So what's Marcus Ross up to nowadays?

The NY Times sent a reporter to the First Conference on Creation Geology, and came back with a discouraging tale of creationist blindness. The two stars are Kurt Wise, old school, and Marcus Ross, new school. Ross recently recieved a Ph.D. for his paleontological work on mosasaurs — marine reptiles from 65 million years ago — yet he also goes to creationist conferences and touts his belief that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. The dissonance does not disturb him at all.

At the conference I asked Ross whether he still believes what he wrote in his graduate thesis. His answer confirmed him as the product of the postmodern university, where truth is dependent on the framework: "Within the context of old age and evolutionary theory, yes. But if the parameter is different, portions of it could be completely in error."

He has now taken that rigorous attitude to Liberty University, where he now convinces young students to believe in fairy tales contrary to all evidence and reason.

Marcus Ross, meanwhile, is thriving in his teaching job at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971. Like many Christian colleges, Liberty is expanding rapidly to keep up with growing demand; the school adds 800 students a year, and now has a total of 10,000 on campus and 18,000 more distance-learning students. Each semester, Ross teaches a huge, mandatory survey course called History of Life. Most kids in the class are creationists, but Ross finds gaps in their world-view. His aim is to make their creationist logic more consistent, and his surveys show that he succeeds. At the beginning of the class, only 54 percent of students say the age of the earth is less than 10,000 years. By the end, it's 87 percent. The biggest shift? Did dinosaurs and man live at the same time? That one moves to 80 percent from 40.

The University of Rhode Island can be so proud of their alumnus. URI lazily let one idiot graduate, and now he's actively dumbing down thousands of students. Even some Christians are disgusted.

These numbers make Moshier cringe. "It can get so frustrating," he said. "Many of us at Christian colleges really grieve at what a problem this young-earth creationism makes for the Christian witness. It's almost like they're adding another thing you have to believe to become a Christian. It's like saying, You have to believe the world is flat to be a Christian, and that's absolutely unreasonable."

The article does mention the growing schism between the old earth creationists, the young earth creationists, and the intelligent design creationists. This is always a good thing to play up: they really don't like each other much. The article also includes these pretentious creationists with the Ph.D.s they lied to obtain mocking the "idiots on the web" who diminish the perception of 'scientific' creationism with their unscientific religiosity.

The old-earthers see their discipline as more pure than intelligent design; the intelligent-design people focus on a notion of a mystery "designer," without specifying who that might be and what the mechanisms are. To the young-earth creationists, this is both unscientific and dubiously religious. "We don't subscribe to this idea of the 'God of gaps,' meaning if you can't explain something, then blame God," Whitmore told me before describing a method that hardly seemed more scientific. "Instead, we think: 'Here's what the Bible says. Now let's go to the rocks and see if we find the evidence for it.' "

I didn't see anything in the quotes from this article to distinguish these degreed creationists from the "idiots on the web" they deplore—the admission that they're all out to prove the truth of their preconceptions is enough to divorce all of them from the ranks of science. Let's see what brilliant scientific hypotheses Kurt Wise is coming up with…

In a presentation at the conference, Wise showed a slide of a fossil sequence that moved from reptile to mammal, with some transitional fossils in between. He veered suddenly from his usual hyperactive mode to contemplative. "It's a pain in the neck," he said. "It fits the evolutionary prediction quite well." Wise and others have come up with various theories explaining how the flood could have produced such perfect order. Wise is refining a theory, for example, that the order reflects how far the animals lived from the shore, so those living farthest from the water show up last in the record. But they haven't settled on anything yet.

So fossil whales are older than the Carboniferous tetrapods from which they descended? I don't think you can dignify a brain-fart that is already contradicted by the evidence a "theory".

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Creationist can be very fustrating, but they are good for one thing.

I have found that it helps to bring them up in conversation. Everytime a moderate/liberal Christian trys to tell me that their religion makes them more enlightened, I remind them of their creationist brothers.

It is a little bit like reminding someone of that drunken, crazy uncle that they never speak about.

By Tony Popple (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

I found the article less depressing than I expected. I thought that Kurt Wise's admission that he has doubts ("Everybody has moments of doubt.") was far more sensible than, say, what you're going to read on Ken Ham's blog.

That guy who's indoctrinating Xian dupes with even worse crap is one turd short of being a big shit .

By Richard Harris (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

A little history lesson, courtesy of Ronald Numbers' excellent book The Creationists, seems in order.

The idea that Wise is 'floating', that the 'apparent sequence' of the fossil record reflects some kind of sorting via the environment, is not all that new. SDA geologists at Loma Linda University put that idea out there in the late 1940's in an attempt to render George McCready Price's 'flood geology' more rigorous, preserve some semblance of the Genesis narrative and yet at the same time retain the usefulness of indicator fossils.

