Friday, August 03, 2012

Advice to New Creationist Students

We're getting close to the beginning of the semester in the northern hemisphere. That means a lot of high school students will be experiencing university for the first time.

In many cases, students will have graduated from high school with only a rudimentary knowledge of some important topics. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as they realize that they still have lots to learn. It becomes a bad thing when they think they know the subject but what they know is wrong.

Universities are places that challenge your beliefs and force you to think. New students should embrace this challenge and look forward to giving up misconceptions and ideas that can't stand up to critical analysis. The last thing you want to do as a new student is to begin university with the idea that your high school ideas are always right.

Which brings us to creationism. A large number of students enter university with little or no knowledge of evolution but they are convinced that it's wrong. They will soon encounter teachers who try to convince them that evolution is true. How should students react to this challenge?

David Klinghoffer1 proposes one solution on the Intelligent Design Creationist blog Evolution News & Views. Here's his advice [A Piece of Unsolicited Advice to Students].
The practical question is nearly self-answering. You should be very, very circumspect about even hinting at your views to people who will end up giving you grades. But beyond that fairly obvious and uninteresting advice, I wanted to add that you should, in your own mind, strive to give respect to your Darwinist teachers no matter how firmly convinced you are that they are wrong.

If I were a professor and had a student who walked into my class intending to inform me that my fundamental views on the subject of my professional training were in error, I can well imagine thinking the kid deserved a good smack. Unfair? Yes, but true. Overturning scientific theories is not the job of an undergraduate student. A student's job is to learn what his teacher has to teach him, so that perhaps later when the student is intellectually ripened, he can lead or participate in a revolution. It's not at all that you need a PhD to hold a dissenting view, but age, thought and experience count for a lot.

At an emotional and personal level, I can sympathize with the Darwinist prof who resents his openly Darwin-doubting student. What arrogance, it must seem, to imagine that what I spent decades mastering, you a little pipsqueak think you're ready to discard half-way into the semester. Imagine yourself in your teacher's place. To him, this is about you, in your ignorance and arrogance or at best innocence, sitting in judgment of the system to which he's devoted his professional life.
In other words, hide your views because your professor might punish you. Recognize that your professor thinks he/she knows more than you do but be confident that they're wrong. Realize that when you encounter professors in class they probably don't understand their subject even though they've devoted their lives to studying it. They might be a bit angry if you exposed them so keep you mouth shut.

Above all, resist the temptation to learn and to question your beliefs. You already know the right answer. University is not the a place for learning.

Here's my advice. It you don't want to learn then don't go to university. If your belief in creationism is really strong then don't ever take a biology class—it might turn you into an atheist and your parents will be very upset. If you need the grade, then take the class, but be prepared to fail. It takes courage to openly stand up for what you believe, especially if there might be consequences. But it's the Christian thing to do.

Most professors love it when students challenge their ideas in class. We prefer those kind of students even if they are wrong. You will never fail a course because of your ideas and beliefs as long as they don't conflict directly with scientific facts. If you believe that the Earth is 6000 years old then you will not pass a geology course or a biology, unless you lie. If you dispute the existence of junk DNA then you could get an excellent grade as long as you get your facts correct.


1. I don't think Klinghoffer has ever been to university. None of the creationist websites mention any university degrees.

42 comments :

  1. When I went to college I never encountered a professor who didn't want to be challenged, but if the challenge was not well-supported the student needed to be prepared for a public skewering. So, it amuses me when I hear cultural conservatives whine about the brainwashing liberal professors at university.

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  2. Again with the "self-answering question" bit. Strangeness.

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    1. I have to apologize, BB. I admit I find it a bit perplexing too. What exactly does he mean by this odd twist of a phrase?

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  3. "...don't ever take a biology class—it might turn you into an atheist..."

    Why would a biology class turn someone into an atheist? How can biology affect religion?

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    1. This is because Larry has spent so much time reading creationist drivel that he thinks evolution is a serious challenge to theism (rather than just to creationism).

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    2. Why would a biology class turn someone into an atheist? How can biology affect religion?

      If this is a serious question, the answer is easy: How do you think we got here? Biochemistry and genetics, or The Big Guy In The Sky blowing on a handful of dust? Biology leaves The Big Guy unemployed, or as some old French guy once said, "I have no need of that hypothesis."

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    3. "...don't ever take a biology class—it might turn you into an atheist..."

      I apologize to the irony deficient. I meant that sarcastically.

      However, fundamentalist Christians really are afraid of science. They know that science directly refutes many of their core beliefs and if they expose their children to the truth, who know what might happen. It's well known that some fundamentalist Christian children abandon their faith entirely once they learn that their parents and pastors have been lying to them.

      David Klinghoffer has a point. Universities are dangerous places for creationists.

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  4. I would make every creationist student write out on the blackboard a hundred time over: "EVOLUTION IS THE CORNERSTONE OF BIOLOGY"

    Then I would make them write the following:

    "ALL THE OTHER BLOCKS HAVE NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH EVOLUTION."

    Btw, professors do not like you to challenge their views in class. They regard that as irritating given the time constraints for lectures.

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    1. Bullshit. I like being challenged in class. I tell students that we can do a lot in class. After all, they have to cover the material by themselves before any lecture. If they don't come prepared for class, then that's too bad for them. But class is for both questions and further observation/discussion. Regurgitating the textbook is the real lecture waste of time.

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  5. 1. I don't think Klinghoffer has ever been to university. None of the creationist websites mention any university degrees.

