Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hoist on your own petard

Ain't irony funny?

Take the Mount Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton, Texas - who's motto is "Digging up facts of God's Creation, one fossil at a time..."

Yeah, it's another Creation "museum." Not as slick or glossary as the far more infamous one in Kentucky, this once looks more like your standard Texas tourist trap, full of rubber tomahawks and overpriced kid-sized faux ten-gallon hats.

The webpage describes the place as "a science museum, showing facts and data about the actual fossils in the museum." And then goes on to say, "We believe that evolution is an old-fashioned theory not substantiated by facts, and that what the Bible says is more scientifically accurate" [emphasis mine].

Nothing particularly new going on at Mt Blanco, it's your basic brand of batshit crazy, booger eating Young Earth Creationism, complete with dinosaur skeletons and the same goofy rationalizations and deluded nonsense that has sprung up elsewhere. Creationist doctrine sounds like something a child would make up - or a mental patient. They've even got a bible waving, bearded nutjob, named Joe Taylor who fancies himself as some kind of scientist. You can call ahead and arrange to have Scientist Joe give a lecture to your church or homeschooler group, where he'll answer your questions about how the Earth is only six thousand years old, how man and dinosaurs lived shoulder to shoulder, and how old Noah even managed to squeeze a few of those big scaly beasts onto the Ark, two by two as they say. And for extra credit, go read James Taylor's (Joe's nephew and biomedical 'researcher,' no relation to the singer so far as I can tell) description of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which you can find under the 'Staff' section.

The crux of this crap is, of course, a rigid interpretation of the bible (I was going to say a literal explanation of biblical events, but that's not correct at all - if it were a literal interpretation, well, they wouldn't be adding dinosaurs to the Deluge mythology now would they?) By rigid interpretation, what I mean is that in an attempt to resolve the discrepancies that modern science is raising in ancient belief systems, the Creationists have developed a strict doctrinal world view and then gone looking in both the bible and in science for 'evidence' to support it. They have no more regard or understanding of traditional Christianity, than they do for science - and they'll bend both to fit their pre-defined paradigm. Their utter disregard for validated scientific dating methodologies such as carbon dating and the relatively recent inclusion of dinosaurs into the creationist fabric are both examples of this. It's a form of deliberate mass delusion, and the problem here, of course, is that it is not possible to resolve the discrepancies that saturate this kind of 'science.'

If you have real faith, then it's not necessary to whore-up your beliefs with pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo in order to rationalize away the discrepancies. In fact, doing so shows just how threatened you are by science in the first place, and just how little faith you actually have. If you have true faith, then you let it stand on it's own. But, if you have some major doubts, then it's important that you yell good and loud and do everything you can to distract from those discrepancies, so you don't feel stupid for believing what you yourself think is fairly goofy.

If you're doing real science, you welcome those discrepancies, because resolving disparities between information points is what leads to real advances and improved understanding of how the world actually works. That process continually forces you to update and adjust your worldview as more and more information becomes available, which is why we have things like antibiotics, airplanes, and big-screen HD plasma TV.

But if you're engaged in pseudo-science rationalization of your goofy belief system, like oh say Young Earth Creationists, then those discrepancies are a trap. You can't change your beliefs, because that would mean that you were wrong to begin with, which means you might be wrong now, which means it's only a matter of time before people realize they're being hoodwinked and stop dropping money into the donation plate. (Blimey! 'E's just making it up as 'e goes along!) So you're stuck, hoist on your own petard, and forced into a position where your only option is to pretend the discrepancies don't exist. For example, claim the whole world was flooded to a height above the highest mountain and every animal today is the direct descendant of one to three breeding pairs and eight Iron-age humans who rode out the end of the world in a wooden ship the size of an aircraft carrier that they themselves built in their backyard using common household appliances - and you start to have some serious problems. Not one single branch of mainstream science supports the creationist deluge statement, not one. Everything we know about the world must be wrong. Everything. And that's demonstratively just not the case, for example if the science behind carbon dating is wrong and the Earth really is no more than six thousand years old - then pretty much all of nuclear science is wrong, which means the computer chips you're reading this on right now don't actually work and you're not actually reading this. And that's only one discrepancy, there are literal millions more in every branch of science. See, that's the problem with real science, unlike religion you don't get to pick and chose what you believe in. The devil can only steal your soul if you believe in him, but gravity will kill you whether you believe in it or not. Which brings us back to the creationists, sooner or later you're bound to get trapped in your own bullshit.

