheartening. Same goes for Dawkins and his use of the phrase “The Selfish Gene.” It just goes to show that scientists have to be meticulous in what they say, lest they have their words twisted and misused by those with agendas.

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