Creationist at a community college

| 184 Comments

This is a report by Gaythia Weis, a member of the board of Colorado Citizens for Science, about the enlightened position taken by Aims Community College, Greeley, Colorado, when confronted with a talk by a creationist and, more specifically, concern about the publicity for that talk. The talk, which was sponsored by a recognized student organization, was originally and incorrectly advertised as if it were a college-sponsored event. Briefly, Aims (and Ms. Weis) recognized that the speaker had a legal right to speak, but the college wisely dissociated itself from the speech. In short, according to Ms. Weis, the college administration “got it.” Herewith, Ms. Weis’s essay:

I’d like to encourage other Panda’s Thumb readers to tune up their eyes and ears and be watchful for the following sort of situation, in which creationists are apparently trying to insert their views into our public community college education system. Besides protecting the teaching of science, we need to be mindful of our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion. Still, a firm line can be drawn between the rights of a student group to meet on campus, and the presentation of that group’s views as if the viewpoint is supported by the public institution itself. The following example shows how a small bit of constructive intervention can have positive effects.

This strategy takes a certain stomach for having one’s breakfast occasionally ruined by in-depth reading of the local newspaper, in my case the beyond-conservative Loveland (Colorado) Reporter Herald. Wherein I recently read the following announcement:

Greeley

Zoologist will present alternative viewpoint on origin of life

Aims Community College is offering a free presentation about the origin of life from noon to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 14 in Ed Beaty Hall’s theater.

Zoologist Frank Sherwin from the Institute of Creation Research will present an alternative viewpoint to the theory of evolution. The nature of science, genetics, and the fossil record will be addressed.

Online, on the college website, the public information announcement originally was:

Aims Community College invites the public to a free program on the origin of life

After I alerted the Aims Community College administration of the problem and engaged the help of local forces, such as the Colorado Citizens for Science (CCFS) and the Colorado Evolutionary Response Team (CERT), as well as the National Center for Science Education, Aims wisely modified their announcement header and added a disclaimer:

ASSAC and the Aims Cru Club invites [sic] the public to a free program on the origin of life

The views presented during this presentation are those of the speaker and not those of Aims Community College.

CRU is the organization formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. See here for details of their name change. ASSAC is the student body organization.

I attended the talk, as did a number of people apparently encouraged by an announcement from Mile High Skeptics. It was clear that in the day or two before the talk, the Aims Community College administration had put considerable thought into how this meeting was now going to be handled. They presented an excellent introduction and apparently made the speaker aware that discussion of religion would not be tolerated. The talk itself consisted of a series of slides, many containing one-sentence quotes from mainstream scientists, intended to make it appear as if these scientists thought that the underpinnings of cosmology and evolutionary biology were seriously in doubt.

The questions asked in the question-and-answer period that followed the talk added considerable enlightenment to any audience members who may have not been diehard supporters of the speaker. My own question had to do with getting the speaker to acknowledge the fact that, despite the quotes used, the scientists quoted were all still firm supporters of evolution. I further pointed out that there was no such thing as a Darwinist, since Darwin had died in 1882 and considerable progress in biology, such as the discovery of DNA, had taken place since then. Other questioners zeroed in on identifications that the speaker apparently had wanted to keep under wraps, such as the fact that he and the Institute of Creation Research, with which he is connected, are young-earth creationists and believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. As pointed out by other members of the audience, the speaker never even attempted to explain how that position could be supported by science. None of us had to be an expert in every field used in the slides, nor argue each position point by point.

There are a lot of community colleges in this country, probably one near most people reading this report. Is evolutionary biology taught to health science students as crucial to our understanding of medicine? Are standards in place to ensure appropriate limitations on the presentation of creationist views? These are important questions for all institutions of higher education, not just community colleges.

184 Comments

I’m sure “Casey at the bar” was ready with law suit in hand had this been cancelled. But it appears to have been handeled well.

Somebody should have asked why the Campus Crusade for Christ has disguised their name and goals, and why Sherwin’s talk was originally advertised as if it was legitimate science.

It is also interesting that Sherwin gave a talk later the same day that had a slightly different introduction - see http://www.youngearth.org/

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

I’ll give a talk to any public school that invites me to condemn Darwinism. Anytime, anywhere. I will also debate the goons at the NCSE, but they are way too scared of me.

Atheistoclast said:

I’ll give a talk to any public school that invites me to condemn Darwinism. Anytime, anywhere. I will also debate the goons at the NCSE, but they are way too scared of me.

Clearly Joe didn’t get enough attention when he was young.

Idiots lacking any kind of intellectual integrity can be scary, indeed.

Glen Davidson

Atheistoclast said:

I will also debate the goons at the NCSE, but they are way too scared of me.

Uh huh. I’ll bet they’re afraid of all the evidence you’ll use to destroy their atheism. I know I am.

