11/26/2008

ON THE RADIO, TANGLING WITH 'BUBBA'


Yesterday, out of the clear blue, I got a call from Gail Marshall, former ombudsman of the Fresno Bee, and now working with Fresno's mayor, Alan Autry.


For you non-Fresnans, Autry is not just an ex-Hollywood type, best known for his role as 'Bubba' on the TV series In the Heat of the Night. Autry is also a former NFL quarterback with the Green Bay Packers, a popular two-term mayor of Fresno (he won reelection in 2004 with 72 percent of the vote) who will leave office next year, and (this is the connection with Gail)a local celebrity who is trying his hand at talk radio on KYNO 1300.


Anyway, Gail knew of me due to letters and other pieces I've written over the years to the Fresno Bee sticking up for science education. It turns out that Mayor Autry wanted to chat up evolution and intelligent design (ID), and since I know that Autry is a conservative Christian it came as no surprise that he would be perched on the creationist side of the fence. There was a possibility that if I accepted, that I would be 'set up' with a prepared foe or a bunch of 'straw man' arguments.


But yours truly, publicity whore for science, turning down an offer to fence with the mayor of Fresno? Not hardly! Damn the torpedoes and any potential ideological mine fields, and full speed ahead! So it was that yesterday, between 10:00 and 11:00 PST, I went on the program:

Autry began with a folksy bit of sly mockery in which he discussed his 'cousin' the stromatolite, showing again that the real concern of many conservative Christians is the claim of common descent. We had one caller, who seemed to be animated by pro-life convictions and had bought into the idea that evolution was somehow responsible for the 'eugenics' of a Margaret Sanger or the atrocities of the Third Reich. I dispatched that with a full well-aimed thrusts and hopefully without sounding too aroused or anxious, and then had a rather pleasant, if not terribly edifying exchange of views with my host.

My overall impression was that we covered a lot of ground fairly quickly and that there were no obvious stumbles on my part. I tried to use my appreciation for some of Autry's interests in a positive way to build empathy between myself and the mayor's audience. I did encounter some misleading arguments or assumptions in conversation, but I thought that these were held honestly and did my best to address them, and I thought the Mayor treated me fairly when I did.

Toward the end, His Honor detoured into what was clearly the main concern, which is common descent and squaring it with the Genesis account. I declined to get into theological specifics, simply pointing out that educated Christians have long known that there are multiple sources within the text, but honor both. I'm not sure if whether or not I happened to be a Christian played any role in the invitation to appear, but there can be no doubt that it helped keep things civil. No minds were changed in the broadcast booth, but perhaps a few misconceptions about evolution were aired and dispelled out in the ether. I would do this again if asked, though I would hope to focus more time on the science and less on the personal beliefs of this or that. But as they say, baby steps.

You can listen to the audio with Quicktime by downloading this mp3 file here. A word of warning: I had trouble listening to the whole thing with ITunes. Also a piece of disclosure: the image of Autry waving through the window doesn't due the mayor justice, but I didn't have time to take a lot of shots. The picture of me has been retouched to make me look more attractive, but as usual it didn't work. As the joke goes, I have a face for radio....

*****UPDATE******

Hey, this post is getting a lot of traffic from all sides of the aisle! How about leaving me a comment? Identify where you stand on this business, and then tell me what you wished I would've said or what could've been better explained/defended, etc......I would love to hear people's thoughts and I invite criticism!





53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done.

I know you were probably trying not to poison the tone of the whole piece, but weren't you tempted to jump down the phone line and strangle the asshat caller with his own entrails?

Dr. C said...

Hey, good job! I linked from PZ.

JohnnieCanuck said...

Pharyngulated!

Nice work. One of these days, you'll make a fine Atheist.

John

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

Way to fight the good fight.

386sx said...

Outstanding. Fix the audio though please! :P

Eric Juve said...

I enjoyed the broadcast. I would not have been as reserved as you and in that regard I have to commend you. I would have asked what he meant by the term "missing link". In my opinion there are so many links from man to his ancestors that it would be appropriate to ask why the creationists insist on ignoring all the "found links".

Again thank you for the broadcast.

wfr said...

What a joy to hear two people with both shared and opposing beliefs treat each other with respect!

Anonymous said...

Since you ask, here from Pharyngula, along with a lot of other hits I expect... Not quite interested enough in shades of mistaken belief systems to listen to the audio I'm afraid. Come on in, the water's lovely :-)

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Re: Common descent.