Price, for his part, was not enthused with these 'improvements' to his original scheme, which contributed to the decline of the Religion-Science Association of which he was a founder. Some of Price's acolytes and fellow travelers ended up briefly in the American Scientific Affiliation (of which I am a member), but left the organization in disgust in the early 1950's when their attempts to hijack the organization for purely young-earth, flood geology versions of creationism were defeated.

One of those acolytes was the late Henry Morris, who with Whitcomb would author the seminal The Genesis Flood in 1961. Morris swiped much of his ideas from Price's work and in later editions seemed to go out of his way to pretend the old SDA's writings never existed. A reading of Morris's work would suggest that he wouldn't have been all that enthused with attempts to massage the fossil record. He really seemed to prefer the position that their apparent age was the work of Old Scratch.

How amusing, then, to see that Kurt Wise (who really does know the fossil record rather well) resurrecting an idea that historically has led creationists down the 'slippery slope' to acknowledging an old Earth. One can only hope that some factions will seize upon this trial balloon as apostasy and thus spin their wheels debating with one another. Let all our enemies be confounded! Amen.

"Ross recently recieved a Ph.D. for his paleontological work on mosasaurs -- marine reptiles from 65 million years ago -- yet he also goes to creationist conferences and touts his belief that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. The dissonance does not disturb him at all."

While I find it very difficult to call someone with a Ph.D. in paleontology a moron, I still find such examples of cognitive dissonance to be mind boggling, I just cannot wrap my mind around it. I mean how is it possible to say with a straight face, while holding a black cube, that depending on how you look at it, it's really a white sphere and not have your brain turn to instant mush?

By Fernando Magyar (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

I thought that Kurt Wise's admission that he has doubts ("Everybody has moments of doubt.") was far more sensible than, say, what you're going to read on Ken Ham's blog.

Wise is probably the closest thing you'll ever get to a sane YEC. His position, IIRC, is that most of what passes for YEC 'science' is rubbish, and mainstream science fits the evidence very well. However, he's convinced for religious reasons that YEC must be true. So he concludes that there must be a YEC model which is even stronger than current science, and it's just that no one has found it yet. Strange fellow.

He veered suddenly from his usual hyperactive mode to contemplative. "It's a pain in the neck," he said. "It fits the evolutionary prediction quite well."

And here above is illustrated the perfect example of the harm of religion. His logical mind knows it fits evolution but his emotional mind simply can't tolerate it.

It is really truly sad at the same time it is fascinating. Much like those who excuse genocide as written in the bible for much the same reason.

"Within the context of old age and evolutionary theory, yes. But if the parameter is different, portions of it could be completely in error."

Indeed, it is wonderful to relate just how much science "could be completely in error" if you adopt a framework in which scientific fact is assumed to be completely in error. Who knew the line between science and science fiction was so fine?

The article does mention the growing schism between the old earth creationists, the young earth creationists, and the intelligent design creationists.

<span style="schoolyard">We -- wanna -- see -- blood! -- We -- wanna -- see -- blood! -- We -- wanna -- see -- blood!</style>

Is it any wonder that Liberty University's logo is a burning book?

ROTFL! Thanks for the link!

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

Okay - I've received my membershipcard and secret decoderring from the Vast Atheist Conspiracy (not to be confused with the Dave Conspiracy) - Now let me in on the joke:

Please tell me that all these YECs are a ruse concocted to make christians in general look ridiculous. Just like Dumbski is our inside man; there to destroy the movements from within.

Please? Anyone?

He veered suddenly from his usual hyperactive mode to contemplative. "It's a pain in the neck," he said. "It fits the evolutionary prediction quite well."

And here above is illustrated the perfect example of the harm of religion. His logical mind knows it fits evolution but his emotional mind simply can't tolerate it.

It is really truly sad at the same time it is fascinating. Much like those who excuse genocide as written in the bible for much the same reason.

Posted by: Uber

You beat me to it, Uber. However, I still want to say that it is fascinating that these folks are so horribly brainwashed that they don't even have the rational capacity to realize that the evidence they're staring at fits evolutionary theory perfectly.

The hilarious thing is that Wise is openly saying that reality and genuine science are a "pain in the neck," and there is no place for it in his delusion. To make matters worse, he considers himself a scientist when he proves in this simple statement that he is anything but a scientist.

MartinM said

"Wise is probably the closest thing you'll ever get to a sane YEC. His position, IIRC, is that most of what passes for YEC 'science' is rubbish, and mainstream science fits the evidence very well. However, he's convinced for religious reasons that YEC must be true."

This is always the hardest thing to come to terms with. Most creationists I have met didn't impress me possessing any real understanding of science. However, every once in a while I meet a creationist who is genuinely intelligent and knowledgeable. They seem to rely on some kind of compartmentalization in their thinking. They tend to be a little uncomfortable talking about it in mixed company, and they usually dread talking about it with other fundamentalists.

