A video of most of the first part of Don Patton's first lecture at Bullard High School can be found here. Don spends the bulk of the video cherry-picking divergent predictions from radiometric dating, most of them unsourced in the presentation. Some of the observations are not even pertinent to the reliability of the method, or even misrepresentative. At one point he complains that potassium-argon dating of Mt. St. Helens ash eleven years after the 1980 eruption yielded a range of values from about 0.5 to 3 million years, ignoring the fact that potassium-40's half-life is 1.3 billion years, which is to say about eight orders of magnitude greater than the time scale he wishes to measure. This is like taking the blunt end of a meter stick and using it to estimate the diameter of an atom.
This doesn't surprise me in the least. These are my colleagues, and I work with them every day, after all. Today, I asked another colleague to circulate a position statement for my fellow science teachers this morning during state testing (my colleague is a 'rover' who doesn't have a class of his own to cover).
Here is the statement:
FROM: Bullard Science Teachers
TO: The Community
On three successive evenings, beginning at 7:00 PM, (Wednesday through Friday), the Bullard Cafeteria will host a series of presentations by Don Patton, a Young Earth Creationist who will attempt to present ‘evidence’ for a young* Earth, and against the fossil record, the geological time scale, radioactive dating and other items which are an accepted part of the California State Science Standards.
We want to make sure that members of the Bullard community know the following:
- The Science Department was not consulted, nor do the undersigned approve of this event, which runs contrary to what we are supposed to teach and which could lead to the false impression that science teachers who teach the state standards are engaged in deception.
- The content of Patton’s presentation would violate the Establishment Clause if it was presented in a classroom to students during normal school hours, or if it was advertised to students on campus. For this reason alone, no faculty member within a classroom setting can endorse the presentation, or recommend that students attend.
- Without regard for that, however, the group in question has followed district policy in arranging to use our facilities, and they have every right under the law to do so. We encourage those who attend to exercise their right to free speech, and to respect the rights of others. Civility in public debate is a core value that complements the critical thinking skills needed to evaluate claims.
* = typically, 10,000 years or less
Every member of the science faculty signed. A copy of this signed statement will be made available to those who attend Don Patton's talks at Bullard. This says nothing one way or another about the merit of his claims, but it says volumes about the circumstances under which these presentations take place. Our department is united. I am grateful to have such colleagues.
I read a paraphrase of the above statement during the first Q and A of Don Patton's first talk at Bullard. To my astonishment, an obviously-aroused Patton vigorously objected to the idea that his presentations violated the Establishment Clause. I'm afraid I was so startled by this turn that I even raised my voice to object. I was concerned that Patton might even attempt to argue that I or my other colleagues at Bullard could do the same thing and what litigation-inviting impression that might leave in the minds of the local civil libertarian.Anyway, Patton launched into a Power Point-aided defense of his interpretation of the law, which hung its hat heavily on minority opinions by Justices Scalia and Renquist in the 1987 Louisiana case (Edwards vs. Aguilard) that ruled that a state law proscribing 'equal time' for evolution and 'creation science' was a violation of the Establishment Clause. Apparently, in addition to being an alternative geologist, Patton is also an alternative legal theorist. I would describe Patton's take on the law to be earnest, but not particularly sound. In conversations after the talk, he averred he had given similar talks in public school classrooms without complaint and I responded ironically that he was braver man than I was.
Why? Because he advertised his lecture series as providing evidence for a Creator, and describes what he is presenting as 'creation science', but then (so far) plays coy about the Creator's identity within the actual presentation. He may think he's on the right side of the law, but the fact is, he's not. Playing 'bait-and-switch' at the school site doesn't eliminate the religious nature of his speech, as the discovery phase of the recent Kitzmiller vs. Dover decision shows. I wouldn't touch his arguments in an actual public school classroom with a fishing pole, even if I was a young-earther, because I'm pretty sure some savvy Bullard kid would tell their parents that teacher ain't teachin'....he's preachin' !
Since it seems likely that I will post frequently on my interactions with young earth creationist Don Patton, I have decided to create a category 'Patton Pending' so that anyone who wants to can just quickly find all the posts related to Patton's visit, Patton's claims, Patton's choice of venue, etc.
And why 'pending', other than to be cutesy and halfway-memorable? Well, just that it often happens that when questions are asked, we are told that the answer is coming. And then we wait...and wait....and....
You get the idea.
Or so my bathroom scale said this fine morning!
I haven't been that 'light' since before my marriage. I think all of us have heard people on diets start droning endlessly about their new routine, and this just shows you how much it affects the mindset of those who are on them, and how much under that circumstance ingestion comes to dominate our consciousness.
It is a sobering reminder in the midst of Western plenty (and, in fact, excess) that we are animals, and animals in a struggle for existence.
