Pharyngula

Creationist debacle at Michigan State

It’s yet another creationist conference in which the imminent demise of evolutionary theory will be declared this weekend, and it’s being held on a university campus, which is always jarring. The university is said to be “uneasy” about it all.

The 1 November event, called the Origin Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to “challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.” The 1-day conference will include eight workshops, according the event’s website, including discussion of how evolutionary theory influenced Adolf Hitler’s worldview, why “the big bang is fake,” and why “natural selection is NOT evolution.” Another talk targets the work of MSU biologist Richard Lenski, who has conducted an influential, decades-long study of evolution in bacterial populations.

News of the event caught MSU’s scientific community largely by surprise. Creation Summit secured a room at the university’s business school through a student religious group, but the student group did not learn about the details of the program—or the sometimes provocative talk titles—until later, says MSU zoologist Fred Dyer. The talk titles led Dyer to suspect that the student group was not involved in planning the conference, he says, prompting him to look into its origins.

First of all, relax. This kind of thing happens all the time. State universities are public places, and they generally have policies to allow student organizations to use meeting rooms for all kinds of purposes. This is a good thing. That sometimes student groups have stupid purposes and bring in speakers or organizations with anti-scientific goals is a side-effect of a policy of openness. It’s regrettable that a pack of idiots are slipping in by following the rules, but if you arbitrarily reject them, what are you going to do next time a student group brings in an atheist, or an environmentalist, or a labor union organizer, or a drug legalization advocate? Someone will complain. Someone always complains.

Secondly, take a look at what they propose to do, and notice…these people are raving loons, and sleazy as well. The first thing I saw was that the first speaker is Gerald Freakin’ Bergman. Are you kidding me? I debated Bergman before — it was an astonishing spectacle. It was the final straw that convinced me that debating creationists was pointless. He was incoherent, weird, and ignorant, and it was a painful experience to be sharing a podium with such a pathetic example of creationist “thought”. None of the speakers are going to bring credit to their position. Let ’em speak and destroy themselves.

Look, Bergman is going to talk about…Hitler.

Hitler’s Worldview
There’s no doubt Adolph Hitler believed in evolution, but to what extent did that belief affect his actions? You might say he caught the “survival of the fittest” ball and ran with it, declaring the Aryan race to be “the fittest”.

Gah. He pulled this crap at our debate, too — Hitler was not an evolutionist. Hitler was a power mad dictator who banned Darwin’s books and was a disciple of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who despised evolution.

For another example, they already acting incredibly disreputably. They are advertising that they are going to have a debate with a member of the faculty at MSU, Robert Pennock. I’d consider that a good draw…not for the creationist side, but because Pennock will reliably say something interesting. But look what they say:

As an outspoken critic of intelligent design, Dr. Robert Pennock has written books and given speeches bashing the same. But do his arguments hold water? Can they with- stand the scrutiny of debate? Find out November 1st when Dr. Pennock debates Dr. Charles Jackson at MSU. That is, if Pennock accepts the invite. The challenge was made back in March and, as of to date, he has yet to reply.

What? They’re advertising a debate with someone who has not agreed to participate? Well heck, why not go all the way. Barack Obama will deliver the opening benediction, that is, if he accepts the invite. Neil deGrasse Tyson will make sandwiches and Bill Nye will personally deliver them to each attendee, that is, if they accept the invite. Darwin himself will rise from the dead and march to the plaza outside the building to be burnt at the stake, that is, if he accepts the invite.

Pennock has not replied. YOU DON’T GET TO ADVERTISE HIM AS A PARTICIPANT IN YOUR CONFERENCE. It really is that simple.

Ethics. How is it creationists are so immune to them?

So again, relax. Clowns are going to be capering at Michigan State University this weekend. They’re going to make themselves look ridiculous.