By Tony Popple (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

The two stars are Kurt Wise, old school, and Marcus Ross, new school. Ross recently recieved a Ph.D. for his paleontological work on mosasaurs -- marine reptiles from 65 million years ago -- yet he also goes to creationist conferences and touts his belief that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. The dissonance does not disturb him at all.

Given that no-one brought it up the last time Ross was discussed, I thought I should bring up Moore's paradox now:

1. It can be true at a particular time both that p and that I do not believe that p (or that I believe that not-p)
2. I can assert or believe one of the two at a particular time.
3. I cannot without absurdity assert or believe both of them at the same time.

That is, it is absurd to say "P is true but I do not believe that P is true."

Please tell me that all these YECs are a ruse concocted to make christians in general look ridiculous.

You've almost got it. Christianity is a ruse concocted to make christians in general look ridiculous.

By Reginal Selkirk (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

Not surprising at all. 20% of the US population believes the sun orbit the earth, 26% of the fundies do so. It is human nature to believe weird things without a shred of proof or even mountains of disproof. Ask Duesburg about HIV and AIDS.

I wonder how they visualize the space probe we sent to Saturn recently, Cassini. In the geocentric solar system is the sun closer to the earth than Saturn? It should be or we would freeze.

Isn't a science teaching job at Liberty a bit of a dead end job?

I'm not to worried about these hucksters, it's not like their getting a good education.

Let them get their pathetic degrees, they won't be applying for research jobs or graduate dergrees in science.

Isn't a science teaching job at Liberty a bit of a dead end job?

Not necessarily.

Chances are, if you dig deep enough, you'll find that folk affiliated with fundy outfits helped support Ranum's education for the good of the cause, and that the position at Liberty was his intended terminus at some point. A dead-end job? Only if he expects to be doing scientific research. If, instead, he is to be an academic point man for future creationist efforts ("Look! We have our own paleontologist Ph.D and he agrees with us!"), then this is just the beginning of a long career. If he has any rhetorical skills, Ranum's career as a hokum peddler is just beginning.

Even so. Seems like a sad existence for a scientist... but he's not really a scientist. Just a scam artists.

I can't help but wonder whether some of these pseudoscientists are looking for a cushy,well-paying gig at Jesus U. in preference to the years of post-docs and fierce competition for tenure that they would have to undergo at a real university? They may not necessarily believe the Creationism malarky, but the $$$ could be mighty persuasive...

By T. Bruce McNeely (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

I said it when Ross got his PhD, and I'll say it again now: URI didn't do anything wrong in giving Ross a PhD, and the fact that he got a PhD is something we should be proud of. It shows that the academic credentialing process is objective (at least in the sciences) and does not require adherence to dogma. Ross did the work (I've seen no one alleging otherwise), therefore he gets the PhD.

How often have we told some cretinist, "Go earn a scientific PhD and then we can talk." How hypocritical would it be to deny someone the opportunity to do what we've asked — even demanded — of him?

A PhD does not confer any sort of authority. It's not the end of a scientific career, it's the end of the beginning. It just allows Ross to participate in the process (if he so chooses); it's not an endorsement or judgment of his ideas. The students at Liberty U were being lobotomized before he got there, and (sadly) they'll continue to be lobotomized long after he's gone.

It's doubly ironic: Ross could have received the exact same sort of "authority" in his chosen environment by sending $1,000 to a diploma mill rather than spend the years, money and effort getting a PhD at URI.

If Ross chooses not to participate in the scientific process, that's his problem, his loss, not ours.

(not to be confused with the Dave Conspiracy)

Hey, thanks for that link. Maybe I will be initiated, too, now that I can presumably count myself as a member of the G. O. D. D. S..

HA HA HA HA ....

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

"Wise is probably the closest thing you'll ever get to a sane YEC. His position, IIRC, is that most of what passes for YEC 'science' is rubbish, and mainstream science fits the evidence very well. However, he's convinced for religious reasons that YEC must be true. So he concludes that there must be a YEC model which is even stronger than current science, and it's just that no one has found it yet. Strange fellow."

I had the opportunity to attend several lectures by Dr. Wise, and I recall that he and several other Ph.Ds in other fields were working on a YEC model. I don't have a link or source for that, just what I remember him saying. His biggest complaint about YEC scientists/people/what-have-you is that their entire efforts are to discredit evolution without having another model to replace it.

You hear that sort of thing all the time in evolution/creation/ID debates: just because you're trying to discredit evolution does not mean that creation/ID wins be default. So it's refreshing at least to see an honest YEC like Wise trying to confront the biggest problem of creationism.

By Mike Easter (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

Wise is refining a theory, for example, that the order reflects how far the animals lived from the shore, so those living farthest from the water show up last in the record.