Having said that, I do want to talk about my program. Basically, in the past, when I dieted, the objective was an improvement in appearance. And this is very difficult to maintain, because, as soon as you experience a modest improvement in that department, ego kicks in and the incentive to maintain or refine the program may not be there. This time, it's different. Being in the pre-hypertensive stage, at my age, my main motivation was health. I became convinced that, if I didn't lose weight and modify my nutrition and exercise, that I was placing myself at risk. And so, another imperative other than hunger or maintaining a public display of fitness for the opposite sex comes into play: survival, plain and simple.
With that in mind, about eight weeks ago I spent a Saturday afternoon critically assessing my habits where diet and exercise was concerned. I was stunned to realize that there were twelve, count 'em, twelve specific areas of concern. The situation wasn't that I had to make a little tweak here and there, or simply practice a little more restraint overall. I had twelve things that were likely to limit my span of days. The word 'epiphany' is overused, but this certainly qualifies. My approach has been to first address the poor dietary habits while gradually adding low-impact aerobic exercise, and to set modest (and thus reachable goals). My first goal was to be below 230 pounds by the end of February. That was easily met. My next goal was to be below 220 by the end of March. That was harder, and I didn't make my goal. I was hovering around 221-2 at month's end, and I even saw a modest increase in April, hitting as high as 224. When I finally hit 219, though, it was a terrific feeling.
So, what's my goal now? Well, when I set up my program I realized that the second 10 pounds would be harder than the first 10. And the third harder still. So I really only gave myself two weeks to get to 230, a month to get to 220, and two months to get to 210. And that's my goal: that by May 31st, I'll be 210 or less.
This morning, I was halfway there, and April isn't over yet. Hallelujah!
As mentioned, I didn't get to hear the first half of Don Patton's first presentation. The second half had some familiar arguments, which I summarize. My comments are in italics.
Darwin was a plagiarist, including stealing from his grandfather Erasmus.
Even if true (what's the evidence?), hardly relevant to the question of whether Darwin's theory is widely-accepted, and why.
No speciation has ever been observed.
Simply false. Speciation events have been seen in the lab and in nature. Google 'Evolution Canyon' for a zillion PNAS articles on recent work.
Species can't even be defined. Don prefers the Biblical 'baramin', or kinds.
When asked, Don couldn't define 'kind' either. The observation that species can't be tied up neatly with a single 'one-size-fits-all' definition is actually evidence for not only evolution, but processes other than natural selection.
Evolutionists are stumped and have admitted that microevolution ('variation within a kind' or 'horizontal variation') can't, on its own, produce macroevolution.
As a student said in the Q-and-A time, Patton is apparently ignoring lines of evidence for processes that either supplement or compete with standard microevolution, processes which also lead to evolution. One of those lines of evidence (Hox genes) is even in the high school texts. Also, left unchallenged was the assumption that if one naturalistic account (microevolution alone) is unsatisfactory, then the only other explanation left standing would be an account of supernatural creation. This assumption is false.
Neither Darwin's finches or the peppered moth prove anything. The finches are still finches and the moths were glued to the trees for photographs.
There was a curious failure on Patton's part to note that, in fact, both the finch and moth populations in question changed genetically, and that the shift in frequency of versions of genes (alleles) is the very definition of evolution. There is a sad history here, in that both sides are often guilty of conflating different meanings of the word 'evolution', sometimes intentionally, some times not....which leads to the charge, from each side, that the other is practicing 'bait-and-switch', and some times that is true, and some times, not.
Anyway, there was more, but I feel exhausted. Here's the most amusing bit from the first night.
As with many creationists, there was 'quote mining', in which various quotes 20-30 years ago to that effect are adduced from famous evolutionary biologists, all with the idea of showing that evolution is supposedly a 'theory in crisis.' The quoted included Jerry Coyne, Stephen Jay Gould, Theodosius Dobzhansky. . . and . . . Francisco Ayala.
When Ayala's name came up, Patton used an image, of this particular gentleman:
When this happened, I did a double-take. I'm thinking, "Whaaaaat? Who is this guy? Wow, he's really, really old, etc." After a few moments of blinking, I realized that this image couldn't possibly be that of the Ayala I knew, based on my recollection of what Ayala looks like, and the fact that Ayala is still teaching. I apprised Patton of that fact during the Q and A, and he allowed as he always appreciated correction of mistakes. (I mentally noted that if Jerry Coyne had been present to hear himself quote-mined, he would've done a lot more than 'correct' him)
Anyway, this is probably just an amusing mistake that reveals a lack of familiarity with the actual community of evolutionary biologists. For the record, this venerable specimen is not the Francisco Ayala, the well-known evolutionary biologist (and former Catholic priest) who studied under Dobzhansky and now teaches at UC Irvine. Instead, it's a well-known Granadan novelist of the same name, who just last year turned 101. An accomplished fellow, and a survivor, but no biologist. No, the guy Patton meant to feature in his Power Point is this fella:
See the resemblance? I guess I have to be grateful. At least Patton didn't take a page from Ben Stein's playbook, and illustrate a slide labeled 'Darwin' with Uncle Adolf, or Papa Joe.