If humans shared even 1 % DNA in common with ANY other species, it would be way beyond the bounds of (im)probability. We share about 5% dna with pondscum, 98% with bonobos (iirc). It's a continuum, but the possibility that it's a 'random distribution' is vanishingly small.

Re: Missing link
Check out Pharyngula (whence I linked to you) and the amazing piece on the reported discovery of the proto-turtle with teeth and only half a shell, which looks SURPRISINGLY like what the Fundie-tards call a 'transitional' fossil which doesn't exist...

i wish i had enough traffic to justify the verification hassle...

WENDEE HOLTCAMP said...

I'm gonna listen after Tgiving is over but wanted to let you know I never got the email you sent? You don't need to post this comment (if they're moderated) but wanted to ask if you can resend the email?

Craig Messerman said...

I think that was a great job, even though I'm not as apologetic. But keep up the good "fight!" I'm not sure why he's so hung up on stromatolites... Do you think the fundamental issue is the age of Earth? Once you arrive at that point, you necessarily move to ID, which can then be blown out of the water for lack of evidence. Creationist arguments are such a tangled mix of different points like origins, missing links and speciation coupled with the personal incredulity card. You did a nice job of sorting it out.

sarniaskeptic said...

Got a redirect from Pharyngula - thanks for pushing science.

We'll welcome you to the fully rational thinking group whenever you're ready!

Brownian said...

Sorry Scott:

I know you were asking for constructive criticism, but I can't give you any.

You came across as strong, passionate and full of conviction, and your response to the everything-I-know-about-evolution-I-learned-from-Expelled-esque caller was thoughtful and well-considered.

If it were me on the radio, there would have been blood, but that's probably because I'm an atheist evolutionist, and therefore me = HITLER + STALIN!!!

Anonymous said...

Good work.

Pseudoscience has no business in public schools.

Laurie said...

Great job! You kept your cool much better than I ever do when talking to IDio....er...I mean people like that (actually, I avoid it whenever possible - which is most of the time). Another Pharyngulite here.

Joshua Stein said...

As a new Fresnan, living and working at CSU Fresno, I developed a quick distaste for Autry.

Unfortunately, Swearengin (or however the hell you spell her last name) didn't seem much more competent (her opponent was pretty insipid too) with regards to science education.

I brought it up when she was speaking at the school and she seems like she's down the same line.

Either way, man, I'm glad you took on Autry. He's such a moron.

Found this link courtesy of PZ.

Bjørn Østman said...

How do you yourself manage to combine science and scripture? I understand that you don't take Genesis and other books literally. How do you know which to take literally? Just the ones that talk about human relations? How do you know that any of the ones talking about Jesus or acts of God describe real events, when you admit that other part of the Bible are not meant as written?

Roger Scott said...

Also over from PZ; how about giving more detail about your well amied thrusts. I thought Hitchens was too brief on this issue too.

Anonymous said...

Something I've noticed... To anyone thinking "you'd make a fine atheist" because this blogger is rational about science, there is no doubt your intentions are complimentary. But remember this situation next time a religious person tells you "you're a christian you just don't realize it" just because they've determined you to be moral.

In either case the speaker is just trying to be nice, so try not to take offense. :)

yet another pharyngulite

Anonymous said...

Pharyngula brought me here. I have yet to listen to the audio before I decide whether the largely positive feedback here so far is of any merit. But the preliminary impression is that it might be. Just to let you know (as if you didn't already) that you're getting traffic (in my case from across the pond)...

Bart

Calladus said...

Hey, they had to keep you separated by glass! I'll bet it was bulletproof for protection.

But, uhm... just which one of you was being protected?

Wim said...

Hi! Over from Pharyngula. I'm an atheist with a lot of respect for your patience and dedication in teaching science. You also did a great job of explaining the difference between methodological naturalism versus metaphysical naturalism when it comes to the scientific method. Consider, though, that methodoligical naturalism has consistenly been pushing back the need for any supernatural explanation of events (Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, another atheist, beautifully demonstrates this point: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-102519600994873365) . It has made the case for metaphysical naturalism consistently stronger, especially when it comes to disproving the specific god-concepts of the world's religions . The fact, that you as a liberal Christian have had to jettison many of the orthodoxies of your religion shows this. My dad is also a scientist and a Christian, but the kind of watered-down, "never mind the cooky dogmas, Old Testament cruelty, resurrection and other miracles and just concentrate on the ethics without considering the concept of hell" Christianity he believes in would make him an atheist in the eyes of most of his Christian ancestors, including his parents. My brother, my sister and I have jettisoned any and all religious beliefs altogether. We retain what is in essence a humanist ethics. The same kind of ethics you use for discarding certain bible passages which you deem immoral, dare I say unchristian.
Just a (free)thought.
Wim

Shirakawasuna said...