Right. Because mammals don't need to drink, the way reptiles do, and there are *certainly* no aquatic mammals.

By Cat Faber (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

The Barefoot Bum wrote:

I said it when Ross got his PhD, and I'll say it again now: URI didn't do anything wrong in giving Ross a PhD, and the fact that he got a PhD is something we should be proud of. It shows that the academic credentialing process is objective (at least in the sciences) and does not require adherence to dogma. Ross did the work (I've seen no one alleging otherwise), therefore he gets the PhD.

I agree. It's the same point Ichthyic made in the Feb 07 thread (click on the Marcus Ross link in PZ's above post).

I would like to expand on Ichthyic's comment (post #1 in the Feb thread): is anyone (in the Psych research area) working on the ability to compartmentalize, understand how people deal with cognitive dissonance so they don't ultimately go crazy?

As far as Ross actually working as a Paleontologist....let's see what research of his makes the peer-review journals now that he is out of school. Or did he just glide from graduation into a new cushy classroom of Creation Science - no research required, just waive your credentials from a real university.

It's a good thing Donald Prothero (http://faculty.oxy.edu/prothero/index.htm) isn't dead because he would be rolling over in his grave at the thought that Ross thinks he is a real paleontologist. Don't mind me...I'm almost done with "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters". What an awesome book.

#21 "... Ranum ..."
I think you mean "Ross" - I'm sure someone else might notice.

Ross' thesis might be interesting reading. I'd like to know how he can write a doctoral thesis on creatures that lived millions of years ago and yet still claim to be a Young-Earth Creationist and keep a straight face. Or was he merely emulating the other cdesign proponentsists and being disingenuous? (I.E. lying in order to get his PhD.)

Ross recently recieved a Ph.D. for his paleontological work on mosasaurs -- marine reptiles from 65 million years ago -- yet he also goes to creationist conferences and touts his belief that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. The dissonance does not disturb him at all.

Such perfect doublethink. Doubleplusgood! Orwell would be proud. Or something.

Anyway, PZ, give them time. Eventually, they'll be able to post-hoc a "theory" that has not (yet) been contradicted by the (currently) available evidence, however complicated or silly it may be.

...Wait, is verbing "post-hoc" legal?

"Instead, we think: 'Here's what the Bible says. Now let's go to the rocks and see if we find the evidence for it.' "

News, dude: been there, done that, about 200 years ago. Quit trying to reinvent the square wheel.

What Ross is doing isn't _that_ different on one level from what many scientists do in saying "This theory gives good results, but there are some unresolved issues which apparently contradict that other theory, which also gives good results". I'd go so far as to say that this is pretty normal, especially in the chewier bits of physics.

In such cases, it's also normal to have a preference towards one particular way to resolve the problem - which has to be faith, because if proof already existed there wouldn't be a problem - while doing very good work using theories which one is predisposed to disbelieve.

Admittedly, it's rare that you have to square two such enormously disparate areas as geological and Biblical dating, especially with such a preponderance of evidence on one side, and I'd have to read Ross's own take on that before wittering on about how that works for him. If the man produced work to PhD standard then kudos to the guy for that.

His choice of bedfellows is another matter. He's going to have hard work doing good science in that environment. I wonder how he sees his professional career developing.

By Rupert Goodwins (not verified) on 25 Nov 2007 #permalink

Quit trying to reinvent the square wheel.

ROTFL! Goes into my quote collection.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 25 Nov 2007 #permalink

Wow. I just read the full article and recognized the name of one of the quoted creation scientists, Andrew Snelling as the father of a boy I went to school with in Australia. I even had dinner at their house once! It's a small, small world.

"It's like saying, You have to believe the world is flat to be a Christian, and that's absolutely unreasonable."

If you believe the Bible, the world IS a flat disk, supported by pillars, and supporting the heavens on pillars. Flat earth and Young Earth creationism are not things "added" to Christianity. They are things you take out of Christianity, so that you can minimize the most glaring conflicts it has with reality while still taking comfort in whatever's left over in your aging myth.

By Jason Failes (not verified) on 26 Nov 2007 #permalink

The article does mention the growing schism between the old earth creationists, the young earth creationists, and the intelligent design creationists.

<span style="schoolyard">We -- wanna -- see -- blood! -- We -- wanna -- see -- blood! -- We -- wanna -- see -- blood!</style>

Is it any wonder that Liberty University's logo is a burning book?

ROTFL! Thanks for the link!

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

(not to be confused with the Dave Conspiracy)

Hey, thanks for that link. Maybe I will be initiated, too, now that I can presumably count myself as a member of the G. O. D. D. S..

HA HA HA HA ....

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 24 Nov 2007 #permalink

Quit trying to reinvent the square wheel.

ROTFL! Goes into my quote collection.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 25 Nov 2007 #permalink