Report on Institute for Creation Research speech

This evening, I took DJ Mo to visit a local church, for the purpose of attending a presentation from the Institute for Creation Reseach. Although I don’t generally attend any sort of church, I thought it might be a good educational opportunity for DJ Mo to see how religion is used to abuse otherwise decent folks and relieve them of their money.

And although it would have made for a far more interesting blog, I didn’t ask any questions, start a debate, or otherwise draw attention to myself–my general opinion is that these sort of folks have their minds made up regardless of what is presented, and that logic or evidence just doesn’t matter to them.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience, so I’ll share it with you.

First off, the presentation was given by James Gardner, of the ICR. He referred to the presentation as part of a “loop” of speeches being given, which the pastor stated was the only way they could afford to have someone from the ICR show up in our town. Following the presentation, I thought this was fairly amusing– I sure hope they didn’t pay TOO much!

Gardner mentioned that he had previously spoken at Virginia Tech, where he said he had been “verbally assaulted” by a member of a Freethinker group while giving a speech there. He also said that he doesn’t often get an opportunity to speak at colleges. While he was getting ready, some PowerPoint slides were on a loop– photos of dinosaur footprints, human footprints, and “mummified duckbill dino” which I have a picture of here. Oh! Please understand that I was taking these photos from a few pews back, while they were displayed on a bright screen. I have obviously Photoshopped some of them to bring out detail, so don’t get all freaked out if you see where I fixed something. I didn’t feel like working on them forever– I just wanted you to be able to see things more or less decently.

Gardner told everyone that he had grown up in Thailand as the son of two missionaries, had been home-schooled, and also taken schooling in Vietnam at a Christian school of some sort. Eventually, he made it to the US as a teenager (I forget where) and first encountered evolution at that time– he said “evolution totally messed me up.” The way he said it made it sound as if he’d gotten hooked on heroin or something– this was a new twist on the usual “I-used-to-be-an-addict-but-now-I-found-Jesus” story you hear so often from these people. Weird!
I did my best to take some notes on the back side of a donation envelope, but I don’t think I did a very good job. Taking good notes has never been my strong point, and I was also really thrown off– I was expecting something a bit more based in nonsense “facts”, but Gardner just seemed happy sort of riffing on dinosaurs, Jurassic Park, evolution, and home-schooling in a fairly discombobulated way. I wouldn’t say he was incoherent– he was lucid and clear-spoken– he just didn’t really have any sort of “flow” from one set of statements to the next.

Most notable for me was how when Gardner made a point against science or evolution, it was almost entirely made by setting up ridiculous situations that were actually somewhat comical. He seemed sort of hung up on what dinosaurs actually looked like, and kept mentioning that they were “on average” the size of sheep. Eventually, he put up a slide depicting a cartoony scientist and a painter. The scientist is gesturing to a pile of bones, and saying something to the effect that one dino died while getting his tail bitten by the other one. The painter is painting the scene, also in a very cartoony manner. Gardner’s point was that this is how science is done, and how silly it all seems. Of course, the audience ate it up, with a few scattered “amens,” etc…

I’m not sure how much DJ Mo took away from the presentation, but we did talk about how no real evidence was presented, but that the audience responded to the silliness of Gardner’s examples. I think this is a pretty valuable lesson.Some stuff hit me out of left field. As a vegetarian, I was aware that some religions are interested in the Genesis quote having to do with seeds and meat (can’t recall how this goes at the moment.) Gardner used this quote to basically say that before the flood, dinosaurs and all animals were vegetarians, and that T-Rex teeth were too brittle to eat meat, and that T-Rex would have been toothless in a hurry if it had tried. I wasn’t really sure what the point of this was, until he said that the dinosaurs’ vegetarian diet was the reason that all people weren’t devoured by these beasts. Gardner also said that following the flood, human beings ate all the dinosaurs, which is why they’re extinct now.

Gardner occasionally threw in some scientific-sounding words, enough to gloss over a tricky point, but not so much that I was fooled into thinking it was substantial. He mentioned that dinosaurs couldn’t breathe the air after the flood because it possessed a different percentage of oxygen (I believe he said it was 36% instead of 40%?) and that their “small lungs” could not adapt to this situation. Earlier, he said that secular, atheist scientists say that “particles evolved into people;” and threw out the idea that there is “horizontal change, not vertical.” He really didn’t explain this at all, so I have no idea what he meant.

