The ducks are gonna get you

| 62 Comments

Some poor young girl, deeply miseducated and misled, wrote into a newspaper with a letter trying to denounce homosexuality with a bad historical and biological argument. She's only 14, and her brain has already been poisoned by the cranks and liars in her own family…it's very sad. Here's the letter — I will say, it's a very creative argument that would be far more entertaining if it weren't wrong in every particular.

I've transcribed it below. I couldn't help myself, though, and had to, um, annotate it a bit.

Homosexuality, including same sex marriage, is not an enlightened idea [But tolerance and acceptance of diversity are]. The Romans practiced homosexuality [Every culture has had homosexual individuals; they differ only in the degree of suppression. The Romans actually regarded homosexuals as effete and inferior, and used accusations of gayness as expressions of contempt, just like modern middle schoolers]. Surely, after 2000 years, our level of intelligence should have evolved somewhat, so that we can truly pride ourselves of being cleverer than our forebears [Two millennia is actually a short span of time for biological evolution. Also, have you ever heard of the Dark Ages? Progress is not inevitable].

If homosexuality spreads, it can cause human evolution to come to a standstill [Nope. Homosexuals reproduce. Homosexuality refers to behavior and social preferences, not to biological limitations. Also, many heterosexuals choose to not reproduce as well, and it does not stop evolution in its tracks — in complex social organisms like ours, there are many ways to contribute to the species that don't involve breeding directly]. It could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder [There is no evolutionary "ladder". You have some serious misconceptions about biology, young lady!], and say, ducks, could take over the world [Evolution is not about taking over the world. There is no pinnacle. Every species has a different niche, not a different spot in a hierarchy of dominance]. Ducks always nest in pairs [This is called the naturalistic fallacy. You cannot draw conclusions from how one species behaves and declare that it justifies one specific kind of behavior in another species. I could point to gorillas, and announce that we should live in polygamous harems; I could point to bonobos and say that public homosexual acts ought to be accepted as a matter of course, and that we ought to have casual sex as often as we say hello. If you'd like, I could give you a long list of very kinky sexual behaviors practiced by various species on the planet; shall we decide that because ducks rape, so should we, lest we fall behind evolutionarily?] and if we allow same-sex marriage, then the ducks will have evolved further than we have [Ducks are just as "evolved" as we are, and we're not more evolved than any other species on the planet. Evolution is about branching trees, not climbing ladders]. We will be in danger of all being equal, with ducks more equal than us [That makes no sense].

We should learn from history and not be stuck with copying ancient behavior [Are you, by any chance, a follower of Jesus or Mohammed? Because you know, those faiths are all about imposing ancient rules for behavior on modern society]. The government has no right to bring us back to the stone age [But the Middle Ages are OK, I suppose?]. I don't want my children to have to compete with ducks [Wait. I'm trying to puzzle this out. Because you think ducks are all heterosexual, and your children will all be heterosexual (brace yourself, you might get a few surprises in 10 or 20 years there), and a policy of tolerance will turn every other human being homosexual, you're afraid your kids will be competing for mates with ducks? Or is it that duck heterosexuality is the only criterion that makes them acceptable for positions of power, so years from now, your children will find themselves in a workplace dominated by duck bosses, who have overcome the handicap of lack of manipulatory appendages and very small brains to be in charge of everything? I don't get it]. I want them to evolve further than I have [But you don't believe in evolution!]. Any self-respecting human would aim for that, too. [Are you aware that the Abrahamic faiths all preach that humanity is in a state of ineluctable decay since the Fall and that human sin corrupts us? I don't think any self-respecting human should be a Christian or a Jew or Muslim, for the same reason]

None of this really bears any weight for be, because I do not believe in evolution [You don't understand it, either]. However, the powers that be believe in evolution, and have made many decisions based on it. They should be consistent: if you believe in evolution, then you can't be in favour of homosexuality [If you accept evolution, then you recognize that there are diverse successful sexual strategies in the world, and you also have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of biology, so no, you should be much more accepting of reality], or the ducks will get you in the end [You can live your life in fear of ducks, or you can love your fellow human beings and encourage more love in the world. Your choice].