Huff and puff, big bad wolf, blow that house down!

I have removed the comment by the IBIG troll to the bathroom wall. I will allow 1 comment from the Atheistoclast troll, and 1 response each to the AC troll from other commenters. Further comments by the AC troll will be sent to the bathroom wall, as will multiple responses to that troll. If anyone wants to have an intelligent discussion, please do not let me stop you, but feeding trolls is not intelligent.

Our creationist trolls (e.g., IBIG and Bozo Joe) need to understand that the science community has figured out the taunting shtick of the ID/creationists a long time ago.

ID/creationists desperately want a free ride on the backs of legitimate scientists and legitimate educational institutions. Scientists will no longer allow themselves to be used by ID/creationists for political publicity leverage.

It has nothing to do with fear; it’s about inflicting on ID/creationists the pain of facing up to reality. You don’t get free rides in science; you do the science or get out. It’s not a sissy child’s game that you win by taunting.

Thanks for keeping an eye out, Ms (Mrs.? Dr.?) Weis! I’m glad to see this came to a responsible resolution from Aims, with all the stealth Creationism coverage that’s been going on hear at the Thumb I was starting to lower my expectations.

I don’t see why creationists have such a tough time, since everyone in the universe is a closet creationist. They quote every single person in the universe, and the quotes are always proving creationism beyond the shadow of a doubt. They actually literally quote every single freaking person in the entire universe. I don’t think I’m exaggerating on that.

Atheistoclast is welcome to come to my department to give a talk. No problem, if he can get himself here (budgets are tight). Here’s the catch, though. Casey Luskin came two years ago. He completely controlled the microphone. Questions were strictly limited to one per person with no follow up, and Casey went on for 15 minutes each, “answering” the questions. None of that BS here. You get to give your talk, then you get grilled. No limitations, no restrictions. You have to answer questions from the audience, and the questioner can ask away to their heart’s delight. Just think of it. So if you feel like you know more than a bunch of anatomists, functional anatomists, behavioral ecologists, genetists, systematists, etc etc etc, then do come by. And we can record the whole thing and post it on the web. Oh, and by the way.…no one tried to censor Casey Luskin or stop him from speaking. In fact, we regularly have creationists speaking in various venues on campus. I’ll bet you anything that Creationist organizations and colleges cannot say the same about evolutionary biologists.

mplavcan -

In fact, we regularly have creationists speaking in various venues on campus. I’ll bet you anything that Creationist organizations and colleges cannot say the same about evolutionary biologists.

I have an ongoing concern about not only the quantity, but the sheer brazen quality of reality denial in contemporary US society.

What you say is simple fact. Creationists frequently speak at mainstream institutions, but critics of creationism are censored from Liberty Universtiy, BIOLA, and so on.

It’s mirrored on the internet. The reason the odious IBIG is even assigned to the Bathroom Wall here (but not censored; he or she gets plenty of attention there) is for excessive repetition and lack of civility, not for being a creationist. Creationists are free to comment here any time they want. There aren’t as many creationist comments as there used to be back in the old pre-Dover days, partly because Dover took a lot of wind out of creationist sails, and partly because this venue has gotten a reputation as a place where creationist arguments are trounced. In general, creationists strongly prefer censorship.

Yet here’s IBIG creep, uncensored, commenting on a story about a speaker who wasn’t censored, commenting on a story about a speaker who self-censored to hide his true agenda but had it revealed in an uncensored venue via audience questions, IBIG himself representing the viewpoint of those who regularly censor - brazenly making the Bizarro World claim that “creationists are censored”.

It’s the intellectual and ETHICAL equivalent of claiming that the Empire State Building doesn’t exist, while standing on top of the Empire State Building.

It’s deeply disturbing.

mplavcan said:

Atheistoclast is welcome to come to my department to give a talk. No problem, if he can get himself here (budgets are tight). Here’s the catch, though. Casey Luskin came two years ago. He completely controlled the microphone. Questions were strictly limited to one per person with no follow up, and Casey went on for 15 minutes each, “answering” the questions. None of that BS here. You get to give your talk, then you get grilled. No limitations, no restrictions. You have to answer questions from the audience, and the questioner can ask away to their heart’s delight. Just think of it. So if you feel like you know more than a bunch of anatomists, functional anatomists, behavioral ecologists, genetists, systematists, etc etc etc, then do come by. And we can record the whole thing and post it on the web. Oh, and by the way.…no one tried to censor Casey Luskin or stop him from speaking. In fact, we regularly have creationists speaking in various venues on campus. I’ll bet you anything that Creationist organizations and colleges cannot say the same about evolutionary biologists.

