Because the universe is beautiful enough without having to lie about it

Responding to Creationist Requests

February 19th, 2009 Posted in Creationism

PZ Myers has posted a wonderful example of exactly how to reply to a
creationist when they ask you for a public forum to discuss their
Intelligent Design nonsense.

Part of me is still slightly annoyed that we’re having to give these sad
delusionals even the time required to craft a well-worded email – I wish
it were possible to get the world to understand just how insane their
theory is and just how miniscule is their actual impact on scientific
thought. I wish it were possible to get people to realise that the
reason why scientists don’t bother responding to these nutjobs is
because there simply isn’t any controversy at all.

So, how can we paraphrase Prof. Gotelli’s response? I love his argument,
and I had a thought about what I would write in a similar situation. I
think it’s pretty similar, but perhaps slightly more indirect in its
overpowering sarcasm 😉

“I have received with gratitude your request for a public seminar on the
branch of creationism known as “Intelligent Design”. Not being
acquainted with the theology or ancient history of the Bronze Age to
which your theory refers, I admit that I am somewhat puzzled by your
request for me to address this particular topic. It is, therefore, with
a heavy heart that I decline your kind request. However, I hope the
following overview of my own personal area of research, that of
evolutionary science, might help you with your enqiries in this area.

Science is a process whereby hypotheses are tested using empirical
methods, many of which require a great deal of time, skill and knowledge
to perform. Though science education is a very important task for the
future prosperity of this and every nation, the actual process by which
cutting-edge scientific discoveries are made is, sadly, not amenable to
a public discussion – especially in front of a non-expert audience. The
frontiers of scientific research are being continually debated by
professional scientists; they apply months, or even years, of their
time, together with knowledge that they may have accumulated over
decades, to problems which would often mean nothing to those without
such painstakingly-acquired expert knowedge. The proposition that such a
process could be ‘debated’ in any useful sense, it should be readily
obvious, demonstrates a misunderstanding of how science works. Science
does not discover new theories in the same way that democratic processes
drive Western politics; the truth of a statement is not determined by
the number of people who support it, no matter how loudly, emotively or
wittily they present their beliefs. On the contrary, truths are
uncovered by those individuals, often few and softly spoken, who propose
a hypothesis which can be supported by carefully collected empirical
data, coherent theoretical models and rigorous logical analysis.

In contrast to the world of public debates, popular literature,
Internet-based discussions and the public media, disagreements within
the scientific community, of which there are certainly many, are
resolved largely through the medium of peer-reviewed journals. This is
necessary in order to ensure some standard of rigorous proof for the
discoveries that we add to the body of scientific knowledge. The
criteria for publishing in such journals are usually very strict, and
the most prestigious are often reserved for the most important or
strikingly impressive discoveries. In that regard, any evidence
disproving the conventional scientific view of evolution would certainly
qualify for publication in such locations, as it would overturn more
than a century of voluminous, cast-iron evidence to the contrary. Along
with the Nobel prize(s) that you would certainly receive for such a
monumentous discovery – the large monetary rewards for which would
certainly help you to expand your institute enormously – you could
assure yourself of a permanent and undeniable place in the annals of
history alongside the greatest minds that our species has ever produced.
As a tip from one inquisitive researcher to another, a good introduction
to such a paper might begin with an explanation as to why so many
hundreds of thousands of highly educated and intelligent people have
all, over the course of the last century or so, failed to establish what
you claim to be so undeniably straightforward. This contribution alone
would certainly prove invaluable to the field of human psychology.

If you truly believe, as I suspect you must, that scientific theories
about the origin and evolution of life are so trivially flawed that they
can be shown to be so to an audience of laypeople in a handful of
minutes, then you should have no problem whatsoever providing rigorous
proof of this claim in a submission to any of the most prestigious
journals in the world of science. This would be a spectacular
opportunity for all concerned; It would boost the public image of any
such journal immeasurably to be involved with such a game-changing
discovery. I would certainly welcome such a paper myself, as the
fascinating insights that it would reveal would assure me and all of my
colleagues working in the field of evolutionary science an enormous
funding boost for many years to come.  The work required in revisiting
and rewriting all the theories of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in
the subjects of archaeology, biology, chemistry, genetics, geology,
physics and zoology would keep us happily and rewardingly employed for
the rest of our professional lives.

I wish you all the best in your endeavours, and hope to meet you in an
academic conference at some point in the near future. I look forward
very much to the renewed excitement in science that your discoveries
will certainly bring.

A. Scientist”


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  1. 3 Responses to “Responding to Creationist Requests”

  2. By Sceptical on Mar 7, 2009

    Loved this Col. I sent it to a Creationist I know. No response as of yet

  3. By Colin on Mar 8, 2009

    Ah, I should probably have been more charitable in the opening rant. I was particularly annoyed that day – I can’t remember why. I’d probably been reading Creationist letters on Pharyngula.

    Thanks for the comments,

  4. By Truthseeker on Sep 15, 2009

    Im a little concerned with those that believe in Evolution that they would rather argue dismissives (ie not rebut creationist arguments at all) and sarcasm and would play the sound bite game commonly used by politicians insisting rather that creationist arguments have already been refuted and everybody knows it so lets move on and leave these poor fools delusional –

    Its a fallacious argument and full of spin – simply rebut the arguments that you dont agree with a let science do the rest


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