Wilkins, as per usual, has a wonderfully attenuated parable that is apropos to the current kerfuffle between those who would see the YEC tarred-and-feathered and those whom (like me) think his speech is risible, but protected.
That's my oblique way of saying he says something profound. I will now mangle a metaphor: let those who have ears to hear see his words. Why a guy of his scholarship and temperament hasn't found a wider (and more settled) audience in the academic world completely eludes me.
I attended the first night of Don Patton's lecture series---eventually. More on that later.
Before I could catch the first part, however, I found myself on the receiving end of a determined remote tongue thrashing on the part of KMJ 580 talk radio host Inga Barks.
Like many of KMJ's regular hosts, and in fact like much of Fresno County, Inga leans to the right. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: you can't trust the other side of the aisle, and such, but really, does this platinum mother of three look completely unreasonable? I think not, but you could've been excused for thinking otherwise listening to her stump speech against a nameless 'Bullard science teacher'. She had apparently had Patton on her show and talked up the notion that folk at the university or at my high school were attempting to torpedo his appearance. And she began reading right from my blog, quoting part of the post entitled 'Mayday!', and she wasn't happy.
Inga was under the impression that people like me are trying to undermine what students have been taught by their parents. Well, it's understandable why people get this impression. The actual science does appear to contract literal interpretations of some parts of the Bible, as we all know, and some of these claims are near and dear to some folk's hearts. And, in practice, many students (and teachers) fail to think about what constitutes the proper domain of scientific claims. It is bad science to declare, for example, that science can definitively rule out the existence of the supernatural. And, perhaps most importantly, it's immoral to use the bully pulpit of the classroom to push your own metaphysical views on impressionable young people, and quite possibly illegal.
So, anyway, I got on Inga's show, and to her credit, she let me on the air even though I had identified myself as the mystery blogger who drew her ire. I thanked her for allowing me to appear on the program. I gave my name. I asked if I could give the name of my blog on the air. She OK'ed it, so I did. I pointed out that I never advocated denying Patton or Sun Garden Church of Christ use of the facilities, and in fact in my post 'What Should Be Done?' advocated otherwise. I disassociated myself from the tone of some of the comments on my site and made it clear that I myself am a Christian. When I mentioned that I was a Methodist, Bark's quick (joking!) rejoinder was "That's your problem right there!', alluding to the fact that both Bush and Clinton are Methodists. Hey, they are conservative talk radio, after all.
But, you know, when you can take a josh, the frost factor tends to go out the window, and with toned-down rhetoric the two of us had a reasonable exchange. I made the point that what teachers should teach is the state standards, repeated the (factual) claim that Patton's presentations are at odd with the standards, and I challenged her and her audience to check the standards out for themselves.
And, as I put it, if you find any religion in the state standards, you should make it your business to get on a committee and work toward reforming them, because religion shouldn't be in the science standards. But I added: if you don't find anything in there but good science that is the best fit to the available data, then perhaps you should recognize then the idea that 'evolution is a religion' isn't supportable. I was assertive, but pleasant, and I felt it was a productive conversation if for no other reason people know what the truth of the matter is. We science teachers may not think that Patton's appearance on a high school campus is appropriate, but it is lawful and some of us will be there to (lawfully) document the proceedings.
And speaking of documentation and what-not, this song just seems appropriate. "I want to bite the hand that feeds me!"
An anonymous commenter has left a detailed justification for the curiosities in Patton's 'CV' on an earlier post. All of the justification apparently proceeds from the source, which is to say Mr. Patton himself.
This is circular reasoning. You can't prove the legitimacy of Mr. Patton's credentials by asking him. You have to provide independent corroboration. Presuming that you are a member of Sun Garden Church of Christ, consider: if you are bringing in a speaker with a controversial message and tying the credibility of your church or school to that speaker's credibility, you should make every effort to confirm their claims in an independently verifiable manner. You guys aren't doing that. You're relying on the guy selling the horse without looking in the horse's mouth.
Notice that Patton's 'explanation' is appealing prejudicially to the idea that there is a conspiracy to keep Christians out of the conversation, particularly YEC. With all due respect, I think this is a terrible argument. I know of no instance in which a graduate student in any science has been denied a Ph.D because of their YEC views, and I know of at least two Ph.D's in paleontontology who earned the same while openly identifying themselves as YEC's.
