What’s the Shelf Life of Creationism?

Motivated by a mix of morbid curiosity and a perverse sense of duty (I’m doing this so you folks don’t have to), I attended a meeting of the Twin Cities Creation (non)Science Association on November 20th.  I recruited a sympathetic friend and borrowed a camera from another in hopes of capturing some video to share. However, the moment that our hosts noticed my camera, I was politely informed that there was “unpublished research” being discussed by presenter Dr. Kevin Anderson, and the Creation Research Society was worried about potential leaks.

Thus, the conspiracies began.

Since I didn’t really care to pick a fight and they weren’t being as aggressive as they were with Josh, I politely put the camera away. So, no video. Sorry.

However, TCCSA takes video of all their meetings and once Anderson and co. have published their research in a peer-reviewed, secular science journal, TCCSA will make the video available. So, no video.

The topic for the meeting was “What is the Shelf Life of a Dinosaur?” It focused on “iDino – Investigation of Dinosaur Intact Natural Osteo-tissue”, the efforts of the Creation Research Society to study essentially the same stuff that Mary Schweitzer has been studying for quite some time (and another link for the fun of it). In order to qualify as original research, they are studying a Triceratops horn instead of a T-Rex femur. And while it’s hard for me to take their efforts seriously, since they’re obviously starting with a conclusion and merely trying to confirm their bias, I still have to give them a tiny bit of credit for getting their hands dirty with some genuine research instead of just distorting other scientists’ data to fit their mold. They’re collecting their own data, which they will undoubtedly distort to fit their mold.

Finding intact tissue on fossils is of interest to creationists because, theoretically, any tissue should have decayed millions of years ago. In their minds, this proves that these fossils couldn’t be nearly as old as evolutionists are claiming. The main problem with this type of research, and a point to which Anderson admitted (to a degree) during the Q&A, is that we don’t know exactly what happened to these fossils before they were found. Of course, the fact that they were discovered in Montana means that, at one point, they were likely embedded in a massive glacier, which potentially explains why the tissue was preserved. You can do the same thing by putting a steak in your freezer and leaving one buried in your back yard.

While Anderson was describing their trip to Montana and showcasing microscopic pictures of the different types of cells they’ve found, I found it to be a questionable but generally interesting presentation. But then he turned on the conspiracy switch…and the rest of the evening was dedicated to a steady stream of paranoid delusion and post-hoc argumentation. They managed to cram an entire year’s worth of young earth slogans and jargon into a 90-minute presentation. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, but not since my childhood days in a Christian grade school have I been in a room where so much nonsense was being spewed forth so quickly. At times I was struggling to take notes fast enough.

Here are some of the more choice moments:

  • The idea of a vast, secular conspiracy against creationists was constantly on the verge of being mentioned for the billionth time. Anderson said that the “evolutionists” were just trying to “protect the paradigm” of modern scientific understanding, that they “use the words science and evolution interchangeably”, and if they “find out” that you’re a creationist they won’t run tests like carbon dating for you.
  • Anderson went on for a bit about how “evolutionists” are masters of the “word game” and redefine science to fit their needs. He encouraged attendees to ignore the definition of science or trying to define science at all, because this is just a word game used by “evolutionists” to divert attention from the evidence.
  • He admitted, during the Q&A, that they hadn’t decided yet whether or not they would try to publish the results of the dating tests they’ve sent samples for. Obviously he doesn’t believe that these (or any?) dating methods work. So, by sending out samples, they were merely going through the motions of real science. But if they have test results that contradict their evidence, then withholding them from publication is grounds for throwing their paper in the trash from the start.
  • God created the universe in six days, even though he didn’t need to take that long, to illustrate a six day work week.
  • During the Q&A, a man asked whether or not all of creation science was just a side show compared to the important spiritual battle being waged all over the world. Anderson pointed to his heart and then his head while saying that it’s impossible to win people’s minds without first convincing their hearts. Sounds pretty scientific to me.
  • “They didn’t evolve from a common ancestor, they devolved from a common ancestor.”
  • Anderson joked about Schweitzer’s anger at Young Earthers for twisting her research to fit their claims, totally missing the irony of the fact that he’s doing the same thing. Not that Anderson has a strong sense of irony.

I had a number of people ask me why I went to this event and plan to go to future ones. As I said, there’s a bit of morbid curiosity, but I’m also curious about how they’re educating the children in their group. I’m not going to get overly dramatic here (“Won’t anyone think of the children?!”), but there were a couple of things that really stuck me. First of all, there was a family of six sitting directly in front of me. I’m terrible at guessing ages, but I’d say that the four kids were between 5-12 years old. For the most part the “information” went right over their heads, but when it was time to laugh at some joke about those silly “evolutionists” (“They get to talk about dark matter, can’t we talk about dark intelligence?”), they automatically laughed along with the adults. Indoctrination at its finest: when your parents laugh, you laugh; when they nod in agreement, you nod in agreement. Just don’t ever ask why. One of the boys seemed to be listening and at least processing enough of it to ask a pertinent question during the Q&A. Maybe there’s some hope that he’ll manage to cling to some skepticism and interest in science.

The other thing that struck me involved a father who asked Anderson about his secular science education, how he managed to remain a creationist despite going to a secular university, and whether or not he was able to work in mainstream science while holding creationist beliefs. The reason the man gave for asking was that his son, a High School freshman, was really interested in paleontology, but he didn’t want the boy to become an “evolutionist”.

And this is what really, really tears at me.

This poor kid is eventually going to have to choose between the career he wants and the approval of his father, simply because of this dogmatic insistence on Biblical literalism. Either that, or this man is going to take measures that will completely hamstring his son’s future and crush his enthusiasm for learning real science. It’s scenarios like this that are my answer for all the “What’s the harm?” questions that theists love to pose. And it may be narcissism on my part for thinking that going to a meeting and writing an article or two about it is going to change any of that. But, if enough people take the time to criticize and counter the lies, there’s at least hope that some of these kids will find the tools needed to elbow their way out of their parents’ religion.

So what’s next? In January, TCCSA is hoping to bring in someone from Chicago to “demythologize” our local science museum. I can’t wait.

Comments

  1. dregstudios says:

    Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

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