Yesterday I made the offhand comment, “Say what you will about creationists, some of them have genuine critical thinking skills.” I followed that up by adding “garbage in, garbage out.” My meaning there may have been obscure, and commenter PhysioProf objected:
Dude, I get that you are now fully invested in how mean and shitty some atheists are and how wonderful and enlightening and allegorical religion can be. But all this “splitting the middle” “both sides do it” false equivalency shit is causing you to lose your fucking mind.
Which wasn’t my point at all. My point is that critical thinking is a process, and a process is dependent on its inputs. Todd Wood takes certain things as given, and his application of critical analysis is tainted by his young earth creationism. But he could debunk this Noah’s Ark perfectly well. I put my critiques of creationism and creationists second to none, but I would like to see criticism focused accurately. People who say creationists are inherently irrational are missing the point.
I was put in mind of this by Wood’s latest post on Noah’s Ark. Reacting to arkeologist Randall Price’s comments about the latest find’s questionable provenance, Wood writes:
I understand a public statement from Price will soon appear. In the meantime, let’s note a few points. Price says that this is a hoax played on NAMI [Noah’s Ark Ministries International]. He says, “I am sorry to have to report this is apparently a fake (and I am sure that the Chinese do not know this, but they do not respond to my e-mails).” So they took your hundred grand, promised to return it, then ignored your requests for your money and your warnings about the fake ark. And now they won’t return your emails. Why exactly do you think they’re victims of a hoax?
This is exactly right. A buncha people snuck great piles of rotting wood from the Black Sea into a cave on Mt. Ararat, then these Chinese arkeologists were all “ZOMG!!! NOHAZ ARCH!” Which was either a result of them having been scammed, or of them having scammed. Wood’s assessment is exactly right. People who take your money, promise to return it, then suddenly stop answering phone calls, and won’t respond to evidence that they’re promulgating a falsehood, it’s pretty good evidence that they aren’t the ones who got scammed.
What Todd Wood has discovered is Morton’s Demon at work on Randall Price. As former YEC Glenn Morton described it:
Morton’s demon was a demon who sat at the gate of my sensory input apparatus and if and when he saw supportive evidence coming in, he opened the gate. But if he saw contradictory data coming in, he closed the gate. In this way, the demon allowed me to believe that I was right and to avoid any nasty contradictory data. Fortunately, I eventually realized that the demon was there and began to open the gate when he wasn’t looking.
However, my conversations have made me aware that each YEC is a victim of my demon. Morton’s demon makes it possible for a person to have his own set of private facts which others are not privy to, allowing the YEC to construct a theory which is perfectly supported by the facts which the demon lets through the gate. And since these are the only facts known to the victim, he feels in his heart that he has explained everything. Indeed, the demon makes people feel morally superior and more knowledgeable than others.
Wood is right to see that Price is suffering from Morton’s demon. Now if Wood would recognize the demon in his own sensory apparatus.