Hi! I think overall you did a good job, although I have to admit I had to stop listening. Partially because I was tired of the old canards and partially because it was time to make a turkey.

A decent amount of the show was spent on the bad things the other people thought would happen if you accepted evolution. The first time, you defended evolution by saying it wasn't founded on Nazism or communism but capitalism, which besides being inaccurate (it was based on numerous biological observations that slowly led to the clearest conclusion) let's that type of fallacious thinking slide. Just because someone thinks something has bad consequences if true doesn't mean they can reasonably say it isn't. Back to the facts, it might be beneficial in the future to point out that every nasty person usually pointed out - Stalin, Hitler, etc - had a poor understanding of evolutionary theory and misused it as yet another justification for their ideologies. So even if we let their bad reasoning go by unattacked, their facts are simply wrong.

There is also the 'is-ought' fallacy in that line of reasoning, which I'm sure you're familiar with. It sometimes helps to point that out, although you'll need to be careful about the analogies used.


You did a pretty good job on the 'just a theory' line being towed, but I thought a couple other things could have been stressed and some ommitted. For example, you *started* by citing science standards and how you must follow them, which obviously leaves the implication that if those standards weren't there, it would be acceptable to teach Intelligent Design in a science class, and that's something Autrey picked up on.

Rather than mentioning that you have your hands tied first, make a simple, straightforward statement: 1) Evolution is a theory and a fact. This sounds funny at first, but that's because a 'theory' in science is a kind of idea and can be supported by a small amount of evidence or huge, heaping mounds as is the case for evolutionary theory. - you did a pretty good job with that part later on.
2) You need to attack Intelligent Design. People continually try to bring it up as if it's only fair to present multiple sides of a story and let the children decide. These people tend not to know how much time can be devoted in class to these things. Bringing up holocaust denial was good, but could be done even better: the reason we don't teach holocaust denial and then let the kids 'decide for themselves' isn't just because standards set by experts tell us to. We don't teach it because there simply isn't even time or the resources available to teach children well enough that they can truly make an informed decision: you'd end up with a bunch of holocaust deniers not because of fairness, but due to confusion.

The same would happen with evolution - children are taught so very little about biology in school already that they can barely get the basics of evolutionary theory. Throwing in ID, which is largely just a fallacious attack on evolutionary theory with a bunch of untestable, vague declaratoins thrown on, would only confuse them. This could all be put in a more straightforward way, of course. The basic point is still that you need to at least say that Intelligent Design, when you really look at it, isn't just nonscientific but is downright stupid. That's the kind of no-nonsense answers science communicators need to be giving, and you don't have to sacrifice any integrity to do it.


Another point: he raised a question about the 'very little material' we have of fossils. To begin with, he's wrong. We have a *ton* of fossils, more than anyone could've hoped for, validating evolutionary theory - you don't need to be versed in the specifics of evolutionary theory to know that the fact that we never find rabbit fossils in the precambrian is a validation of evolutionary theory. But I digress. You did eventually point out that fossils are only a small part of the evidence for evolution, but I would've said that immediately. The reason is that much of the creationist misinformation people learn deals with fossils and can take a significant time to debunk. It can also be helpful to head immediately into the stronger evidence for evolution: molecular evidence, comparative anatomy, and the geographic arrangement of species. You know all of this, of course, but I like to be thorough.

The basic idea I would want someone asking those questions to go away with is: 1) there are plenty of fossils to make the conclusions about them that scientists do and 2) fossils are only a small part of the evidence for evolution.


Now, up to the next point, I thought you were doing very, very well - my recommendations were mosty about how to arrange a response. However, I just can't let this one go :).

When asked about Intelligent Design, you responded that science has an arbitrary rule excluding the supernatural. That is absolutely untrue - it certainly isn't arbitrary and is dependent on more basic reasoning.