Gardner also presented a slide of Ceratops “kinds,” which he said would not all have been present on the ark. I thought it was interesting that he mentioned that after the flood, the “variation could show up again later…” I assume me meant that the different “kinds” would again produce variety through breeding. He compared this to dogs, which he also said have different “kinds,” including one which he said you could squish up their face so it covered their ears. I suppose he meant a sharpei, but who knows?

Finally, Gardner said that dinosaurs lived with humans, and that we just used to call them dragons. He displayed a picture of the Chinese Zodiac, which I also took a picture of– I’m pretty sure this is a rare sighting in a fundamentalist church! Gardner said that some scientists have advanced theories that dinosaur extinction was caused by a meteor, by overeating, and actually by burping themselves to death. These were all accompanied by very silly slides, which DJ Mo and I did laugh at. I have never heard that dinos burped themselves to death, so I thought this might have been what he thought was the truth, but it turns out he figures we ate them all up. He showed a picture of KFD “Kentucky Fried Dino” in sizes small, regular, and large.Gardner ran over time by about 20 minutes, and finished by saying that there might still be dinosaurs alive. He added a mysterious statement about “reports from the Congo,” which I thought was overly dramatic and silly, but everyone seemed to think this was totally normal.

DJ Mo and I chose to bug out before the next presentation “What is Truth?” (or “True,” I’m not sure, actually!) but stuck around long enough to view the large amount of merchandise for sale, and to get a bottled water, courtesy of the church. I should mention that Gardner did not travel lightly in the merchandise category– there were at least 30 books for sale, numerous audio tapes, DVDs, and possibly computer software as well. I’m not sure on the software– the room was crowded, and hard to see everything well. The prices were fairly high– $10 for a small children’s board book– but from the look of it, people seemed to be quite excited about the ICR offerings.

All in all, DJ Mo and I were well-treated, aside from the numerous handshakes we were forced to endure from folks who did not recognize us as normal members of the church. I overheard one man saying that he had received an e-mail on a homeschooling list of some sort, and had driven his family around 2 hours to attend. When we left, I saw his wife in their van– from my dealings with little kids, I imagine she was tending to a sleepy or fussy baby– that must have been LOADS of fun for her! However, the new term I learned from Gardner’s speech– “helpmate”– sprang to mind. I’m pretty sure that’s the last time I’ll have an opportunity to use it.

I am curious how much of this jives with YOUR experiences with presentations of this sort. Is this all recycled material, or was Gardner flying by the seat of his pants? Would you have tried to debate, or sat quietly? Let me know!

22 Responses to “Report on Institute for Creation Research speech”

  1. Ms. S Says:

    Dinosaurs may have burped themselves to death?! Wow. I can’t even think of a response to a statement of that caliber.
    (Of course, given that they were on average the size of sheep, and ate only plants, perhaps they died from a different sort of gas??)

    Thanks for taking one for the team and going to the event.

  2. David Says:

    That “Chinese zodiac” is the placemat my kids spill on at our local Chinese restaurant. Now that’s an authoritative source! Why can’t scientists be so thorough?

  3. Saint Gasoline Says:

    This is all recycled nonsense. I’ve only had one run-in with a creationist of this sort (sad, I know!), but it was quite memorable. Basically, he had found his way onto my college and began to preach outside in the area of the school with the most foot traffic. He talked about how men and dinosaurs lived together (mentioning dragons and human foot prints with dinosaur footprints), about the “design” argument, and just tried to criticize evolution on the basis that he didn’t understand how a fish could evolve lungs.

    I was pleasantly surprised that many of the people in the crowd gathered around were whispering about how crazy he is, and some were even asking him serious questions about basic errors in his argument.

    Unfortunately for him, I was there. I got up right next to him and basically mocked his “theo-science” by applying it to rain, saying that science can’t explain rain, and that it is in fact caused by invisible elephants in the sky. I also chastised him that fish evolved lungs from their swimbladders, asking him if he had ever heard of a lungfish.

  4. seedsaside Says:

    Amazingly, the “over-eating theory” might just originate from an hear-say “over-heating theory following meteor impact”.

