Friday, July 18, 2008

When a Creationist Says the Sky is Blue...

When a creationist says the sky is blue...

go outside and check.

That's the wise advice of my friend and co-author, Wesley Elsberry.

It seems particularly apt this week, with yet another outbreak of creationist misrepresentation:

  1. Over at Uncommon Descent, William Dembski claims, citing Michael Asher, that "The American Physical Society, an organization representing nearly 50,000 physicists, has reversed its stance on climate change and is now proclaiming that many of its members disbelieve in human-induced global warming." Only problem is, the American Physical Society has done nothing of the sort. Instead, the APS's Forum on Physics & Society has published an issue with two opposing articles, one in favor of the human-caused global warming theory and one attempting to cast doubt on it. The latter article was written by Christopher Monckton, a man with apparently no scientific training who has a history of statements of debatable veracity.

    Even Asher himself has been forced to concede that his description of the Forum on Physics & Society's issue was incorrect, admitting in an update at the bottom in a much smaller typeface that "After publication of this story, the APS responded with a statement that its Physics and Society Forum is merely one unit within the APS, and its views do not reflect those of the Society at large."

  2. Next, at The Panda's Thumb, Nick Matzke points out that Casey Luskin gets nearly everything wrong when describing the Alternberg meeting. Luskin claims the NCSE opposed the meeting for political reasons (false; it didn't oppose it at all) and that Rutgers philosopher Jerry Fodor was one of the Alternberg 16 (false, as one can easily check here). Even more importantly, Luskin imagines the meeting as some sort of significant challenge to the theory of evolution, when in fact the participants claim just the opposite.

  3. Finally, I've been contacted by some cretin named Bill Crofut, who proclaims himself a "an unlettered Traditional Roman Catholic, militant young-Earth Biblical creationist and geocentrist". Crofut proffered a quote by Birch and Ehrlich from a 1967 Nature article as evidence against evolution. Only problem is, the quote was stripped of context and is a well-known quote mine. When confronted with the evidence of his misrepresentation, Crofut told me he was "a son of Satan".

I don't think creationists are always dishonest, but (1) they uncritically accept anything that supports their view instead of examining it critically and (2) they are not particularly concerned with making sure that their sources are correct.


Eamon Knight said...

...Crofut told me he was "a son of Satan".

Clarification: he said he was, or you are, a son of Satan? The former suggests serious mental imbalance; the latter is just religious extre....OK, a different kind of mental imbalance, and not one usually considered clinical ;-).

And of course, Luskin quotes Mazur dragging in cranks like Salthe and Pivar. Looks like a bunch of drunks propping each other up.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

No, he said he was.

Michael J. Swart said...

My eyes tell me the sky is gray right now in Kitchener.

Have you ever read the essay "Thinking as a Hobby" by William Golding. He describes three grades of thinking. Gr. 3 being uncritical thinking, Gr. 2 being criticizing thinking and Gr. 1 at the tops.

Lately, each time I read an essay or blog post (such as the links you provide), I've been labeling them as grade one, two or three thinkers. Sometimes it's almost too easy though.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

No, Michael, I had never read that essay before. I don't know what he means, exactly, by grade-one thinking, but it sure seems he thinks it is Important.

Maybe a little more apposite would be William James, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

Michael J. Swart said...

Very true.
And I learned a new word today "apposite"!
(no need to post this comment)

Eamon Knight said...

Jeffrey: OK, the guy is definitely padded room material. Hopefully before he hurts someone.

Michael: Is that the essay with an extended metaphor involving a small reproduction of Rodin's Thinker and an figurine of a pouncing tiger? I read such an essay in high school, but can never recall the details.