Here's the thing - old Joe Taylor and his museum are up to their eyeballs in debt. And they're going to go out of business if they don't come up with some real money, real soon. So, they've decided to auction off the pride of their bone collection, a restored mastodon skull, in order to raise some much needed cash.

They're hoping to get $160,000 or more for it.

And in order to get the full $160,000 dollars at auction, they are listing the skull as at least 40,000 years old. Ah, caught the problem, did you? Yeah, in those lectures Scientist Joe Taylor likes to give, the world itself is only 6,000 years old. But, here's the problem: nobody will pay top dollar for a pachyderm skull that is merely 6000 years old, even if Adam himself was feeding it peanuts in the Garden.

Is it just me, or is there about 34,000 years of discrepancy there?

Funny, isn't it, when threatened with bankruptcy Joe and his band of fervent believers suddenly dumped their convictions? And if they get the money, they'll go right back to them without ever once smelling the stench of hypocrisy? Then again, it occurs to me that maybe they're just saying they think it's 40,000 years old in order to fleece us gullible non-believers. After all, most of us want to believe that the skull is 40,000 years old, they're just telling us what we want to hear. Funny, though, how they turned to real science, including carbon dating, in order to determine the best price for the fossil, isn't it?

Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when one of those homeshooled fundie kids asks that question during the next lecture:

"Excuse me, Scientist Joe, but how come you said the mastodon skull was 40,000 years old at that auction? But you just told us that the world is only 6,000 years old? Where were the mastodons before the Earth was created? Floating in space? What did they eat? Where did they go to the bathroom? I don't get it." (we're assuming a fundie kid would actually break programming long enough to have a stray thought of his own here).

"Well, that's a good questions, Tommy, and you'll have lot's of time to think about it while you burn in hell for all eternity!"

Oh well, either way, as long as you're bullshitting for Jesus, I guess it's OK.

If there really is a God, he's obviously got one hell of a sense of ironic humor.


  1. Hm. I smell a Conversation with Karma. Hehe.

    Also, If you have true faith, then you let it stand on it's own. No shit, huh?

    Why do so many people feel it's necessary to parade their beliefs so publicly? Whatever happened to the idea that religion is a private matter?

  2. Wouldn't it be great if nobody bought it? Then he goes bankrupt and the thing goes back up for sale to pay his creditors.

    No more idiot museum. Mastodon maybe ends up in a real museum.

    Everybody wins! (well, except the mooorons) I can live with that.

  3. The problem with "true faith" is that I think few really have it. Because "true faith" would indeed stand on it's own. I like to think of myself as a very reasonable, and even effective Christian. I think part of that is because I freely admit my struggles and shakiness when it comes to faith. I don't hide behind false faith, I try to be honest and logical.

    The funny thing about faith is that you can't give or force it upon anyone anyway. Ironically, that is a central teaching of the bible. (At least when viewed through Calvinist eyes) Even faith is a gift from God, and not everyone is invited to the party. Harsh, no? Yet I see so many attempts at forcing religion (and in effect, faith) upon others. I don't get it.

    I won't wax philosophic, because HiJacking is considered rude (tee-hee!), right? It just makes me so angry at the idiotic fools that are allowed to claim Christianity as their own.