You’re on. If you want an entirely open and free Q and A discussion, then I accept. I will also attend at entirely my own expense - as long as you are not based in Australiasia (Europe and N. America only). I do think I can handle any points raised by either experts or students - but it would be helpful to keep any debate focused on certain areas of evolutionary biology. You can send a formal invitation to:

[Enable javascript to see this email address.]

If I do not hear from you, I will assume you were bluffing all along.

Atheistoclast said: I will also debate the goons at the NCSE, but they are way too scared of me.

Does the NCSE even know (or care) that you exist?

mplavcan,

Please record this historic occasion and present it here for all to see. I would suggest that someone ask Joe the definition of the following terms:

new

novel

derived

neofunctionalization

I would also like to know exactly what he thinks controls development, genes and cascades of gene expression being insufficient and all. Then again, he might be saving that little tidbit for his ground breaking talk at the developmental biology meetings next year. FInally, the Nobel Prize committee will have something to talk about.

Paul Burnett said:

Atheistoclast said: I will also debate the goons at the NCSE, but they are way too scared of me.

Does the NCSE even know (or care) that you exist?

Sure they do. Nick Matzke knows of me, as does Glenn Branch, Kevin Padian and Steve Newton.

DS said:

mplavcan,

Please record this historic occasion and present it here for all to see. I would suggest that someone ask Joe the definition of the following terms:

new

novel

derived

neofunctionalization

I would also like to know exactly what he thinks controls development, genes and cascades of gene expression being insufficient and all. Then again, he might be saving that little tidbit for his ground breaking talk at the developmental biology meetings next year. FInally, the Nobel Prize committee will have something to talk about.

mplavcan will find some excuse not to host me, just as Dawkins has done to avoid being humiliated by William Lane Craig at his alma mater. You can bet on that.

Btw, if you want an answer to those points, why don’t you bother to read my papers?

I need your name, institutional and departmental affiliation, and a suggested topic for a talk. I will present that to my colleagues and friends to determine an appropriate venue.

Atheistoclast said:

mplavcan said:

Atheistoclast is welcome to come to my department to give a talk. No problem, if he can get himself here (budgets are tight). Here’s the catch, though. Casey Luskin came two years ago. He completely controlled the microphone. Questions were strictly limited to one per person with no follow up, and Casey went on for 15 minutes each, “answering” the questions. None of that BS here. You get to give your talk, then you get grilled. No limitations, no restrictions. You have to answer questions from the audience, and the questioner can ask away to their heart’s delight. Just think of it. So if you feel like you know more than a bunch of anatomists, functional anatomists, behavioral ecologists, genetists, systematists, etc etc etc, then do come by. And we can record the whole thing and post it on the web. Oh, and by the way.…no one tried to censor Casey Luskin or stop him from speaking. In fact, we regularly have creationists speaking in various venues on campus. I’ll bet you anything that Creationist organizations and colleges cannot say the same about evolutionary biologists.

You’re on. If you want an entirely open and free Q and A discussion, then I accept. I will also attend at entirely my own expense - as long as you are not based in Australiasia (Europe and N. America only). I do think I can handle any points raised by either experts or students - but it would be helpful to keep any debate focused on certain areas of evolutionary biology. You can send a formal invitation to:

[Enable javascript to see this email address.]

If I do not hear from you, I will assume you were bluffing all along.

DS said:

mplavcan,

Please record this historic occasion and present it here for all to see. I would suggest that someone ask Joe the definition of the following terms:

new

novel

derived

neofunctionalization

I would also like to know exactly what he thinks controls development, genes and cascades of gene expression being insufficient and all. Then again, he might be saving that little tidbit for his ground breaking talk at the developmental biology meetings next year. FInally, the Nobel Prize committee will have something to talk about.

If Atheistoclast does in fact manage to come out here, I suggest that anyone within striking distance of Northwest Arkansas be sure to make it out. It might be enormously fun.

mplavcan said:

I need your name, institutional and departmental affiliation, and a suggested topic for a talk. I will present that to my colleagues and friends to determine an appropriate venue.

My name and my scholarly credentials (for the present) are given below:

http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar[…]p;as_sdtp=on

Most bloggers and evo geeks know of me. You can suggest the topic and format. But I will eat my shoes with mustard if you are brave enough to allow the one and only Atheistoclast onto your campus. I doubt you will. Northwest Arkansas and hick country is fine with me. I have a friend who lives around there. It is up to you - if you want the mother of all debates, I am ready.

Atheistoclast said:

mplavcan said:

I need your name, institutional and departmental affiliation, and a suggested topic for a talk. I will present that to my colleagues and friends to determine an appropriate venue.

My name and my scholarly credentials (for the present) are given below:

http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar[…]p;as_sdtp=on

Most bloggers and evo geeks know of me. You can suggest the topic and format. But I will eat my shoes with mustard if you are brave enough to allow the one and only Atheistoclast onto your campus. I doubt you will. Northwest Arkansas and hick country is fine with me. I have a friend who lives around there. It is up to you - if you want the mother of all debates, I am ready.