The supernatural is excluded from science *only* because it makes untestable claims. The real rule is that a claim must be testable to be scientific those are the types of 'supernatural' claims that are excluded, which happens to be most of them. That's anything but arbitrary, it's the basic, common-sense Enlightenment reasoning that is the foundation of science. Have a claim? Well, it had better be predictive.

I apologize for ending it here, but I became fatigued (and hungry!) after that point. Best of luck on your future broadcasts! I probably sounded very critical, but really, I support you!

Thanks,

Nick

JohnnieCanuck said...

Scott
To my surprise, several people have reacted to my comment and similar ones from others. My apologies if you found it patronising. It wasn't my intention. I've never visited your blog before but have often admired your posts at Pharyngula.

In my defence, I think I was projecting a little. From Anglican altar boy to Atheist has been a slow progression for me.

Although I never reached the exact position on the spectrum that you now occupy (theistic evolutionist, no?), I would not be surprised to hear some day that you too have changed your mind about Our Father's existence.

In any case, keep up the good work for Science.

Shirakawasuna said...

Oh, one last thing. The caller and Autrey both seemed extremely confused about how common descent worked and I don't think either of them were properly corrected. They were under the impression that if you are descended from something, it only makes sense that you remain that thing - this is where the caller was claiming evolutionary theory was dehumanizing and where Autrey brought up, amazingly, the 'if we evolved from apes why are there still apes?' line. To get a bit pedantic, there's lots of things wrong here that need to be pointed out repeatedly and often: 1) common descent indeed shows our interrelation with other creatures, but it also *defines* how we are unique and how all other creatures are unique. It is dehumanizing in no way - no one should require a sense of magical specialness to recognize that everyone is human and worthy of respect. 2) 'Apes' are a generalized group of creatures. We *are* apes, despite our desire to treat ourselves as special and separate. Responding that way may not go down so great, so perhaps you should be very specific about what common descent means: millions of years in the past, a group of creatures split: eventually, the descendents of one side became chimpanzees and bonobos. The other became neanderthals and humans (among others). The lineages split before than and after that of course, creating a tree root-like pattern. This level of specificity is often required, I've found, to explain what common descent really means.

Ed Darrell said...

Congratulations. It doesn't sound like you made any converts, but it also sounds like Autry isn't as stiff-necked as the activist Texas creationists. Can we import him to Texas?

It sounds to me as if Autry is concerned about ensoulment. Somehow, some crazy creationists have the idea that souls are organic creatures, created by sperm and egg, and not connected to God at all.

If they start from such an odd, rather counter-Christian position, it's difficult to know in which direction to nudge them to get them to sanity.

I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't be better off simply to say, "Evolution doesn't have any dog in any fight against God. Cancer cures depend on evolution theory. On those two bases, I figure it can't hurt to study the stuff."

But they always want to talk about Hitler, and they won't believe you when you tell them Hitler burned Darwin's books.

You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't arrive at through reason -- even an Autry.

Heck, he played football, for money, on the Sabbath. How could evolution be any worse than that?

Tim said...

I am inspired by the attempt to edify and enlighten. Having an open door at the local rightwing am radio outlet (50k Watts of nonsense) I could do this type of 'debate' with the Black Christian Dominionist host (Kim Wade WJNT 1180), possibly as early as tomorrow (Friday). I'm considering a 'atheist morality' hour the day after Thanksgiving where I challenge the notion that the Bible is the basis for human morality. I plan on using the strong Baptist support for slavery (based on biblical law) as prima facie evidence that the Bible cannot be considered unerring, and that human morality evolved (double whammy !!!!) BEYOND the Bible in this country post 1865.

I used to do a religious hour on Wednesdays a couple years ago. It was promoted as The Heathen vrs. The Holy Man. Guess which role I played? It turns out that in the pantheon of outspoken media critics of religion, I am the humorous and engaging type. Not knocking hardcore atheists like Dawkins, Meyers, et.al. who prefer a more 'in your face' approach. It takes all kinds.

I ought to buy stock in Rolaids because the heartburn such salient commentary would cause to the pre-defecated remains of listeners in Jackson MISSISSIPPI will surely cause at least a local surge in sales.


Do you guys think it's worth the effort? Do I owe my community my precious time and effort to drive to the station and engage in humorous sophisms with the lunatic in an attempt to enlighten and enrage his lunatic Limbaugh-like base, yet verbally (Faux News School of Debate) crafty? If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Enjoy.

Crossposted to Phary.

Anonymous said...