    Wouldn’t it be the way those guys learn about science? Through Chinese-Whisperers Red-Hearings? :-)

  5. Kimberly Says:

    Just to point out…. Fish evolved lungs first, to deal with low oxygen levels in the water. It was just easier to breath the air, and lungs are simple. Gills are far more complicated than lungs are (with maybe the exception of bird lungs). And lungs did become swim bladders which some fish still use today to gulp air. And I could get pretty deep into that subject, but I’ll stop there.

    As for the over all point, yeah, I’d of said something and challenged him to sit in front of one of my lectures on evolution.

    We ate the dinos… wow. Probably tasted like chicken.

  6. gilacliff Says:

    Scientific evidence in the form of a placemat from just about every Chinese restaurant I’ve ever been to. Now if he can only produce an unretouched Polaroid photograph of his Lord and Saviour that doesn’t vaguely look like Zeus!

    I don’t understand why it is so important to these people that everyone has to believe what they believe. One unfortunate part of the “We all must believe together!” culture is that these people sit on juries and accept the statements of prosecutors as fact – just as they accept the assertions of their shamens as fact. A little dubiousness in society is a good thing.

  7. Eamon Knight Says:

    I am curious how much of this jives with YOUR experiences with presentations of this sort. Is this all recycled material, or was Gardner flying by the seat of his pants?

    Our recent experiences here and here
    Not the ICR, but a local bunch who slavishly lip-synchs them. Same idea though: spew BS far faster than anyone can shovel it back while making fun of stuff they don’t understand.
    Would you have tried to debate, or sat quietly? Let me know!
    Well, the event we attended was advertised as a “forum” inviting discussion, so we went in with the intent to mix it up a bit. And between having attended the occasional event before AND 15 years experience on talk.origins, we knew pretty much what to expect.

  8. Eamon Knight Says:

    Hmm…links don’t seem to have come through in that previous post. Just use the main blog link, and look for posts on “Creationist Forum”.

  9. cometothewell Says:

    Wow. How embarrassing as a person of faith that these people have an “institute” that purports to do research. Fortunately, there are not many left who buy in to this medieval BS. I hope this is an intelligent enough group to not judge all people of faith by the minority of crazy ones.

  10. startlingmoniker Says:

    Cometothewell– I’m not going to give you any brownie points for not believing in this PARTICULAR brand of medieval BS when you state that you believe in another sort of medieval BS. What you refer to as “faith,” I call “clinging to some belief despite all evidence to the contrary.” I have no idea why this is thought of as a beautiful, virtuous quality when its clearly an act of willful mental blindness.

  11. crazyharp81602 Says:

    I’m posting this on my dinosaur blog. Right now, I’m dealing with the Virginia Tech Incident, but I am going to squeeze this article into my blog that deals with the creationist’s belief on dinosaurs. You are much more than welcome to come check out my blog Dinosaurs: A Creationist’s Fairy Tale anytime you want.

  12. JesusForKing.com Says:

    startlingmoniker Says: ‘What you refer to as “faith,” I call “clinging to some belief despite all evidence to the contrary.” I have no idea why this is thought of as a beautiful, virtuous quality when its clearly an act of willful mental blindness.’

    What a fantastic description of the evolution faith. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  13. laelaps Says:

    Nice analysis. I actually met a member of ICR who signed me up for their “journal” and I absolutely can’t believe some of the stuff that gets printed. My personal fave; radiactive, heat-generating rocks are evidence of God’s anger. *smacks forehead*

    Keep up the good work.

  14. Top Posts « WordPress.com Says:

    […] Report on Institute for Creation Research speech This evening, I took DJ Mo to visit a local church, for the purpose of attending a presentation from the Institute for […] […]

  15. startlingmoniker Says:

    JFK–

    Hmm.. I’m terribly tempted to read that as Jesus Forking, but whatever… You know darn well that you’re mis-using the word faith, and I don’t appreciate your willingness to abuse the term, especially when you’re religious– we both know that you know better.

    Faith is very much different from scientific belief in that it does not demand proof. Faith exists outside reason, scrutiny, evidence, discussion, and logic. Basically, faith is the worst parts of the two-year-old mind, and it is unfortunately stuck there.

