A couple of days ago, I made a smart Alec comment on Facebook.
This is not unusual, I make a lot of smart Alec comments on Facebook.
But in this case I was commenting about the Texas School Board’s recent decision to remove discussion of any religion other than Christianity from US history books and to actively foist their warped, verifiably wrong, and willfully incomplete view of history on America’s school children. Specifically, I said, “I’d like to personally thank Texas for rolling the US educational system back to the 14th Century.” Way to go, douchebags and etc. With a link to Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog at the Discover Magazine and a discussion of the same topic from the view of an actual no-foolin scientist who spends an admirable amount of time slapping around stupid people.
It didn’t take long for a creationist to show up, and not just a creationist but a global climate change denying, Big Bang denying anti-evolutionist who doesn’t understand the difference between the origin of life and the origin of a species. Here’s his comment:
Evolution has about the same evidence as global warming. No transitional forms and no missing link. Look it up. Even the Big Bang doesn't make sense without a creator or cause. Darwin’s book Origin of the species never addresses the Origin of the Species.
People seemed think I was going to debate this guy, and while I found their comments amusing – there was no way I was going to do anything other than point and engage in ridicule. Not that he wouldn’t have been easy to rip apart, mind you, and in fact I count over a dozen things in that ridiculous paragraph that are verifiably wrong, provably so, definitively so, obviously so, beginning with the fact that my post had nothing whatsoever to do with either global climate change or evolution but rather the Texas school board’s decision to edit out an enormous historical contribution to human history, science, culture, and language because they don’t like Muslims and don’t want them portrayed in a favorable light. Ever. This pisses me off. I don’t give a flying fig what kind of ignorance they wish to indulge in down there in the land of pointy-toed boots, giant hats, and horny toads, but when their nonsense impacts my child’s education and makes my country the laughing stock of the of civilized world, then they are making it my business. I would feel the same way about it if they’d decided to edit Jesus out of the history books – if Jesus had actually invented optics, developed advanced mathematics and medicines, preserved human knowledge throughout the Dark Ages when Europe had fallen into illiterate feudal savagery while his Church was busy spreading the Black Death and burning people for hearsay, carried science and civilization to a third of the known world in his caravans, or explored more of the planet than the fifty miles of desert surrounding the place where he was supposedly born. It is true that I could have resoundingly debunked that creationist nonsense. Hell, I could have done it when I was ten. Scientists like Plait and Michael Shermer make a career out of refuting this kind of bullshit, and I admire them for it.
But it doesn’t make any difference.
Not to the crazies anyway.
And it is my policy not to engage in debate with willfully stupid people. Mostly I point and laugh. When that doesn’t work, I tend to resort to violence.
Now look, I’m not saying that debunking the cranks isn’t an honorable and worthwhile endeavor and a crappy job that has to be done. But people like the commenter mentioned above simply don’t operate within a fact based, reality oriented framework. Through design or defect, they are functionally incapable of processing input in a rational manner. Instead they see the world through some kind of warped goggles the way a mental patient views the world and no amount of debunking will ever change their delusional outlook. Period. In other words, it doesn’t matter how debugged the program is if the processor circuitry adds 2 and 2 and gets the square root of negative one, and in fact always returns (i) no matter what numbers you put in. You can keep plugging in the proper values, checking and refining your input, but the machine relentlessly spits out (i) and only (i). That’s exactly what it’s like to debate a creationist, or scientologist, or a moon landing denier, or an anti-vaxxer.