I may be repeating or reiterating posts of others, but the bottom line really is; do you believe bronze-age myths or study 21st Century science?

Creationism has no place in the classroom - unless of course Evolution gets equal time in church. If they want to "teach the controversy", then I am up to it any Sunday in any church.

Zeno said...

Sorry I missed it, Scott. As it just so happens, I was driving through Fresno at midday yesterday on my way to the family's holiday festivities. I look forward to listening to the mp3.

Teleprompter said...

I support what you're doing.

(BTW, I must be the gazillionth person linked here from Pharyngula.)

I used to be a theistic evolutionist, but I am now an atheist.

However, I think it is best if we approach evolution as neither for or against religion, and just talk about its practical applications, as an earlier commenter suggested.

I know from personal experience that you can be a Christian and believe in evolution at the same time. To me, the battle over science is more important than anything else. If everyone who is now a conservative or a Creationist were a theistic evolutionist, I wouldn't be all that disappointed.

At least we can agree on science, no? Let's focus on what we can prove and disprove.

AIGBusted said...

Wait to go on being a good science advocate!!

I came from Pharyngula.

BTW, you should check out my blog, "Answers in Genesis BUSTED". It is here:

http://aigbusted.blogspot.com

Sincerely,
Ryan

Anonymous said...

I came from Pharyngula too (listening from UK). Nice to hear some moderate Christians for a change rather than your more fundamentalist and much louder colleagues.

djarm67 said...

Great stuff. I am also a christian and do what I can to dispel the misinformation regarding science from creationists and their organisations. Currently my youtube channel "djarm67" has been taken down the misuse of DMCA claims by one creationist organisation. I have had to file counter claims. It should be back in around a week. Why do they feel the need to use dishonest tactics in an attempt to silence critics?

Thomas Theobald said...

As an atheist and a scientist, I appreciate your efforts and applaud your work towards moderation. There are far too few of you standing up for sanity.

That said, the assumption of equivalence between ID and evolution is something that needs to be hammered away. Evolution has withstood the attacks of far smarter people than the current cadre who propose ID, and for over a century and a half now. All of modern biology - and all of modern medicine - owe their existence to it.

ID has no foundation as a scientific theory - it simply isn't science, it's theology. The proponents of ID ignore the grey answer zone their 'theory' introduces and default straight to a divine being as a 'designer.' Yet still, a design implies a blueprint, and a designer. No blueprint of the tree of life exists or is offered by ID - and the designer could very well be little green men, not some deific personage. Yet ID offers no direction towards an answer there.

Additionally, ID isn't just theology, it's bad theology. A simplistic, thoughtless idea of god - because if god did design things, it did an absolutely horrendous job of it. Often, the eye or some other organ is trotted out as an example of perfect design and 'irreducible complexity,' but it is anything but. As developed in humans (and it has evolved in no less than four separate lines), the eye is inside out - have a look at its structure sometime. No competent designer would build an eye this way.

I guess the short version of what I'm saying is that ID is their weakness - you can further hammer fundamentalists with the internal contradictory passages in the bible, but ID by itself is a terrible excuse for either theology or science. It simple acts as a window into the intellectually corrupt nature of the movement.

T

djarm67 said...

Well said TT. ID it not only bad science. It's actually bad theology as well.

The foundation of ID (depending on who you are talking to) is either Dembski's "ignorance" filter or Behe's "Irreducible Complexity".

In order to categorically declare that a biological system or process cannot have developed via a step by step evolutionary process, you would need to have complete knowledge. Omniscience, if you will. If there is any gap in knowledge, you could only declare that we do not yet have a viable hypothesis to explain how this system or process could have developed via a step by step evolutionary process. A false positive for irreducible complexity occurs whenever a gap in knowledge is filled which provides a viable hypothesis for a previously unknown process of development. e.g. If you were to utilize our scientific understanding from the 1600's to evaluate a wide range of systems or processes, you would have received a positive for irreducible complexity whenever an unknown is encountered. As we now have viable explanations for a multitude of these, it indicates that the original declarations of irreducible complexity were wrong. The extension of this which indicates that this IC system or process is evidence for a designer was also in error. In effect, irreducible complexity is a "Designer of the gaps" argument with the gaps continually being filled with the advancement of knowledge.

. said...

First time I've seen your site, but it's reassuring as always to find that there reasonable people of all stripes. =]

hakl said...

