Pharyngula

I get email

I wondered what the creationists were doing after last night’s debate, when all the godless rationalists were partying down. They were composing a condescending letter to rationalize away their defeat!

Here’s what Ross Olson of the Twin Cities Creation Science Association sent me and Mark Borrello and Jerry Bergman this morning.

Thank you all

Thanks to you all for keeping the debate on a courteous intellectual level.

Obviously not all the questions were addressed but the event illustrated that it can be extremely valuable to do so.

Dr. Myers, you have a unique position, with your immensely popular blog, to change the whole complexion of the discussion. Remember how you treated Dr. Bergman on your blog?

On Monday, 16 November, I’m going to be doing a debate. I hate debates, but I’ve been dragged into this one. It’s being promoted by the local creationist loons and CASH, and I’d like to see a good turnout from the sensible, scientific, godless community. I’ll be arguing with a loud clown, Jerry Bergman, on “Should Intelligent Design Be Taught in the Schools?” I think you can guess which side I’m going to be on.

You can, by the power of example and occasional criticism of overzealous followers, turn the blog into an actual forum of ideas. It would be a great contribution to the intellectual world.

To be addressed is your claim that evolution adds information. That needs to be supported. Your closing remarks about evolutionary research into the beak changes of Darwin’s Finches need to be answered with the point that they are still finches and the changes cycle with changing environmental conditions. The only point at which the crowd got rowdy was with the mention of evolution’s influence on Hitler. Actually, that issue is not solved by shouting because there is a strong case that the desire to improve the race leads to eugenic and ethnic cleansing policies. Indeed, your claim that morality comes from our culture needs to answer the question, “What if my culture is the Mafia?” Other evolutionary apologists have candidly pointed out that the only morality that can come out of evolution is that I leave my genes, as many of them as possible, to the next generation. Also, a truly interactive academic blog would allow posting of the studies on the academic success of students exposed to both evolution and intelligent design. You have consistently claimed that those students who do not get pure evolution will fail, but without offering any experimental or observational data. And to claim that evidence against evolution does not represent evidence for intelligent design needs closer analysis. There is a logical dichotomy involved. Life either has a natural origin or not. If not, then the origin must come from outside natural mechanisms. You can claim that we just don’t know, but while waiting, need to entertain the possibility that there is a cause outside of nature. To say there can be no such thing is not a scientific statement or even a logical one but an a priori elimination of one whole field of inquiry. Your redefinition of vestigial organs as reduced function may get some traction but is not the way they were presented 100 years ago, but there is no doubt that “Junk DNA’ was clearly touted as evolutionary leftovers and delayed the search for function, which was predicted by Intelligent design.

Also, you have not only personally attacked Dr. Bergman, you have allowed your followers to misrepresent his qualifications by focusing on the institution granting one of his PhDs. Here is a CV:

M.P.H., Northwest Ohio Consortium for Public Health (Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio; University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio; Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio), 2001.
M.S. in biomedical science, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio, 1999.
Ph.D. in human biology, Columbia Pacific University, San Rafael, California, 1992.
M.A. in social psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1986.
Ph.D. in measurement and evaluation, minor in psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, 1976.
M.Ed. in counseling and psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, 1971.
B.S., Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, 1970. Major area of study was sociology, biology, and psychology.
A.A. in Biology and Behavioral Science, Oakland Community College, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1967.

If your case is strong, students will be enriched by being allowed to see it interact with the opposition. And your call for punishment of those who reject the ruling paradigm conflicts with the view of science as growing and self correcting. How can purveyors of new ideas work hard to establish them if they are not allowed to do so? Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions pointed out that it is very difficult for those entrenched in the establishment to change and paradigm shifts come with generational revolutions by those whose life work and reputations are not tied to the current model.

Dr. Borrello, because you have participated in a debate with me, I know you are in favor of interactions and Dr. Bergman, I know you not only are in favor of dialogue but would be delighted to bring this to the next level. Because you have been willing to change in the past, you have demonstrated that data makes a difference to you and I dare say that you might even refine some of the arguments you made at the debate given the chance.

So, Dr. Myers, are you willing to take your debate persona and transplant it to the Blogosphere?

Ross Olson

Does he really think I treated Bergman’s ideas with less contempt in the debate than I do on the blog? Trust me, the reputation I have on the internet that I seem to rip off my enemies’ heads with my claws and slake my thirst at the spurting stump of their neck does not accord well with reality — I do the same thing here on the blog that I did last night, it’s just a little more obvious in person that there is a human being behind these words. Mr Olson really needs to face up to the fact that all that happened was that the paladin-for-hire he brought into my backyard to knock me off my high horse showed up in rusty armor, wielding a bladder-onna-stick, and got his ass kicked.

His long paragraph of creationist fallacies up there doesn’t save face for him, it merely makes him look ridiculous. I think I’ll take it apart later, but right now I’m trying to get caught up on other matters, and giving three talks over the course of this long weekend has left me a little fatigued. Have no fear, I’ll treat it appropriately, and my thirst will be slaked.

As for Bergman’s CV, it’s terrible. It’s a potted history of a dilettante striving for legitimacy with a random array of diplomas on his wall. I’m really unimpressed; I’m much more impressed with the single degree of a freshly-minted graduate student who has demonstrated some depth and fervor for an idea than that fuzzy flibbertigibbet’s list of hash.

And please don’t invoke Kuhn. Creationists are not the heralds of a coming paradigm shift; they are the rotting detritus of the old regime of unreason that has haunted the human race for far too long. There’s a difference between maintaining an open environment that encourages fresh new ideas to emerge and tolerating the sloppy housecleaning that allows moldy scum to flourish.