Oh, you can maybe force these nuts to eventually modify their silly nonsense – take for example how Creationism evolved (sorry) into Young Earth Creationism (Dino Variant) when the creationists simply could not deny overwhelming fossil evidence any longer. Like a psychotic incorporating the doctor and mental ward into his delusional world, the creationists simply put vegetarian dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark and then twisted bible quotes to make them fit. When debunkers pointed out that it would have been impossible to feed such creatures on an extended sea voyage, let alone shovel hundreds of tons of dinosaur manure over the side every single day in pitching seas (you know, like you would have when God drowns the whole damned (heh) world), hell eight people with shovels couldn’t do it in calm seas – and never mind the utter idiocy of this scenario in the first place. Creationists then decided that the thunder lizards were either carried onboard as eggs, babies, or that God put the full grown adults into some kind of divine stupor where the giant beasts neither ate nor shat. Asked where the creatures are now, Creationists claim they died out around about the time Jesus showed up. God changed his mind about saving them apparently, the big sinners, guess they shouldn’t have eaten from the coconut tree of knowledge. When the utter implausibility of the Deluge itself was painstakingly pointed out, Creationists invented an elaborate fantasy structure of an Earth that was as flat as a billiard ball (despite biblical references that contradicts this silly bullshit, not to mention, you know, actual science) and a globe-circling floating orbital water shield of Jesus that rained down for 40 days and nights to become a world drowning ocean that was also supplemented by geysers and fountains and other such juju magics and later just completely disappeared after turning into dinosaur bones or something – I mean, Jesus, web-toed Kevin Costner’s Water World makes more Goddamed sense and it had Jeanne Tripplehorn in a fish skin bikini. But, no matter what evidence is presented, the creationists will keep moving the goal posts like mental patients to persist in their increasingly elaborate and bizarre delusions. (Now, I suppose I must digress for a minute and admit to a certain mean spirited enjoyment when I see creationists get into deadly serious screaming matches over the fine points of their shared delusion – like when I listened to a couple of YECs arguing over the depth of the Deluge’s world girdling ocean, the point of their argument hung on a mere two foot difference (100 feet or 102 feet) based on what each of them thought it would take to drown a full grown brachiosaurus. It was so like watching the class spaz argue to the verge of tears with the class dork over who would win a fight between the Gorn Captain and Boba Fett, entertaining if you have nothing better to do.)
But see, that’s the point, I do have something better to do.
And it is neither my job nor my duty to debunk the idiots or pamper the mental patients.
In America, the Constitution may give these people the right to speak their bilge in public, but it doesn’t require that I have to respect it.
And I do not.
I cannot, and will not, suffer fools gladly. And I really can’t understand people who do.
Arguing with these people, attempting to reason with them, is a lost cause – because they are not reasonable people.
The only proper response to this nonsense is: Shut Up.
Let me give you an example.
Remember Marshall Applewhite?
Marshall was a fun guy. He got fired from his job for “emotional issues” (HR speak for “basket case”). In fact, he had a whole host of mental issues, which included hearing voices in his head and the belief that he was storing the preserved mind of Christ in his noggin (I guess if you’re going to keep Jesus in your head, you should have somebody for him to talk to – or at least cable basic). I don’t suppose it will come as a surprise to you that he was a big believer in UFOs and alien visitors. Marshall, who preferred to be addressed by his secret space alien name “Do” (as in doodoo), also had himself surgically castrated, because, and dig this, the Jesus voice told him to cut his balls off. He founded an outfit named Heaven’s Gate. Maybe you’ve heard of it – the whole bunch of them committed mass suicide back in 1997 so they could go meet an alien spacecraft hiding in the glowing tail of comet Hale-Bopp.
Marshall was nuts, right? (or rather no-nuts, if you want to get technical about it).
Here’s the thing, he didn’t get that way overnight. He didn’t just wake up one day and decide to cut his balls off. He got there a piece at a time, little by little, over years and years, because people indulged his bullshit rather than telling him to just shut up.
I know, I know, I see you over there waving your arms. You going all 1st Amendment in the face and shit. Hang on.
Hear me out.
You’re sitting on a bench, reading a book, enjoying the sun, poisoning the pigeons in the park. Whatever it is that you do in the half hour when you’re not pestering me here. This strange old dude with a funny walk and bleached hair comes mooching up. He asks if he can sit down. He seems harmless enough, so you nod to the empty half of the bench, and raise your eyebrow so he knows not to start anything. He sits down in sort of a weird space alien sort of way, and after a minute says: “Say listen, after work a bunch of us are going down to Mexico for margaritas and to have our funberries hacked off by a drug lord’s plastic surgeon, then we’re going to dress up in purple capes and white sneakers and drink the strychnine Kool-Aid and put plastic bags over our faces. We’re doing this because Zombie-Jesus-who-lives-in-my-head says the Earth is about to be destroyed by aliens but we’re going to abandon our bodies and go live on the comet with the comet people. We’ve got an extra seat, you interested?”