Third, take action. What can you do? Don’t picket, don’t lobby to have them evicted, don’t do anything to give them an excuse to claim martyrdom. Organize. Put a response team together: get a biologist, a historian, a philosopher, and anybody with any intelligence and an interest. They don’t even need to be faculty — students with a bit of classwork in their disciplines are perfectly capable of rebutting these guys. Have them attend and take notes — they don’t even need to ask questions at the event, unless you really enjoy watching creationists splutter and make fools of themselves. (We do, but remember, no martyrs.)

Do some research. These guys are all on youtube, and their schtick really doesn’t change much: here’s Jackson, DeYoung, Sanford, and Bergman. Go in prepared. It’ll make the talks a little more boring, but you’ll be primed for the foolishness.

Write up responses. Feel free now to make fun — a sense of humor helps. Send them off to your school paper, publish them on your facebook page, or send them here — I’d be happy to popularize the absurdity of creationism, and trust me, they will say many absurd things. I haven’t dealt with the other three, but Bergman alone is a font of inanity.

Relax, relax, relax. Have fun with it. These are among the best creationists have to trot out, and you’ll discover that they’re the dregs of the intellectual barrel. You can bring first year biology students to these talks, and they’ll gape in surprise at how bad creationists are. I’ve done that, and it’s always a treat.

Really, how seriously can you take this gang of goobers when this is how they argue?

bananas

Any time creationists use bananas in their arguments, it’s good for a laugh.

Comments

  1. #1 Carina Baskett
    MSU
    October 29, 2014

    Hi! Awesome to see your take on this, I have recently started reading your blog and I’d thought of getting in touch to ask your opinion on what to do 🙂

    Most students and faculty have been in favor of ignoring the event. But there is a group of us who want to go and do a bit of outreach: http://wanderingnature.com/post/101264278991/five-reasons-not-to-ignore-the-creationist-summit

    This will probably consist of a table with resources and friendly faces. I would love to chat with you more, if you’re amenable, about what you think would be effective!

  2. #2 Mark DeGregg
    SanDiego, CA
    October 29, 2014

    I love, absolutely love, your writing!
    Well, I’m a crackpot, and armature theoretical physicist, and I’m willing to pay you a banana, to honestly critic my mathematical equation of Godspeed.
    (promise not to hold back) If interested, I promise a serious submittal, please contact me. I will prove once and for all the existence of God.

  3. #3 Mark De gregg
    SanDiego, CA
    October 29, 2014

    As you have not yet accepted my challenge which I posted over 3 minutes ago, I can only assume you require further explanation of my credentials and the challenge.
    You may have noticed I used the term armature theoretical physicist, and you may wonder why I said armature. Its fits quite well a cross between armchair and amateur,
    spiced with my fascination with all thing that spin like your blog.
    And as a believer in a higher power (not like President Obama) an myself not being is a lawyer, I would like to clarify the rules of engagement,
    should you dare to expose yourself to such nonsense.

    1st You accept the challenge
    2nd I send you my equation for Godspeed and accompanying propaganda.
    3rd You analyze and comment honestly without holding back, horsefeathers or not.
    4. Then I pay you 1 banana and prove once and for all the existence of a GOD.

  4. #4 Paul Toftness
    St Paul MN
    October 30, 2014
  5. #5 Dr Mat Hunt
    October 30, 2014

    If you want incoherent, weird and just plain eerie, I give you GEOCENTRISTS, the what only can be described as insane people have some weird and wonderful people which makes you think who dresses them in the morning.

  6. #6 James Jordan
    Massachusetts
    October 30, 2014

    Creationists can rant all they want, but will never produce their non-existent god who they claim started it all. Good grief, what does it take to clear the crud from their brains and reason it out? My standing offer is to walk to the Andromeda Galaxy when they produce their god before me. I cannot accomplish that feat? Of course; snicker.

  7. #7 Robert Gotschall
    Nevada
    October 31, 2014

    Since it seems that Ancestry.com is closely aligned with the Mormon Church which doesn’t seem to advocate Evolution either, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the “banana” statement is probably true.