Jasmin H, aged 14 [You have time to grow up!]
Homeschooled [Obviously], Scargill

62 Comments

Now now, not all variations of homeschooling are vacuous religious enterprises. Some are just created by regular people who are sickened by the conversion of public schools to something more akin to prisons, and want their kids to learn how to learn, instead of being taught to pass the ever-increasing number of standardized exams. THese types are, sadly, in a stark minority of all home-schoolers, but they do exist.

I think that must be satire. The bit about the ducks is just too weird.

Wow, yeah. Even if you accept the rest of her twisted logic, ducks are like the worst possible choice for her argument. Ducks are the sociopathic sexual criminals of the animal world.

Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers http://www.guardian.co.uk/education[…]ion.research

http://carlywilson.com/2010/05/duck[…]ry-geniuses/

…etc…

Is there some sort of new vendetta against 14 year old girls who speak put these days? I believe some may have a little too much time on their hands!!

Um… has anybody explained to little Jamie that same-sex couples don’t, as a general rule, spontaneously produce children without some side of outside help?

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here, but I’d predict that homosexual couples have an average birthrate that that tends to limit their direct participation in the evolutionary race to a share that’s slightly less than that of the homeschool crowd, so little Jamie can sleep just fine.

Besides, this is the home-school community we’re talking about here. It’s a well known fact that evolution doesn’t exist anyway, so what’s she worried about.

50/50

Weird and clever enough in its zaniness to be a good Poe.

On the other hand, I have taught previously homeschooled and/or “christian academy” kids capable of writing that in all seriousness.

But then that’s the point of Poe’s Law: You can’t do a parody of a fundamentalist that’s so extreme that some fundies won’t agree with it completely.

Just Bob said:

50/50

Weird and clever enough in its zaniness to be a good Poe.

Or… maybe… just maybe… it’s a piece of misdirection from the ducks.

Yeah - yeah! That’s just what they want us to think! That they’re little fluffy furry … er feathered harmless little ducks. Then - as soon as we’re not looking, BAM! they evolve into ravenous crocoducks and chase us down because we’ve all grown fat and slow.

Crafty, crafty little buggers, those ducks.

But now they’ve tipped their hand. Well! No more tasty breadcrusts after lunch in the park for you and your ilk, Mr Flappy. I’m watching now.

Well this is just Daffy.

When creationists begin worrying about competition from ducks, it’s time for some reassessments of their education strategies.

Not that there’s anything new about that…

Glen Davidson

Home-schooled. The letter is ludicrous, a pastiche of ridiculous distortions. It’s risible, and laughter is the only possible response, for a bit. But after that bit, I realised this: this is a fourteen-year-old who has been denied an education by intent by parents who have deliberately crippled her mind for their own purposes.

I stopped laughing at about that point.

OK, I admit it: I laughed out loud when I read:

… you can’t be in favour of homosexuality, or the ducks will get you in the end.

Obviously, they can’t “get you in the end” if you keep your pants on …

I once had the dubious pleasure of chatting on the net with a 16-year-old who’d been home-schooled by a notorious internet crank. He was intelligent, polite, articulate – and profoundly, wildly misinformed about everything. He didn’t seem able to even conceive of the idea that assertions are not evidence. For him, all observations were either ratifications of his assertions or misinterpretations suffered by those unschoold in the Truth.

So I had a free home demonstration of Dawkins’ position that this boy, like the girl who wrote this letter, are victims of a truly pernicious sort of child abuse. One almost impossible to rectify later in life. And I understood the terrors of being a parent. I’m glad I’ve never been one, the responsibility is too intimidating.

That’s despicable…

I have to agree with all the others calling this a Poe, the bit about the ducks is simply too ridiculous to be unintentional.

Nicholas J. Matzke said:

Wow, yeah. Even if you accept the rest of her twisted logic, ducks are like the worst possible choice for her argument. Ducks are the sociopathic sexual criminals of the animal world.

Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers…

Yep, I was just about to point out the same thing. Ducks are every inch as pervert as any human. Here is the original article.

