Pharyngula

Lying-uh and unreasonable-uh

Man, Todd Friel is painful to listen to — so many grating rhetorical tics. Can someone tell me where this weird habit of carefully voicing every vowel and adding extra vowels to the ends of words come from? When he calls Bill Nye unreasonable and lying, it comes out UN-REEE-ZUN-A-BULL-AH and LIE-ING-UH. It makes him irritating to listen to before I even think about the content.

Here, you can suffer too.

If you don’t want to listen — and I don’t blame you — I’ll give you instead his two stupid arguments against Bill Nye’s points in the recent creation debate. They are focused entirely on the bogus distinction Ken Ham makes between observational and historical science. I can tell I am going to have to spend a lot of time in the future slapping down idiots who triumphantly march up to me and declare that evolution is a historical science, and therefore I made it up.

His first case is an example of the two kinds of science. He has a bug on a piece of paper; he declares that he’s about to do “observational science”, and he merely describes it. It’s got spots, it’s got eight [???] legs, it’s some kind of ladybug or stinkbug. Already I can tell he’s not very good at this, but he announces that this is the only true science.

What would historical science be? Then he provides a couple of scenarios, that someone carried it in their pocket and put it there for him to find, or that it flew in through a window. But we can’t know! Nothing in the past can ever be tested scientifically! In Todd Friel’s world, he could have been snorting cocaine off a rent-boy’s butt yesterday, and because it isn’t happening right now in front of you, it didn’t happen. Awfully convenient for Todd.

But actually, we can test hypotheses about the past. Did it just fly in? If his recording studio were in Minnesota right now, we could definitively say no — a small beetle would last for milliseconds at -20°C. Did someone carry it in? Much more likely — we could check who has access to agricultural supply houses, we could talk to people, we can even be pretty confident that Friel set this all up in advance. Did God just poof it into existence on that piece of paper? That’s the least likely possibility. We can examine similar and prior conditions and determine the relative probability of whole sets of causal events in the past, and even make tests. For instance, Darwin hypothesized that Pacific islands were colonized by seeds that drifted across the ocean, and he did experiments, soaking seeds in salt water for varying lengths of time to test how long they could survive and germinate. To claim that you can’t do tests of ideas about the past is simply nonsense.

Friel was also LIE-ING-UH. He tried to rebut Nye’s claim of trees that are 9550 years old, older than the Earth in the creationists’ myth, by saying flat out that they were NOT dated by counting tree rings. Actually, yes, they were, and the ice cores were dated by counting layers. It actually is that straight-forward. Then Friel announced that their age was determined by radiocarbon dating…which is proved, PROVED, not to be reliable. Carbon dating is reliable within its boundary conditions. My car is reliable as well, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work if I dropped it through a hole in the ice over Lake Minnewaska and then tried to start it as it was sitting on the lake floor. Does that PROVE that I cannot use it to drive from Morris to Minneapolis? Especially in the face of evidence that I do exactly that fairly regularly?

His second big example of Nye being an UN-REE-ZUN-A-BULL-AH man is that Nye pointed out that no wooden boat has been built that was the size of the ark, and that past efforts to build very large wooden ships failed because the material is not adequate to handle the stresses of the sea — they twisted and leaked and were a pain to maintain. I’d say that that’s pretty good observational science: build something, test it, and see if it’s possible. Then we can apply those observations to the past; is it likely that 8 Mesopotamian farmers could build a boat that exceeded the physical properties of the material, with techniques far greater in reliability than those developed by thousands of skilled shipwrights with centuries of shipbuilding expertise? Friel says yes. He waves his hands and said maybe Noah and friends figured out a better way to construct wooden boats.

Then, right after that, he floors me by announcing that we can’t convince Nye because Nye doesn’t care about the evidence.

Holy crap.

Hey, where did this giant palm print in the middle of my face come from? I guess I’ll never know, because it happened two minutes ago, and that’s historical science.

Comments

  1. […] By PZ Myers […]

  2. #2 Wheat-dogg
    February 8, 2014

    The final “uh” is a speech pattern of many southern evangelical preachers. I have no idea why.

  3. #3 Davis
    Maryland
    February 8, 2014

    So what is “creation science”? Historical or observational?

    If Noah was so smart, why didn’t he use a steel hull?

  4. #4 Joe Goozeff
    February 8, 2014

    The Bible was (so I am told) written in Ancient Hebrew. Surely translating it into Modern English is an example of “historical science”?

  5. #5 Chris
    Montana
    February 9, 2014

    Made it about 30 seconds. What a douche. Thanks for calling these clowns out and showing them no mercy. You wouldn’t be the “author,” would you?