  8. #8 Scott
    Nebraska
    October 31, 2014

    I would like to know why God faked the Big Bang.

  9. #9 Smut Jenkins
    November 1, 2014

    ATTENTION ALL ATHEISTS: STOP BEING SILLY and acknowledge your Creator. The existence of an intelligent designer is barely up for debate (in the mind of any person using their God-given intelligence), so let’s get serious about finding out the identity, personality and expectations of this Being rather than denying the existence!

  10. #10 James V. Kohl
    Georgia
    November 1, 2014

    Two weeks ago researchers reported that nutrient-dependent amino acid substitutions (i.e., not mutations) enable antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141026195415.htm

    Their experimental evidence of biologically-based cause and effect refutes Lenski’s claims about mutations, natural selection, and the evolution of E. coli.

    If Lenski (at MSU) could defend himself, he probably would have accepted the invitation to debate during the conference. Instead, I suspect he will spend the rest of his life hiding in the corner of his lab from the creationists.

  11. #11 James V. Kohl
    Georgia
    November 1, 2014

    Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3960065/

    ‘This model details how chemical ecology drives adaptive evolution via: (1) ecological niche construction, (2) social niche construction, (3) neurogenic niche construction, and (4) socio-cognitive niche construction. This model exemplifies the epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal conditioning, which alters genetically predisposed, nutrient-dependent, hormone-driven mammalian behavior and choices for pheromones that control reproduction via their effects on luteinizing hormone (LH) and systems biology.”

    Concluding sentence: “Minimally, this model can be compared to any other factual representations of epigenesis and epistasis for determination of the best scientific ‘fit’.”

    The model links microbes to man via conserved molecular mechanisms with examples of nutrient-dependent amino acid substitutions that differentiate cell types in all cells of all individuals of all species via their pheromone-controlled physiology of reproduction.

  12. #12 James V. Kohl
    Georgia
    November 1, 2014

    Towards elucidating the connection between epithelial–mesenchymal transitions and stemness http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/11/101/20140962.abstract

    When someone like biophysicist Eshel Ben-Jacob decides to attack evolutionary theory in the context of cancer, it is especially noteworthy that he has already attacked evolutionary theory in the context of antibiotic resistance.

    Bacterial self-organization: co-enhancement of complexification and adaptability in a dynamic environment http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/361/1807/1283.abstract

    Note: Serious scientists need not tout their religious beliefs; accurate representations of biologically-based cause and effect are sufficient to refute the pseudoscientific nonsense of evolutionary theories about mutations and the evolution of biodiversity.

  13. #13 JimG
    November 5, 2014

    Mark De gregg
    If someone proved the existance of God do you think they would be posting that discovery in this comment section? If I had a dollar for every person who claimed they had proof of God I’d be rich. I would be able to double my fortune if I had a dollar for every person who claimed they chatted with the dead.

  14. #14 Smut Jenkins
    November 5, 2014

    Your existence (along with all the other fascinating creations on earth and in the universe) proves the existence of God Jim. End of story.

  15. #15 Owlmirror
    November 6, 2014

    When someone like biophysicist Eshel Ben-Jacob decides to attack evolutionary theory in the context of cancer,

    Where on Earth do you infer this “attack on evolutionary theory” from anything written in the paper?

    it is especially noteworthy that he has already attacked evolutionary theory in the context of antibiotic resistance.

    He’s not attacking evolutionary theory at all, but rather suggesting the supplementary concept of horizontal gene transfer and bacterial signaling factors. He’s certainly nowhere saying anything so silly as: “…and then a miracle happens, and Almighty God makes the bacteria resistant!”

    Serious scientists need not tout their religious beliefs

    Is this because he doesn’t mention having any religious beliefs anywhere on his web page?

    accurate representations of biologically-based cause and effect are sufficient to refute the pseudoscientific nonsense of evolutionary theories about mutations and the evolution of biodiversity.