Note the following passage:

Bagemihl (1999) in his well-researched and exhaustive overview of animal homosexuality, showed that in the mallard ‘the proportion of male homosexual pairs varies between populations, anywhere from 2-19 percent of all pairs’. So, male homosexuality can be regarded as a common phenomenon among mallards.

This looks very, very much like a parody, but could be a juvenile attempt at humor by a real fourteen year old. If it is a juvenile attempt at humor, it reveals unconscious doubts about the writer’s own assertions, already beginning to develop.

If it isn’t a parody, the person who wrote it is an innocent victim of deliberate imposition of a bad education.

So I had a free home demonstration of Dawkins’ position that this boy, like the girl who wrote this letter, are victims of a truly pernicious sort of child abuse.

This statement intended as a friendly elaboration and extension of the discussion…

I understand where this is coming from, but it’s a very loaded statement. If this letter was written by a child, the bad education may have been selective. The grammar and spelling are reasonable.

A child who is physically abused, given an inadequate diet, not taught basic literacy and mathematics, and/or not protected from dangerous situations outside the home is very likely to have severe difficulties throughout life. This type of thing is done to children by some actively religious people and by some non-religious people, but not by all religious people.

A child who is not subjected to any of that, and many children raised by religious people are not, but who is taught to be religious, even in a way that we may find offensive or ridiculous, is in far better shape any way you look at it, and statistically, has an excellent chance of abandoning the parents’ religion when they become an adult.

One almost impossible to rectify later in life.

Fortunately, this is not the case. Writing something stupid at fourteen (if this were written by a fourteen year old) is not at all a strong predictor of still writing stupid things later in life.

If anything, this silly letter, even if written by a fourteen year old, may still signify veiled or unconscious criticism of the very attitudes it ostensibly promotes. In short, it is probably satire, conscious or unconscious, no matter who wrote it. It “supports” a position by offering very weak arguments “in favor” of it. And not the standard canned but accepted weak arguments, but deliberately constructed weak arguments. Ducks have been suggested to be the animal considered overall the most funny by humans (I am not making that up). I suspect that even if not deliberate satire, this letter indicated cognitive dissonance.

(If I had to bet I would guess it was written by a male sixteen year old as a deliberate satire, but I can’t be sure.)

Jasmin’s ducks are no doubt creationist canards.

What I’m getting from this is that there’s a lot of sick ducks out there.

fnxtr said:

I call Poe.

Remember that a “Poe” is totally indistinguishable from the real deal. And I’ve dealt with plenty of people outside of the Internet who are so grotesquely ignorant of Evolution, that on this or vaguely related topics, they will string together barely coherent strings of words and curdle your brain into Limburger headcheese. (i.e., one friend of mine argued that the Big Bang couldn’t have happened because nobody could have survived an explosion that powerful)

This sounds a bit like what C. S. Lewis would call chronological snobbery.

mharri said:

This sounds a bit like what C. S. Lewis would call chronological snobbery.

Assuming C. S. Lewis was referring to ageism, devaluing people according to their chronological age, then no, this conversation does not sound the least bit like that.

All of the comments here mainly address the content of what has been written, and most would be fundamentally the same if the writer self-identified as 34 or 94 rather than 14.

The writer self-identifies, whether honestly or not, as being fourteen years old. It is not ageism to note that fourteen year olds are still maturing, and sometimes express ideas that they later grow out of.

Of course, it is also that case that innumerable situations arise, in which there is a dispute between a fourteen year old an an adult, and the fourteen year old is correct. We should not automatically disrespect the views of fourteen year olds. However, this is not such a situation. The piece being critiqued here is either satire (whether by a fourteen year old or not) or completely wrong (whether by a fourteen year old or not).

Using this logic, the Romans worshipped gods, so we should have evolved beyond that by now. Time to get your ducks in a row.

Besides, she neglected to mention the fact that ducks engage in homosexual behavior as well, so I guess they have the advantage because they don’t worship gods, not the homosexual thing after all.

