Saturday, October 20, 2012

Creationism isn't the Real Enemy; Intellectual Dishonesty Is

Glenn Morton is a former young-earth creationist who could no longer tolerate the endless string of falsehoods put out by creationists, and wrote some helpful pages debunking creationist claims, such as The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism, which I've favorably cited before.

However, he remained an evangelical Christian. And in some ways he continued to argue exactly like a creationist. I remember once on a private mailing list, we had a disagreement about information theory. I quoted definitions from books about information theory to make my point, but these weren't good enough: Morton insisted that he used information theory in the oil industry and was correct and he would not budge from that. No amount of evidence could persuade him.

Now he's had a hissy fit and deleted his own anti-creationism pages. His reason is that most people who fight creationism are "religious bigots" who are taking advantage of his work to further their own agenda.

But take a look at his arguments! They are classic right-wing crackpot stuff:

- "someone got a draft of a book by John [sic] Buell and they were scheming how to put an injunction on his book PRE-PUBLICATION" - Buell's book figured in the Dover trial; I know the people involved and this injunction claim is completely untrue

- "It doesn't matter that the earth stopped warming in 1997 as the UK Met Office reveals in the latest HADCRUT data, one MUST still believe that it is still occurring" - a fabrication, one that was quickly debunked.

- "The president of Chic-Fil-A is not allowed to have freedom of speech or religon if that speech or religion offends the sensitivities of the elitists who think they have a right to hector everyone into their boring conformity." -- Morton clearly doesn't understand freedom of speech; it refers to the right to be free of government censorship, and it doesn't prevent private boycotts of business owned by people you disagree with. The Religious Right puts out boycott requests practically every week; Morton says not a word about these.

- "These same elites will not grant the religious the courtesy and right to put up monuments in the public square." - Morton needs to take a refresher course on the separation of church and state. I defend the right of people to put up religious monuments on private property, but public property is a completely different matter.

- "Why do people think it is ok to ridicule [a Mormon's] beliefs? Debate them, yes, ridicule them? no" - ridiculous beliefs deserve ridicule. Labelling them "religious" doesn't get you a free pass.

- "And if a majority want to teach their kids YEC or that the Martians are living amongst us, they should have that freedom" - How about if a majority wants to keep black students out, or teach that black students are inferior? Still OK? There is a clear public interest in having good science in public schools.

- "Freedom is dear; and you, the religious bigot, are a danger to my freedom." - right! That explains why the ACLU consistently supports the religious rights of Christians. And here is my modest contribution.

I'm sorry to see Glenn Morton leave the fight against creationism, but if his reasons are this intellectually dishonest, I say, good riddance.


Anonymous said...

Creationists are shooting themselves in the foot.

Serious, non-creationist philosophers are unable to discuss creationist-sympathetic topics (such as the hypothesis that we live in a computer simulation) without being lumped in with these clowns and instantly losing all credibility by association.

They've done the impossible. They've made it so that even evidence which DOES support their theory can not help their theory in practice, because they've rendered it all so toxic.

John Pieret said...

Ouch! Reading that screed, with all its distortions of the issues about climate change; medical insurance for all employees, including those who don't share their employers' beliefs; public, taxpayer funded, education; etc. was painful. I'm afraid Glenn has recently (or maybe not so recently) again sucummbed to the very demon he described so eloquently.

I have a certain sympathy for the complaint that one's beliefs outside of science are grist for opponents' mills. Remember the Synthese flap and how James Fetzer's "9/11 truther" beliefs were used by the DI?

Still, this is disappointing and, ultimately, sad.

John said...

"They've made it so that even [if any]evidence [DID] support their [nonsense, it] can not help their [nonsense] in practice, because they've rendered [their position] so toxic."


John said...

"They've made it so that even [if any]evidence [DID] support their [nonsense, it] can not help their [nonsense] in practice, because they've rendered [their position] so toxic."


John S. Wilkins said...

I get the impression that to hold an intermediate position here is unstable. Strong pressures to conform are applied to the evolutionary Christian to either drop the "christian" part or to drop the "evolutionary" (just like being a compassionate conservative or a mildly progressive liberal, or agnostic, is unstable). Extremism in both sides tends to pull the conciliatory apart.

Glen was, and I suppose is, a fairly observant person, but he, like everyone else, suffers from cognitive biases like cherry picking, special pleading, and so on.

Weatherman said...

I think there's still room for debate on the global warming issue, even if a report here or there turns out to be debunked.

Jeffrey Shallit said...


Of course there is still room for debate about global warming, but you don't add to your credibility by quoting from the crackpot site wattsupwiththat.

Galactor said...

"And if a majority want to teach their kids YEC or that the Martians are living amongst us, they should have that freedom"

Of course people have a right to abuse their children in whatever way they see fit ...

Don't spare the intellectual rod is my advice.

Weatherman said...

"you don't add to your credibility by quoting from the crackpot site wattsupwiththat. "

And you don't add to your credibility by ignoring the studies that that blog links to. You care only about the messenger?

Dicky Umfraville said...

And I suppose that the white Protestant Christians who want to put up monuments to their religion in the public square will be reverent and appreciative when some local American Indian group wants to put up monuments to their gods in the same public place. After all, religion is very special and needs to be treated with the greatest respect, right?

I grew up in a fundamentalist household. The most disrespectful, frequently untrue things I've heard said about people's religious beliefs came from people who were themselves fanatically religious. I know because I was one of them. Observe the deep "respect" that fundamental Baptists and Pentecostals have for Catholics.

Kemosabe said...

To Dicky:
"monuments to their gods", no. "monuments to their religion", yes.

Sam Harris said...

I had a similar experience with Morton, but on a discussion forum. It was also information-theory related. I am no mathematician and certainly no information theorist, but I can handle the basics, and I believe it was a discussion about DNA 'containing' information, and he had mentioned that one of the hallmarks of information was compressibility. I asked what he meant, and he gave an example. Then I asked how one goes about compressing nucleotides, and that it seemed to me that the application of information theory directly to DNA was artificial, since you can only compress symbolic representations of nucleotides, not the nucleotides thewmelves. He basically said I was ignorant and hectored me a while about it and then ignored me.

Feh. No big loss.