    A quick Google scholar on Prof. Ben-Jacob’s works brought up this interesting paper:

    ===

    Evolvable Hardware: Genetic Search in a Physical Realm. [Journal]/ auth. Raichman N., Segev, R., Ben-Jacob, E.// Physica A.- 2003.- Vol. 326.- pp. 265-285.

    First lines of the abstract: The application of evolution-inspired strategies to hardware design and circuit self-configuration leads to the concept of evolvable hardware (EHW). EHW refers to self-configuration of electronic hardware by evolutionary/genetic algorithms (EA and GA, respectively). (etc)

    ===

    So either Ben-Jacob is a devout believer in the pseudoscientific nonsense you seem to think he’s attacking, or evolution by mutation and selection is perfectly fine science that he happens to use in his own research.

    Either way, creationism loses.

  16. #16 Owlmirror
    November 6, 2014

    Their experimental evidence of biologically-based cause and effect refutes Lenski’s claims about mutations, natural selection, and the evolution of E. coli.

    Because biologically-based cause and effect is actually God? You pray to microbes, peptides, and enzymes?

    Seriously, what does the nisin research have to do with “refuting” anything?

  17. #17 Owlmirror
    November 6, 2014

    Your existence (along with all the other fascinating creations on earth and in the universe) proves the existence of God Jim. End of story.

    But we can just as easily flip that around:

    Your existence (along with all the other fascinating creations on earth and in the universe) disproves the existence of God. End of story.

    See how that works?

    Actually making an rational argument requires a little more work than just making absolute declarations and pretending that God exists

  18. #18 James Jordan
    Massachusetts
    November 6, 2014

    Smut Jenkins @ 14
    You cannot and never will produce your non-existent god, and all your quasi-philosophical rantings will not matter in your useless quest and condition. The Universe knows knows nothing of you or your made-up god. No story, just blatant reality. Let’s see your god.

  19. #19 Smut Jenkins
    November 6, 2014

    “Pretending”, ahhh that’s an interesting term Owlmirror! Some of us are indeed guilty of pretending 😉

    James Jordan, God is (a blatant reality that is nearly indisputable – less than 5% of the global population are atheists) and does not have to be made up or produced by a mere man. Stop slapping your Daddy in the face dear brother 🙂

  20. #20 Honest Guy
    November 6, 2014

    I think that it is absurd that us as human being can’t just at least have the decency to respect one another, going out to both the creationists and evolutionists. It is ridiculous how you all have been calling each other names and acting like a bunch of children. To the writer of this topic, PZ Meyers, I think it is highly uncalled for that you call other people “weird, sleazy loons”. It is fine for all of us to have our different beliefs and religions, but it goes too far when we start to ridicule and harass others for their own just because we don’t agree with their thoughts. It’s crazy how you find it not right that these creationists can speak about their beliefs to those who want to hear what they are saying. You have the right to talk about evolution, so why can’t they speak of their thoughts. Both of these beliefs require faith and currently nothing can change that, so why can’t we all just have faith in the fact that we can at least all treat each other with respect?

  21. #21 Owlmirror
    November 7, 2014

    God is (a blatant reality that is nearly indisputable

    It is nearly indisputable that God is blatantly an imaginary being, indeed.

    less than 5% of the global population are atheists

    The number of people who believe in imaginary beings may be very large, but that doesn’t make the beings not imaginary.

    and does not have to be made up or produced by a mere man.

    The proof that God is made up by mere humans is that God gives no sign of existing independantly.

    Stop slapping your Daddy in the face

    It’s impossible to slap an imaginary being in the face.

    I suppose you can imagine slapping an imaginary being in the face, though. I just imagined slapping Paul Bunyan in the face. Hm, should I imagine Paul Bunyan noticing it, or not noticing it?

  22. #22 Russell
    November 9, 2014

    Imagine a blue ox trying not to think of a white bear when Paul Bunyon throws God into the Slough of Despond.

  23. #23 peeling peppers
    Marathon, IL
    November 10, 2014

    I was peeling peppers and popping strange. How did it come to this?

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