Finally, a duck post. A bit of background may help. When people say “duck”, they’re generally talking about mallards. But that’s one species, and there are 150 species of ducks, give or take. They run the gamut from lifetime monogamy (particularly for long-lived, tropical species) to no pair bond at all (30 seconds of gamete exchange, and bye-bye). Mallards fall somewhere in the middle. Males and females form pair bonds in the fall, which last partway through the nesting season. The male deserts the female some time during incubation, and may never see her again. Meanwhile, unpaired male mallards are famous for all manner of odd behaviors: rape, of course, mating with other males, mating with dead females, mating with dead males, mating (or attempting to mate) with dogs. All of which can probably be seen somewhere on U-tube. Even so-called lifetime pair bonds not uncommonly experience divorce. And female ducks often lay their eggs in other females’ nests; there’s even one species that never builds a nest, being a brood parasite of other duck species. Somewhere, there’s a duck species that encapsulates or contradicts any moral principle you might care to mention.

harold said:

Assuming C. S. Lewis was referring to ageism, devaluing people according to their chronological age, then no, this conversation does not sound the least bit like that.

It is not my wish to seem rude, but I cannot think of how to make this point without seeming so: Google is your friend. If we look at the first result when searching for the phrase ‘chronological snobbery,’ we find a Wikipedia page. Opening that page, in the first sentence, we find the clause, “describing the erroneous argument that the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior when compared to that of the present.”

mharri said:

harold said:

Assuming C. S. Lewis was referring to ageism, devaluing people according to their chronological age, then no, this conversation does not sound the least bit like that.

It is not my wish to seem rude, but I cannot think of how to make this point without seeming so: Google is your friend. If we look at the first result when searching for the phrase ‘chronological snobbery,’ we find a Wikipedia page. Opening that page, in the first sentence, we find the clause, “describing the erroneous argument that the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior when compared to that of the present.”

Arguably, it was a bit lazy of me not to check. On the other hand, deliberate obscurity can be a bit tiresome. I’ve actually even read more C. S. Lewis than most (I liked the Narnia books and it took me a few tries to convince myself that his other stuff was annoying - to me, that is). It’s common for well-educated people not to even have read C. S. Lewis at all.

I assume, then, that you are referring to the ostensible fourteen year old, and her chronological snobbery against Ancient Rome. Of course, every human society that has ever existed “practiced homosexuality” in some way or another.

I’m a partial chronological snob myself. Not with regard to art, humor, or even some aspects of philosophy. But with regard to science and technology, it’s rather silly to deny that people in the past were less knowledgeable than we are now. Whether “knowing less” is equivalent to being “inherently inferior” is a matter of semantics, I suppose.

On the golf course duck = “FORE!”.

Yeah, a lot of that was my fault. I really should have been more careful to avoid pronoun ambiguity, and I genuinely didn’t think the phrase would be obscure to this sites’ regulars. I realized the tone of my post was unwarranted only after I posted; sorry about that.

To get back on topic: honestly, when I saw a post about ducks on an evolution blog, I was thinking it was going to be about the insane reproductive bits the animals have. Somehow, what it turned out to be was even crazier.

That’s either very amusing satire or very depressing homeschooling.

FYI, comment #26 at PZ’s blog gives a screen capture of the local paper that published it (in New Zealand). Which doesn’t answer the ‘satire or real’ question, but at least you can see the primary source if you want to.

I am casting a vote for Poe.

It’s very unimportant, but since I like to admit it when I change my mind -

My favoring of “hoax” lazily assumed a US location for the writer.

New Zealand homophobic religious authoritarians may not follow the exact same script as US ones do. The canned arguments about “transitional species”, “second law of thermodynamics”, “complexity” and so on that get used in comments and letters to the editor thousands of times a day in the US and Canada are somewhat local cultural traits.

I continue to note that the writer, even if consciously serious, exposes cognitive dissonance. Feeling the need to come up with a transparently stupid and false argument in favor of homophobia, and submit it for publication, is not really an expression of deep confidence in the validity of homophobia.

The activity here is similar to that of “damning with faint praise”. Overtly, a proposition is defended, but at another level, the defense is so weak, the proposition is called more into question than if the defense had not been offered.

All that keeps going through my head is “I am the terror that flaps in the night.”

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on October 13, 2012 7:38 AM.

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