As an example, consier Dr. Kurt Wise, of whom even the assertive partisan Richard Dawkins has admitted to be 'an honest creationist.' Wise's advisor was Stephen Jay Gould, and Wise's professional credentials are impeccable. Answers in Genesis, the largest YEC group in the United States, has an entire page listing dozens of such scientists and they have a link to a biography of Dr. Wise. All told, that page lists at least twelve Ph.D's in geology, geoscience or paleontology. To the best of my knowledge, these were all legitimately-earned. Further, the original YEC group, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is headed by Dr. John Morris, who earned his Ph.D from Oklahoma State even though his father was Dr. Henry Morris, the founder of ICR and (as the author of The Genesis Flood) for many years the best-known YEC in the United States.
Surely, if there is some conspiracy preventing YEC from getting legitimate scientific credentials it is a highly-ineffective one! It is true that YEC's have problems getting ideas from the Bible into the geological literature, for the same reason that Hindus have problems getting Hindu cosmology into the astronomy literature. But this is due to how science is defined, not about who gets to practice science. The evidence doesn't support a claim that YEC's can't earn Ph.D's, and in fact they do.
Thus, I have no problem admitting that there are, in fact, legitimate, intelligent, highly-educated YEC scientists who hold legitimate degrees and who do legitimate science. So far I have seen no independent evidence that would corroborate the claim that Mr. Patton fits in that category, and you should be aware the well-established YEC organizations like AIG and ICR have examined some of the claims made by Patton and Baugh and found them wanting. AIG describes them as one of many bad arguments that creationists should not use , while ICR founder John Morris concludes that in "it would now be improper for creationists to continue to use the Paluxy data as evidence against evolution. "
Now, I didn't come to those conclusions, nor are these the conclusions of any other scientist who accept an ancient Earth, common descent and evolution. These are the considered opinions of the leadership of the leading young-earth creationist groups in North America. About this fact, there can be doubt, and you can't dismiss this evidence as the product of a worldwide conspiracy of evolutionists. Mr. Patton owes you an explanation of why he and Baugh continue to promote these claims.
Now, you appear predisposed by your worldview to give Mr. Patton the benefit of the doubt and accept what amounts to special pleading on a number of particulars. That's all well and good, but ask yourself this: which is the more extraordinary claim, that one individual might not have legitimate credentials or that there is a worldwide conspiracy of sorts to deny this individual a legitimately-earned credential? The fact is, the latter claim is the more extraordinary claim, and much harder to demonstrate than the former claim is to test. It's much easier to attempt to verify one man's claims about his education. Don't you think you should independently verify that claim first, rather than accept the more extraordinary counter-claim upfront?
So, since you appear to have direct access to Mr. Patton, perhaps you might consider asking him for some independent verification. Sooner or later, someone outside your church is going to ask, and if his answers don't jive with reality, your church is going to look foolish. Instead of winning souls to Christ, you will have brought shame on His church on Earth. Jesus said the truth will make you free, and I urge you to test the spirits, to see whether they are of God, or not. Good luck.
I was peripherally involved in an event that took place in Fresno on Friday and Saturday sponsored by New Covenant Community Church, and a little history seems in order so that folk can know the context of my involvement.
I visited 'New Cov' about two years ago when I got wind of the fact that they were having a Discovery Institute-affiliated satellite program in which Lee Strobel presented the claims of ID (intelligent design) advocates and fenced with Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine. After the presentation, I made it my business to wander over to the table where the pastor (Jan Van Oosten) was seated and I engaged his group.
My point? That there are Christians who accept and enthusiastically teach the theory of evolution (like me), and who understand why ID isn't science (at least, not yet) and why it doesn't belong in the public schools. There was some heat from some ID supporters at the table, but others there appeared genuinely interested in my point of view, even conciliatory, and this included Pastor Jan. After this encounter, we had a private chat and Pastor Jan indicated that 'New Cov' was considering sponsoring symposiums or such and bring in some intellectual heavyweights to stimulate higher-level discussion between believers and non-believers.
You never know when you hear a message in that setting whether the person you've just met is sincere, or whether they are just telling you something you'd like to hear in order to attract you to their church. So I didn't think too much of it. But, lo and behold, about three months ago it became clear that such an event would take place, as I posted about earlier.
I won't go into all the details, but essentially I came away very impressed. Pastor Jan and the rest of the 'New Cov' leadership deserve credit for following through, making the main event free to the community, and being scrupulous to involve folk outside of their church 'on the other side'. So it was that CVASS and its membership had an informational table at the event, and the co-founders of CVASS participated in a panel discussion the next day which I moderated. The dialogue was authentic, the discussion occurred at a high level and was intellectually and spiritually challenging, I think, for all involved. Here's a shot of the Fantastic Four of whom I was lucky enough to share this encounter:
Well done, gentlemen. Well done.