Yes, we have your name and those papers. You are from Manchester. Very nice. But what is you INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATION, your CURRENT POSITION, and you BACKGROUND? For example, I am Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas, Graduated from Duke University in 1990, have a number of publications, with my research focusing mainly on sexual dimorphism in primates, etc etc. All that those papers of yours give is your address in Manchester. How about some information? Where did you get your degree? Do you have a current academic position, or are you employed in industry? Is this a comprehensive publication list? Etc. It is hard to sell “a largely anonymous and uncredentialed creationist from England who published two papers and otherwise spends his time insulting people on the web” as interesting.

And to be clear here. You are welcome to come here as far as I am concerned. We can find a room for you to talk in. It will not be sponsored or hosted by the University in any official way, and you are entirely on your own financially.

Here in Europe we probably have less issues with creationists, but I’ve already been involved in some debates with such extremist individuals… It is very hard to argue with people with no rational reasoning.

My eyes and ears are always open to detect any form of related comment or discussion among my student audience during my lectures (biology, life sciences, neuroscience) at the University…

A

http://viewsontheworld.blog.com/

PS: I appologize if my English is not good enough, hope my point was clear…

Creationists actually took over the student government at my community college a few years ago and spent their year in office agitating against gay rights (they endorsed California’s Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage) and arguing that the college curriculum was oppressive to their beliefs (e.g., anthropology and geology professors telling students that the earth is billions of years old). It was a relief when they were finally kicked out.

Always be on guard.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

The IBIG troll belongs on the Bathroom Wall.

It deliberately misconstrued the point of Matt’s post, and now it word-games, whines, and taunts for attention.

Atheistoclast is welcome to come to my department to give a talk. No problem, if he can get himself here (budgets are tight).

Now wouldn’t that be fun? Maybe it will be like the Great Debate at the American Museum of Natural History some years ago when the DI guys were invited to come for a debate. Dembski got his butt kicked so hard by Robert Pennock the whole building shook.

mplavcan said: Yes, we have your name and those papers. You are from Manchester. Very nice. But what is you INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATION, your CURRENT POSITION, and you BACKGROUND? For example, I am Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas, Graduated from Duke University in 1990, have a number of publications, with my research focusing mainly on sexual dimorphism in primates, etc etc. All that those papers of yours give is your address in Manchester. How about some information? Where did you get your degree? Do you have a current academic position, or are you employed in industry? Is this a comprehensive publication list? Etc. It is hard to sell “a largely anonymous and uncredentialed creationist from England who published two papers and otherwise spends his time insulting people on the web” as interesting.

But I am not a largely anonymous person - I am Atheistoclast - and I have published 3 papers so far (2 more have recently been accepted). Unlike you, I don’t feel the need to flaunt my biography and CV on this site. I am a very modest and sincere person, not some egomaniac academic with a point to prove.

Atheistoclast said:

Sure they do. Nick Matzke knows of me, as does Glenn Branch, Kevin Padian and Steve Newton.

Yup, sort of like they “know of” Larry, Moe, and Curly.

JMaz said:

If there was a point the wing was not fully developed, then it would hinder rather than advance this creatures life and ability to function.

Go tell that to flying squirrels and flying fish, neither of whom’s “wings” could be said to be “fully developed”, yet advance those creature’s lives and functions they do.

apokryltaros said:

Steve P. lied:

Jmaz,

You won’t get an honest answer from the folks here. They need to see God ‘in the flesh’ so to speak. Otherwise, its evolutionary China. Walk softly but with humility.

Ol pompous Steve P coming around again to come lying and shitting, and whining that we won’t eat up his shit like fine caviar.

How typical and pathetic.

After all, Steve P, if you want us to believe your bullshit, why can’t you present any evidence to support your bullshit?

Oh, wait, no, you can’t, you even made up snotty excuses that you’re not obligated to get evidence.

Based on the text he posts, I think Steve P. might need to cut back on the recreational drugs.

JMaz, let me illustrate for you how your comment is heard by working evolutionary scientists:

“I JMaz, having no expertise in the relevant fields, have nonetheless concluded, after many minutes of introspection, that because I cannot personally envision a scenario where wings could evolve, it is therefore reasonable to reject entire fields of science.”

Sound reasonable to you?

Those who have put words into my mouth have done a creditable job. Mr. JMaz needs to learn as much about evolution as many of us know about religion. In particular, he should understand that the term evolution is ambiguous in that is used to refer both to descent with modification and to the theory that best explains descent with modification. More particularly, descent with modification is an observed fact; any belief, religious or otherwise, that denies descent with modification is flatly wrong and must be reevaluated if it is to conform with known fact.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on October 22, 2011 3:42 PM.

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