To which you reply, (a) “Whoa Doggies, count me in!” or (b) “Piss off you creepy little eunuch or I will snatch you up by the top of your pointy bald grape and jam my Thick Tip Sharpie into your eye so deep that I’ll be able to write Fuck You on the inside of your skull in four inch high indelible ink.”
The correct answer seems obvious doesn’t it? (it also explains why I always carry a Sharpie, just in case you were wondering)
But, see, here’s the thing: thirty nine people chose option (a).
It wasn’t a secret. They told people. They put out movies. They had a website – they still have a website. And nobody said to them, listen here, you stupid silly bastards… Everybody just sort of said, well, they’re a little odd.
And it happens all of the time. Jonestown. The Branch Davidians. That bunch in France what burned themselves up along with their kids. Those obnoxious goofs who like to wave their bibles in your face while you’re waiting for the light to change. Creationists. Tom Cruise.
And people shake their heads and say “how could this happen?”
How could it happen?
It happens because nobody told these deluded idiots to shut up and stop acting like fucking retards – until it was too late (Note: about the use of the term “retards,” yes I know it’s offensive to some people. It is however an accurate description in certain cases. I don’t use it lightly. Further explanation in the comments section). It happens because we are far too indulgent when it comes to this kind of nonsense. It happens because when somebody looks you in the eye and says with a straight face, “I believe Jennifer Love Hewitt really does talk to ghosts, it’s totally true,” you don’t immediately break into gales of taunting laughter and follow them about for the rest of the day ridiculing their stupidity with sarcastic barbed wit in front of their friends and co-workers.
Look, if you tell people you hear voices in your head commanding you to kill the President because Jodie Foster will dig it and want to have your babies, we lock your silly ass up and make fun of you on TV. But if you tell people you hear a voice in your head and he’s telling you the president is a space alien in a rubber human suit, the TEA Party of Nevada will ask you to be their Senator – as long as you say the voice in your head sounds like Jesus.
Sure, Jim, OK, but that’s not the same as creationism, or holocaust denial, or moon landing hoaxers, or the Anti-LHC crowd, or Neo-conservatism.
Yes it is, it is exactly the same.
Look, I’m not talking about restricting the freedom of speech or freedom to worship – what I’m talking about is intervention. I’m talking about cranking the public bullshit filter up to 11.
If somebody tells you that that the magical science fiction power of L. Ron Hubbard gives them the ability to fly, are you denying them their 1st Amendment rights when you prevent them from stepping off the roof? Or, in my case, not. Because to be perfectly honest, personally, I don’t really give a fig if they jump off that roof or not. Stupid is a terminal disease, it’s going to get you sooner or later – hopefully before somebody convinces you to cut your balls off. And, hey, you know, if they do fly well maybe I’ll go pick up a copy of Dianetics, and if they go bounce bounce squish well that’s just one less moron in the gene pool as far as I’m concerned – speaking of Scientology, hopefully it’s Vinnie Barbarino, that way I don’t ever have to watch another one of his shitty movies, I’ve never forgiven that hammy bastard for Battlefield Earth.
But what about the people on the sidewalk below? Don’t we have a moral obligation to keep those poor bastards from getting crushed by falling idiots?
Yes. Damn it.
But you can’t do that by debate.
Debating them only rewards their bad behavior. Debating them only encourages them more. Having a real scientist like Plait engage them in debate automatically elevates their nonsense to legitimacy. When PZ Myers goes after creationists, he gives them equal footing with science. Again, don’t get me wrong here, those scientists are professionals and I have nothing but respect for people like Michael Shermer – but they should come with the same warning as those Mythbuster Guys, i.e. don’t try this at home. Ever.
And it wouldn’t be necessary if more people would tell these idiots to step off.
The proper response to crazy is: Shut the fuck up.
It’s not for the government to tell people their beliefs have jumped the sharktopus, it’s up to us. Each and every one of us.
Oh, and pick yourselves up a couple of Sharpies.