Good job. The stupidity of the first caller actually caused me physical discomfort.

lynnvinc said...

I'm a Catholic who strongly believes in evolution, and has since early childhood. As a teen I read much more about it and it gave me a great awe of and insight into God. It thrilled me to know/feel the connection to all creatures great and small, that stardust cruises my veins (as the elements are created in the hot furnaces of the stars); it is wonderful, from very small creatures to complex organisms. All is wonderful, all is miracle; some miracles have scientific explanations & some don't...yet.

As an anthropologist I used to tell my students, "I know some of you may have religions which forbid belief in evolution. You don't have to believe in it, you only have to learn it for the test."

Now I tell them that believing in creationism or intelligent design might even be an insult to God, and that my God is an awesome God perfectly capable of creating through evolution, and not some David Copperfield in the sky with a magic wand. God's ways are far above anything we could imagine or think up; we could only discover evolution and the big bang. Early peoples who wrote the various creation myths used the best science (observations and theorizing) of their times; they stood outside and saw the sun come up in the east and travel westward. The Bible is full of these geocentric images, but that doesn't mean we should throw out the science that tells us the earth goes around the sun.

Genesis is a wonderful book, much more wonderful if people don't miss out on the symbolic layers of meaning, bec they are so focused on the literal levels. However, to disrespect current scientific truths (provisional and limited to the material realm, as they are) is surely to disrespect God. It could very well be a sin to disbelieve in evolution, and I’m very sure it is a terribly egregious sin to disbelieve in global warming and refuse to mitigate it.

Amenhotep said...

I'm a former Christian, now an atheist, linked from Pharyngula too. Scott - you did a great job in that interview. Well done. When I was a Christian, I had no problem reconciling Genesis as part of the *context* of the development of Christianity with the findings of science (i.e. no need to call Genesis *either* "history" or "allegory" - it was simply part of the cultural baggage from which Christianity emerged, and no less valuable for that).

My problems were with the historicity of the resurrection, and since "Saint" Paul in Corinthians tells us that once we stop believing in that, we may as well ditch the lot, that is what I did. Happily, the *ethical* side of Christianity is not specifically "Christian" at all - it is common to people of all persuasions. It's humanistic.

But that's just a little digression. Keep up the good work, and I hope your readers realise that atheists are not at all "shrill" or "angry", and that where credit is due, we are very prepared to give it. Honesty is a much undervalued thing - thanks for valuing it.

Anonymous said...

I was all ready to listen but then you mentioned you were a Xtian. What is wrong with you?

Laurie said...

Why am I suddenly reminded of that great Bruce Campbell movie, Bubba Ho-tep? :-)

386sx said...

It could very well be a sin to disbelieve in evolution, and I’m very sure it is a terribly egregious sin to disbelieve in global warming and refuse to mitigate it.

You forgot gravity too. Disbelieving in gravity is probably a sin. I'm really really pretty sure about that. I'm nearly 100% certain, almost.

Jonas said...

The host was extremely snide and insulting. You, however, did a great job. Thank you.

DingoDave said...

Hi, I also came here from Pharyngula.

Throughout the entire interview, Autrey demonstrated a woeful lack of knowlege about science in general, and biological evolution in particular.

He even went so far as to ask the ridiculous question "If we are descended from apes, then why are there still apes?"
You could have responded with a question of your own;
"If we are descended from Englishmen, then why are there still Englishmen?"

Does Autrey really believe in a literal Adam and Eve? Does he believe the talking snake story as well?

Ye gods! What a smug, condescending, self-certain ignoramus.
You displayed more patience in the face of overwhelming ignorance than I possibly could have. I tip my hat to you sir.

If you are thinking about giving Autrey a Christmas gift this year, might I suggest 'Evolution For Dummies'.
It's available on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.ca/Evolution-Dummies-Greg-PhD-Krukonis/dp/0470117737

llewelly said...


I do not deny that it is dangerous to misinterpret the natural world. Did you miss the part where I said that Margaret Sanger was a poor biologist?

This was in response to the caller claimed that planned parenthood was started to commit genocide.
That is a lie. It was started by Sanger's political enemies, and it has fooled a lot of people - many of whom who do not know that they have been manipulated into propagating a lie.

Additionally, the caller in the show claimed that Hitler was inspired by the theory of evolution. As Hitler explained in Mien Kampf - Hitler's ideas of racial superiority are based on animal breeding techniques and on the writings of Martin Luther. Hitler refers to Darwin's theory only once, and quite negatively (and probably he did not understand it.)