  16. shilohautumn Says:

    I must remark that, if you really think about it, it DOES take a certain amount of faith to believe science is the be-all-and-end-all, that it is The Answer, that it is the Truth, that it is Fact. Facts/truth may be the ultimate goal, but science as a method or practice, or, shall I say, as practiced by humankind (with a decided tendency, we must admit, to the occasional error), is not as infallible as one might think. Presuppositions are inevitably present, and as history will show, often lead to less than accurate conclusions. Of course, this is remarked only in hindsight.

  17. startlingmoniker Says:

    Shilo–

    First off, let me say that I’m glad you’ve decided to engage with the frontlines of the scientific community (this being volunteer experimental radio DJs).

    You’re right about two things: errors are definitely part of the scientific process, and so is presupposition– though I’m pretty sure scientists call this a “hypothesis” nowadays.

    Where faith and science diverge, however, is in science’s willingness (and ability) to actively question why these errors occurred, and to challenge the hypothesis advanced by running experiments.

    Faith, on the other hand, takes an unsupported idea and holds onto it no matter what evidence is presented. No experiment is run to test the fallibility of the idea, and when errors are presented, the faithful usually say something about god having “mysterious ways.”

    As you can see, these aren’t really the same at all.

  18. Joel H Says:

    Having pedaled at one time this same “Shake-and-Bake” creationist material over 15 years ago, your experience aligns very closely with what i put many people through in my attempts to demonstrate the “reasonableness” of the Bible and Christian faith. It’s sad to see how this material gets recycled time and time again despite repeated demonstrations of the baselessness of it’s supporting “arguments” (it’s difficult to use sensible words without quotes in referring to such insensible material). The starting point of my de-conversion was realizing that i could ACTUALLY INVESTIGATE and PONDER ON MY OWN the information from reputable and scholarly sources, even if the scientific disciplines involved were a little beyond me at the time (but then how else could i get a handle on them without having someone dictate to me what it all meant?) And, if I may, I would like to apologize to those people out there who patiently put up with hearing this creationist drivel from me.

  19. zenoizen Says:

    I was half listening to the skeptic magazine podcast last night, and heard someone (can’t supply details, sorry.) give a perspective that seemed novel to me.

    His idea was that it seemed to him that believers ought to be happy to respond to the Theory of Natural Selection with something along the lines of “Yeah, look what God did. Isn’t that great?”

    I’m more or less an atheist nowadays, but I was pretty faithful in my early youth. I believed in God and Jesus, and I let that wafer melt in my mouth for a good two hours after mass, savoring the flavor of the body of the savior.

    Even THEN though, I accepted evolution as basically correct and couldn’t figure out why my mother or catholic school teachers reprimanded me for talking about it.

    My point is that accepting natural selection and the scientific method is not contrary to believing in a creator god. Gregor Mendel didn’t have a problem with any of this. Why should we?

  20. startlingmoniker Says:

    I’ve always thought this might be an appropriate response as well. Something like: “Well, evolution is just God’s mechanism.”

    It’s such a simple, logical response that the only reason I can figure out for religious folks NOT saying it is that it’s more useful to them as a source of division.

    Religion uses hot issues such as evolution in much the same way that governments use war– it creates an atmosphere of charged, false oppression where members feel SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

    As George Orwell pointed out in “1984,” it is impossible to control a contented, happy person.

  21. arensb Says:

    I am curious how much of this jives with YOUR experiences with presentations of this sort.

    It sounds quite similar to the time I attended Kent Hovind’s carnival show. Especially the part about selling books and videos.

  22. Alexander Hayden Says:

    Hello everyone,

    I’m new to this site. I must say that I was happy to find it. I am a paleontologist a field researcher. I like all your comments very much, I’ve been debating some creationists for almost 10 years. I just wonder if those people will ever listen to what real scientists are saying and doing. They will just come and wave their bibles and reject everything else. I told one creationist, which should be also be said to the rest of these idiots, that modern science is about discovering things. If computers work, airplanes fly and we go to the moon and beyond then science is right and was right. I think that we who defend the truth should debate with those people infront of the public, so the public can see all the lies creationists are trying to feed them with. Some of my fellow scientists do not want to get into argument with creationists, which I think is a mistake. We should confront them. People such as Ken Ham with his Crackhouse are the biggest danger to our society and modern worl also to our civilization.

    I’m glad I found this web site and this forum. Thank you guys for listening and I’m giving you my support to stop this creationist nonsense.

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