  4. Oh, and I dropped you an email as well. I don't know if your spam filter will eat it or not.

  5. Shawn , that's one of the reasons I like you - you're not shy about saying that you believe even though you know most of us here don't or at least not the way you do, you talk about faith on your own website without being obnoxious about it - and yet you can freely admit you don't know everything, that you struggle with it, and you never attempt to force your beliefs on the rest of us. And you don't seem to be easily offended. Thanks, I wish more Christians were like you because I think that's what your founder intended.

    Frankly though, if I had to choose a favorite among non-offensive religions - I'd choose Judaism. I get two or three groups of Mormon missionaries or Jehovah's Witnesses each summer, the Mormon's are fairly polite, the JW's much less so - but they're both annoying. We occasionally get various other Christian groups, some have been obnoxious. Never in my life, have a group of Jews knocked on my door and told me I was going to hell if I didn't become Jewish. Never. If you want to convert to Judaism, Jews look at you like you've lost your mind - they'll let you, but they can't figure out why you'd want to. They don't think you're crazy for being something else, they think you're crazy for wanting to be like them. They make really, really good food, great food, awesome food. Jewish functions are like feasts. Christian functions? Pot luck with store bought potato salad, dried out celery sticks, and baked beans. You've got to stop on the way home from a Christian picnic and get a cheeseburger. After a Jewish wedding reception, you can't eat for three days, all you can do is lay on the couch with you pants unbuttoned. And Jews have got cool holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Bananarama. There's more, but I need to go get another beer.

  6. Thanks, Jim. I take that as a huge compliment. It makes me really super duper, king-sized sad that I've only ever met a handful (small, baby hands) of Christians that don't get on my nerves.

    True confession time? You folks are much easier to get along with than 99% of the folks I get to hang out with tomorrow. That sucks. (The latter, not the former. I'm glad you guys are easy to get along with.)

    And yes, I think the founder most likely rocked. Free bread, fish, and wine aside, he ticked off every religious person of his time.

    OH, and I laughed out loud at your potluck description, because TOMORROW I have to choke down Mrs. Vanderhooser's baked macaroni casserole. A bagel is about as Jewish as my palette has ever experienced, so I'm a bit jealous there too. I mean heck, even Jesus was a Jew. Maybe they're the chosen ones because they can cook? ;)

  7. ::Puts arm around Shawn's shoulder::

    I've already extended the open invitation to NY. I'll cook for you. A lot. Bring the family. I'm a 47 year old Male Jewish Grandmother when it comes ot food. And yes, Shawn, your brand of Christianity is one that might make me take an honest look at it instead of asking the annoying person why they're ringing my bell to tell me I'm going to hell. Don't they know anyone in Marketing?


    I think I've mentioned that I grew up in a very religious home. The reason I'm not observant is a combination of not knowing and being lazy. But, I'll always identify myself as Jewish for two reasons.

    1. Judaism doesn't profess to know whether or not heaven and hell exist. The reason you're supposed to follow the commandments is that you need to behave well here on Earth, the only place you know exists. I can get behind that.

    2. Yes, we think we're right, but we don't believe in prosteletising. If you decide you want to be Jewish, you know where we are. Then prove you mean it. We'll discourage you for a minimum of a year before we let you in. (And no, there's no secret handshake).

    I respect both of those things enough to continue to identify myself as a Jew and not bother to move to Agnostic.

  8. Whatever happened to the idea that religion is a private matter?

    Evangelicalism, that's what happened.


    It may sound stupid, but I truly respect you for that. My family is very religious, but I simply don't "get" it.

    Was reading something today that said that the basis of faith was not belief, but doubt. I can see that, but although many are comforted by ritual, I am not. Wish I was thought, not only because so many do find it comforting, but also because it would make my grandmother happier.

    Christian functions? Pot luck with store bought potato salad, dried out celery sticks, and baked beans. You've got to stop on the way home from a Christian picnic and get a cheeseburger.


    May I suggest that you find some Eastern European Catholics? My Dad's family always has food for all celebrations. Lots of food. So much food that you often have to sneak away or you'll end up with more leftovers than you can possibly eat.

