When the bough breaks: Civility and Creationists
FACT: Creationists don't have any debating skills¥.
I'm not saying that their opponents are much better. Skeptics, rationalists, atheists and theistic evolutionists build their fair of strawmen, construct the odd fallacy based on incredulity or overgeneralisation (¥ahem, moi?), and all too easily dismiss certain valid data, but creationists just don't get it. It possibly comes down to a personal feeling of infallibility, but if I go all out and declare that, I'm commiting another fallacy myself (see how easy it is).
It's just so hard when you get people "trying" to have a debate with you and asking questions like:
"(1) Why is such name-calling so common among Darwinists? and (2) How do Darwinian mechanisms produce truly novel biological information? I've seen no good answers to question 2, and perhaps their lack of such a good answer is driving the observations behind question (1)."(Pharyngula quoting Casey Luskin, a Discovery Institute guy). PZ rightly points out the simple inanity of this line of questioning.
It's hard to ask "Why are people calling me stupid?" and then ask "Why don't planes crash when they hit clouds?". Especially when you mention that it's because clouds are actually water vapour, and they interject "But how can water be in the sky, shouldn't gravity pull it down to Earth? When I turn on a tap I don't have clouds puffing out. Any half-witted infant could tell you clouds are white and fluffy like sheep. Has anyone checked out to see if they are made from cotton?" (Oh, before I go any further, any astute reader noticed I'm already building a straw man?) Now, you could try your darndest to deal nicely with this bright spark and explain how water actually exists as vapour, and that atmospheric pressure allows condensation to form visible bodies due to light reflection, that water in your tap is not in that part of the atmosphere - and also under pressure, that just looking like sheep doesn't make them same, and that sheep actually have wool not cotton" - but honestly, do you have the patience. I've worked with "half-witted infants" and some of them can manage better logic than creationists (wow, I combo-ed that into an ad hominem, that's the last one I'm giving you).
Scientist continually offer solutions to creationist "issues" with evolution. So much so, that all anyone really has to do is type in a few random words into Pubmed and get a few citations and point them in a creationists direction. It's so easy to find a bit of research to rebuke the most basic of creationist slander. You don't have to be mean about it either. Pointing out to someone, "Hey your wrong, and this will tell you why" while showing a credible well referenced piece of literature, isn't picking on you. It's actually a well meaning attempt to help rectify your blatant ignorance or history of brainwashing and indoctrination. Sometimes it even does the trick...
...but then again, sometimes not. Now, I would have thought providing many good sources to refute a blatantly false claim, and actually going through one source in particular to explain how it is relevant and points out the inherrent flaws and errors in the proposal would be actually pretty well taken by intelligent persons intent on serious discourse over the matter. But not for Michael Egnor, who is supposed to be a neurosurgeon (which usually requires intelligence, seriousness and generally, some level of literacy), who dismissed such a proposal as "citation chaff". A similar tactic was used at the most recent of intelligent design's attempts to creep into schools - as you'd expect, dismissing large swads of peer-reviewed scientific literature as "not good enough" did not work terribly well in their favour. It's as if the Discovery Institute is trying to have a competition to see just how ignorant they can be.
Evolution is a central unifying theory of biology. Without it, biology would be stamp collecting on the basis of religious sycophancy (oh, that must be what the DI wants). Several mechanisms for speciation are not only known, but well understood, and observed through verified repeatable experiments. Evolution does have plenty of controversies, and creationism or intelligent design don't rank anywhere near high enough to achieve the funding and noteriety they do. I would galdly sell my non-existent soul for Aquatic Ape Theory to take DI's place as a thorn in the side of all rational thinking people.
I'm gonna end with a quote showing that I don't just read Pharyngula:
"I may be kind of a jerk when I say that god isn't real and we evolved from vaguely ape-like beings and that you should just get over it, but I don't know how else to handle it. When someone tells me that "evolution is just a theory," or that we are "too complex to happen by chance," I want to punch them in their (easily) reducibly complex eye. I'm being kind by not doing so. Take that as a gesture of good will and deal with it." -Please don't get upset when scientists call you stupid Mr. Creationist, it's our way of showing we don't absoultely hate you just yet.
***Dedicated to those who have fallen
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