  6. #6 John
    February 9, 2014

    He sounds just like Reverend Lovejoy in The Simpsons, voiced by Harry Shearer.

  7. #7 David
    oxford U.K
    February 9, 2014

    While I have reservations about Nye’s perfrormance – about style of course, not substance, he performed a valuable service just doing it.
    He exposed three important things.
    First, to be a creationist you have to deny real historical inference to evolutionists whilst having nothing but a book of dubious historical accuracy for yourself.
    Secondly you must deny modern evolutionary ‘observational’ science also – of which there is obviously plenty – ‘engineering’ applies to modern medicine as much as mechanics, whilst having the gall to claim that creationism observational science is legit.
    Finally – after having succesfully trounced science thus, you have to seriously in front of the whole world show yourself – a grown man – try to claim that a man and his family built a wooden boat and stuffed it with all known creatures.

    In short the public can easily decide if they want to deny science, then take part in discussions no less obviously idiotic than wondering if it is indeed possible for someone to visit every house on christmas if the number of presents could be reduced to types.

    The choice is simple. That is all that is on offer, science or the convoluted smoke screen of its denial. They think they won, but in thier arrogance didn’t figure on the world seeing it exposed for the insubstantial nonesense it is – simply by hearing it stated nice and clearly!

  8. #8 John
    February 9, 2014

    You can’t find out with science, but you can with detective work. Apparently he has never heard of forensic science.

  9. #9 Colin fleming
    Northern Ireland
    February 9, 2014

    So according to this guy, no forensic examination of a crime scene is valid. Gee, the prisons must be crammed full of innocent people!

  10. #10 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 9, 2014

    Also, astrophysics.

    He sounds just like Reverend Lovejoy in The Simpsons, voiced by Harry Shearer.

    He does! Your link doesn’t work, but here’s another!

  11. #11 Bruce W. Fowler
    United States
    February 9, 2014

    Does he realize that is refutation of “historical ” science is also a refutation of the bible?

  12. #12 imr90
    Western Massachusetts
    February 9, 2014

    I don’t know why we bother. Would we argue with someone over whether a particular person is or is not a witch based on whether she was actually the one who cast the spell that caused the crops to fail? I prefer Dawkins’ approach, which is to give the person a look that says “you’re a f#$king idiot!”

  13. #13 Jack McCullough
    United States
    February 9, 2014

    Are you really doing us a favor when you clue us in to the existence of someone even dumber and more annoying than Ken Ham?

  14. #14 Charles Alexander Zorn
    nyc
    February 10, 2014

    It is my understanding that that is believed to be when godz communicate to them. Uh, It is a deceitful affectation.

  15. #15 G
    February 10, 2014

    Has anyone thought to ask how Noah and his family would have dealt with the enormous quantity of poo on the Ark? Did they take turns shoveling?

    Trying to convince Ham and his followers is pointless: they will persist in their ways regardless. Our audience is the vast mass of the undecideds. But here we have to be careful to not conflate evolution with atheism, which only plays into the hands of our opponents: like trying to convince a guy that marriage equality is a good thing because your lesbian friend wants to marry his wife.

  16. #16 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 10, 2014

    because your lesbian friend wants to marry his wife

    …What does his wife want?

  17. #17 XaurreauX
    NYC
    February 10, 2014

    Evolution is for grownups.

  18. #18 N.Wells
    February 10, 2014

    Observational science: What is Todd Friel?
    According to all the evidence arrayed before me, Todd Friel is an idiot.
    Historical Science: How did he get that way?
    I don’t know, I wasn’t-uh they-ruh when-nuh he-uh fell-luh on his-suh head-duh, or whatev-uh.

    I think I’m getting the hang of this.

  19. #19 G
    February 11, 2014

    Re. David @ 16: What his wife wants is unknown to the person who is trying to convince him to support marriage equality. The point of the hypothetical is to illustrate that raising the spectre of the man’s marriage breaking up is not the way to convince him to support marriage equality. You could flip the genders the other way and the result would be the same.

    And the point of the analogy is to illustrate that conflating evolution with theology is counterproductive. Each can more productively be argued on its own.

  20. #20 TcM
    Amsterdam
    February 11, 2014

    +1 to Bill Nye for courage and commitment. Watching Ken Ham regurgitate his ideas was painful to me as well. Imagine hearing it up close, next to such person on top of that. After a while one must feel hopeless in presence of such ignorance as Ken Ham or Todd Friel display and conclude that the point of the whole debate was so Ken can preach to the choir and get Bill to look stupid at some point, just because he can’t provide answers to those convoluted questions. It’s a pity prime time media, since some time, has been reserved for gossip and dumbed down content. How else do you get the people to understand how world works? Can It be explained over one debate? I don’t think so.

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