    And it's good food too. No jello, with or without fruit/vegetables/marshmallows.

    I mean, no wonder so many Americans have eating disorders--if I was raised to believe that jello belonged at any type of celebration, I'd have issues with food too.

    Or maybe try some Italian Catholics. When I'd visit friends in high school, I was always offered food as soon as I walked in the door. And that was just coming over to do homework. Mmmm.... pasta.

  9. Michelle, well, I grew up in a Irish/Dutch Protestant household surrounded by Irish Catholics. Dutch Protestants are a dour people who think it is a sin to enjoy anything. And Irish Catholics drink. They don't cook food, they boil it to death.

  10. Well, next time we have a big family celebration, you can come join us.

    Of course we are also eclectic. Last "open house" party my family had, they served: ham, vegetarian lasagna, meat lasagna, hummus, steamed shrimp, and fresh veggies and dip.

  11. As western religion goes, I tend to respect Judaism, as well, for all the reasons already outlined here, plus one more - as a group, they're not a bunch of whiners.

    If there was ever a group that would be justified in playing the "poor us" card, it's them, but they usually don't. I think that's cool.

    The next meeting of Shawn Admiration Society will be held Tuesday over at Hot Chicks. Because he's still made of Teh Awesome.

    Hmm....tasty food.

  12. I'll be there on Tues. for the SAS. I promise not to bring Jello. How about artichoke dip? It's usually a party favorite.

  13. Anne, artichoke dip with the crusty parmesan on top? Served with Pita Chips? Hmmm...

  14. I can bring dessert. My special skill is that I can bake like nobody's business.

    What's your preference? Brownies? Carrot cake cupcakes? Homemade oreos? Oatmeal craisin cookies? Those are some of the most frequent requests.

    Though I have to admit that when I'm in the mood, homemade oreos are my new favorite. Mostly because they're easier than carrot cake cupcakes.

    Also? (WARNING! RANDOM INFORMATION!) Wednesday Jan 23rd if National Pie day. So maybe a pumpkin, apple, or sweet potato pie would be more appropriate.

  15. I'm there for the next meeting of the SAS. The artichoke dip is one of my faves to bring - I add crab to it - so instead I'll bring the fondue pot and beer/cheddar fondue.

    I have a colleague who seems to be like Shawn - very devout in his own faith, open about it when asked, but not at all dogmatic or pushy about it. It shows in his attitude and his devotion to his family. I admire that.

    And on the original post - ROFLMAO. Sometimes irony is pretty ironic.

  16. So I have appetizers from Anne, dessert from Michelle, fondue from Jeri, and I'll make some of my to-die-for all-day mac-n-cheese.

    Anyone else? Jim, shall I put you down for Good Beer? Nathan? Any FABULOUS Jewish food you'd like to contribute?

  17. I'll bring some chocolate dipped strawberries and a bottle of cabernet.

  18. Hmmm, party food. I'll bring Spanish Tapas - and beer.

  19. There are some things you should accept that others do better than you ever will. I do not know how to corn a beef. But Katz Deli does. I'll pick up some. (I'm also gonna bring some chopped liver and force feed it to Shawn until he admits its one of the tastiest things he's ever had.)

    This Deli, by the way is where Meg Ryan fakes her orgasm in "When Harry Met Sally."

  20. Nathan - that's funny, I drove by Katz's today on my way back from Chinatown.

    And Jim - curse you. I've been working on 2 serious posts for my serious group blog, and now I have to go do something snarky about that 2nd law page on my personal blog. Because I might be a Christian (a Baptist even), but I'm also a Child of the Enlightenment. Literally.

    We scientists keep scientific geneologies (I got my Ph.D. under X who got his under Y, etc.) If you trace my line back far enough, you find I'm one of Lavoisier's progeny. Since Antoine was one of the most important formulators of the thinking that eventually became that law, I just can't let jackassery of that magnitude go.


