What do you do on airplanes? I usually devour a book or two, usually something popcorny and light, sometimes something I need to get read for work. On my trip home from Washington DC, I lucked out: I was handed a book the day I took off, and it turned out to be a damned good read.
Jason Rosenhouse is my co-blogger at Scienceblogs — he’s a mathematician, but he’s also neck-deep in the evolution/creationism wars. He was in town for the Reason Rally (wait: from the description, he left before my talk. Cancel the review, gotta pan him instead…nah, I guess I’ll forgive him this one time), and he gave me his brand new book, Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line.
Jason regularly goes to creationist conferences. I often drop in on the small local stuff — creationists ranting in midwestern churches — but Jason goes to the big events, the major conferences with swarms of concentrated inanity babbling at large audiences who have made a special trip just to bathe in theistic lies. It’s a different environment; he just shows up, listens and takes notes, politely asks questions to make them struggle a bit, and then leaves…to write up the full story in his blog and now this book.
This isn’t the book where the scientist dismantles in detail every bogus argument the creationists throw at us. Instead, it’s a personal account of the audiences and speakers at this event, and there’s something that comes through loud and clear, that I’ve also experienced: they’re all so damned nice. They haven’t got a leg to stand on with the nonsense they’re talking about, but they try to make up for it with friendliness and manners and all these other psycho-social arts of persuasion. They don’t compensate for being wrong, but you can see how they manage to win over so many people who don’t know better.
It’s a valuable perspective to have. Know your enemy; don’t underestimate them, and don’t demonize them as evil. But be aware of exactly how they manage their image, how they cajole people into believing in ideas that are horribly wrong, and what they are precisely saying. Jason’s book is an essential personal view of our foes.
Also, we noticed that the cover uses a very similar minimalist design and color scheme to my book that will be coming out in the fall. Buy them both as a matched pair!
(Also on FtB)