It's unfortunate that you didn't know these two things, and failed to answer the caller's false claims about evolution.

DingoDave said...

I just noticed that I accidentally misspelled Autry's name.
Sorry Mr. Autry. My bad.

Ed Darrell said...

llewelly, got the goods on what Sanger really intended? Maybe, even, an internet link?

Kristine said...

Ewwwwww, Scott! Thanks for talking to the "igneous" callers so that I don't have to!

"First apes, then fishies, then rocks." Dear me. I don't know what to say.

How everlastingly exhausting it is to try to go to the conceptual grocery store with creationists who keep losing their keys between the front door and the car door. Now that I'm in school and inundated with work I have less patience for that.

Since I'm the "wicked witch of the north," I'm going to be uncharitable here and coin a new phrase, shamelessly stolen from "Problem Exists between Keyboard and Chair": Gap Exists Between Rocks* in Head.

*Or stromatolites.

Jay said...

I'm here from Pharyngula as well.

I think your attacks on the Discovery channel were particularly ridiculous and misplaced. The job that they are attempting to do, produce scientific material for a consumerist mindset, is incredibly difficult. Whether their source materials originate from France, Canada or America, they have to keep it new, edgy and interesting.

Your defense of common ancestry would have been laughable if you weren't so busy agreeing with Autrey about it.

I'd give you about a 4 out of 10.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Jay, thanks for the biting comments. I'm a bit unclear as to whether you agreed with my (admittedly flawed) attempts to defend common descent, or if you just disappointed I didn't break out a can of 'Whipped Ass' for Hizzonah...

As for your defense of the Discovery Channel, you seem to have bought into the idea that if we don't design the programming for short attention spans, then it fails. I think that is simply wrong, for a number of reasons, but most importantly because we are not going to get people to appreciate what makes science special by packaging it the same way everything else is packaged. I'm a science teacher, and I can't use 99 per cent of their programming, because the ratio of science content to nifty visuals is so low.

I agree that trying to do original compelling science program with an edge is difficult. But that, by and large, is not what is happening on these cable networks. They aren't making much new content, and when it comes to evolution, the History Channel's 'Evolve' series is light-years better than anything I've seen on DC in the last ten years.

Jay said...

Scott,
I agree that the Discovery Channel hasn't covered evolution well, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't do some good by targeting a certain audience. You aren't that target.

What I disagreed with is that you backed down about origins, you rapidly crumbled during the discussion of humans evolving from apes and the evidence of the fossil records. You weren't just nice, you were edging towards capitulating to his point.

I'm a militant atheist, and as such I also recognize that I would be useless in that kind of an interview. I would rather humiliate him than discuss anything with him. For that I give you a big hand, but I stand by my opinion that your communication technique about the common descent was lacking and almost apologetic.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

You make interesting points, that I find difficult to reject entirely. I did assert that humans and apes share a common ancestor, so anyone reading between the lines can tell that I don't believe in the special creation of mankind, or a separate creation for Eve. But it may be that I was so genial in my jousting with the mayor that others would get the impression I was conceding talking points, and I do hope to learn from my mistakes, so again I appreciate your strongly-worded criticism.

I have no problem with anyone militantly asserting their atheism, but I do think that we make a mistake if we assert anything that necessarily links science to a strong version of atheism. Have you seen the email that I received subsequently, on a later post? As you can see, some other partisans were if anything more militant in their appraisal of my performance. To hear them say it, I was uber-slick and devious as opposed to apologetic and incompetent. I suspect that the truth is somewhere in-between. While I'm not trying to deceive anyone, I do want to be suave and finesse points that I didn't have time to dissect, and while I don't want to be a suck-up or mishandles some responses, I wasn't as anywhere as slick or as assertive as I would've liked.

Anonymous said...

once again the unstoppable power and awesomeness which is pharyngula has been unleashed on the interwebs!

Seriously, why does common descent bother people? It's cool, not scary! any animal/bug/plant/algae you lay eyes on shares some common ancestory with you...f**king cool!

Seriously, people who look at a chimp, or a distant galaxy, or a computer rendering of the expansion of the universe and think "this demeans and lessens my existence and reduces me to a cosmic speck instead of the centre of creation" need medication. That stick up your ass? Modern medicine can remove it effectively and in a relatively comfortable procedure.