  21. Ahh, I knew I'd get cursed sooner or later. Well, my work here is done :) Happy to help, John.

    Actually, I was wondering what you thought of that Creationist take on the 2nd Law.

  22. LOL!

    I just posted on my site regarding my need to lose weight, and I come here to find a party being thrown for me -- with FOOD.

    Thanks to everyone for the kind words. You guys make it fun to actually think about things. Quite refreshing.

  23. @u#k me, I just went into that website for the Primitive Baptist Church. There is a trip report for a missions trip to Russia.

    Curse you twice, Jim, now I have two posts to work on.

  24. John, I was too afraid to follow the "Primitve Baptist Church" link. I'm such a wimp.

    What exactly is a "primitive" church? None of that devil-worshipping electricity?

  25. Janiece - I'm a Baptist, so I'm steeled to some of the, shall we say, excesses of my denomination.

    Primitive in this case means getting back to the Ancient roots of the religion. But it does sound like they are flinging rocks and poo at each other during the services, doesn't it? My philosophical sympathies tend to run towards the primitive side of the Church (i.e. stripping away the pretence that makes so many Yankee Baptist Churches little more than social clubs that don't really believe in anyhting), but every time I interact with the people who populate said churches, for some reason, I'm reminded of my former-USMC grad-school labmate's favorite quotation" "I love mankind, it's the people I can't stand". I'm also reminded of the Duke's famous quote to Kathryn Hepburn about his politics: "Some of the people who agree with me are jerks".

    I'm going to cut and paste a section from a book that I left on MWT's comments a couple of months ago. It describes these primitives to a "T":

    I finally found my copy of “I Am One of You Forever”. It’s set in the rural South around 1942. This passage takes place in Mr. Campbell’s store. Mr. Campbell is suffers from a constant stream of condemnation from the Southern Baptists because he sells whisky in his store.

    They weren’t about to hang back. If it wasn’t a scrawny jackleg preacher leaning on nthe greasy chopblock to sermonalize the hapless pudgy man, then it was some long-jawed deacon. If it wasn’t a deacon then it was a fierce-talking sister of the church, her gray hair pinned back, gray light glinting on her rimless spectacles. Not even the children gave him peace. Their parents had taught them to say, after paying for their Kool-Aid or peppermints, “Thank you kindly, Mr. Bound-for-Hell.”

    He had a sense of irony and told my father that he’d come goddam near changing the name of his establishment to the Bound for Hell Grocery & Dry Goods and only backed off when he found out what it would cost to have his sign repainted.

    And then Johnson Gibbs lost that baseball game Mr. Campbell got up against the True Light Rainbow Baptist Church. “That was a trial” he said. “There wasn’t one car on the road didn’t stop here for somebody to run in and tell me how I backed the wrong team because I ain’t sitting on the righthand side of Jesus.”

    “I’d be more inclined to fault Johnson’s pitching” my father said.

    “Suppose I’d been sitting on the sunny side of the Lord and we won that game. Where would that put them?” Mr Campbell said.

    “Might have started a theological ruckus.”

    “They can’t stand much more ruckus,” he said “There where the road starts up Turkey Cove is your Rainbow Baptist Church, and it’s a nice white wood church. You go on up the cove a piece and there’s a little old concrete block house which is your New Rainbow Baptist Church. A big chunk of them busted away in an argument over predestination. Another two miles is the True Light Rainbow Baptist Church, which starts off with a few concrete blocks and finishes up tar paper siding.”

    “And if we’d won that baseball game?”

    “They’d of had them another fight. You’d go up on the mountain and find a pup tent by the road. The One True Light Rainbow Reformed Holiness Baptist Church of the Curveball Jesus.”

    “Too bad we didn’t win,” my father said. “I’d be curious to read the articles of faith of that one.”

  26. What exactly is a "primitive" church?

    I thought it meant they had an outhouse out back :)

  27. All right. Comments on the Second Law are up.


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