    Actually, Klinghoffer is a graduate of Brown, Un., much to the chagrin of John Kw*k and Ken Miller. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a creationist, is also a graduate of that school with a major in biology>

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    1. Thanks. I suspected that he had been to university but I couldn't find any mention of it on the internet. I guess IDiots don't list their degrees unless they have at least two Ph.D.s

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  6. Klingers graduated from Brown University in 1987 where, in his own words:

    "I was shunned. I was a pariah. And I thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute of it."

    Appears to have become his profession. I don't know what his major was but I'd hazard a guess at "liberal arts" as he has held jobs as a political editor and is now a professional propagandist for a creationist "think" tank.

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  7. Sadly, in the media and apparently on his blog, "creationism" has come to mean young-earth creationism. Like the bishops in the days of Galileo, young-earth creationists have brought the Bible and Christianity into scientific disrepute again. No wonder there is a "crisis in creationism" as young students who have swallowed the idea of the earth being only 6,000 years old find themselves unable to defend Genesis against the infantile but seductive teachings of Charles Darwin.

    For a start, I would direct them to "Evolution -- a case of stating the obvious" by committed British evolutionist Derek Hough. A believer of missionary zeal for many years, Hough suddenly realized on a train ride to work one day that Darwin's explanation of complexity was "preposterous" and infantile. Still and evolutionist, however, because he cannot accept God or magic, Hough is still diligently searching for the real but elusive mechanism.

    Alternatively, to the "gap theory" and my little book "Evolution: R.I.P."

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    1. Mr. Thomas joins a long list individuals who have proclaimed evolution is dead. Here we are 153 years after the publication of, On the Origin of Species, and evolution is very much alive and kicking. And, I would be willing to wager, will be around long after Mr. Thomas has shuffled off this mortal coil.

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    2. For a long, long list of quotes going back to 1825 in which creationists declare that evolution is dead, see Glenn Morton's list:

      “The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism.” 2002. http://home.entouch.net/dmd/moreandmore.htm

      That was just 2002, I've been keeping my own list and it's very long.

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    3. Like the bishops in the days of Galileo, young-earth creationists have brought the Bible and Christianity into scientific disrepute again.
      .
      Was the Bible ever in scientific repute? Ignoring the flat Earth references and the bogus astronomy, how about Gen 30, which says that you can breed animals with stripes by putting sticks near their watering trough? How about Leviticus 11, which is a font of biological wisdom: rabbits chew their cud, insects have 4 legs, bats are a type of fowl.

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    4. What Mr. Thomas meant is that Darwinism is preposterous and infantile, not that evolution is dead. But many wrongly equate evolution with Darwinism.

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    5. Yes, but the idea that when we die we float away to a magic place of light (because death isn't really real) where we see all our relatives and live forever and ever in the happy place singing praises to God - no, that is not infantile at all.

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    6. Pepe: What Mr. Thomas meant is that Darwinism is preposterous and infantile, not that evolution is dead.

      Hence the title of his book: "Evolution R.I.P."? Could be ironic, I suppose.

      Darwin's explanation of many things was probably a reflection of the info available to him. Preposterous and infantile? For not anticipating every discovery of the following 150 years, we the Wise-After-The-Fact award Mr Darwin an F. And that moron Newton and his alchemy. Losers!

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    7. It was not me who said that Darwin's ideas were preposterous, it was Hough. He just cannot accept that every fine detail of the morphology of every organism on earth was shaped by natural selection giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to DNA copying errors when they reproduced.

      I suppose he is going back to Lamarck's ideas that organisms mutate in a constructive manner to environment pressures -- an approach that solves the problem of all those missing transitional forms. He suggests that organisms contain what he calls a "self-developing genome" that makes this possible. Just like Newton's laws removed the problem of those heavenly spheres that supposedly kept moon and planets moving.

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    8. Anonymous wrote "For not anticipating every discovery of the following 150 years"

      I have 2.5 questions:

      1) What do you think would be Darwin's (and/or Wallace's) response to the discovery of DNA, the universal code of life on planet earth?

      2) Why do you call Newton a moron? (Tongue in cheek)

      2.5) Why don't you get your own moniker?

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    9. 1) What do you think would be Darwin's (and/or Wallace's) response to the discovery of DNA, the universal code of life on planet earth?

      How should I know? But the discovery did not invalidate NS or common descent, merely (along with the mathematical theory) demonstrating the medium of descent and modification. I suspect Darwin would have been delighted that blending inheritance was not an issue.

      2) Why do you call Newton a moron? (Tongue in cheek)

      A little conceit following on from mock-chastisement of Darwin for the age-reflecting naivete of some of his ideas.

      2.5) Why don't you get your own moniker?

      It was a slip of the (anony)mouse.

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    10. albus dumbledore

      Ah! A real person, finally! With real opinions… Cool!

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    11. Shit Thomas, you deserve nothing but mockery man. What a load of bullshit you have in your web page. I am so sorry I saw that. Instead of gap theory you should call it crap theory. That's all you deserve. Nope, you deserve truly bad, your levels of ignorance, of quackery, of self-inflicted and proud display of stupidity ... I just can't ... it is such a demented mixture of ignorance, deception (self and otherwise), snake-oil, bullshit. Man I am so lost for words that I rather ask you to go fuck yourself.

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    12. John Thomas reveals his ignorance by saying,

      Sadly, in the media and apparently on his blog, "creationism" has come to mean young-earth creationism.

      The "Intelligent Design" Version of Creationism

      What Is Creationism?

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    13. Speaking of "revealing ignorance" -- the article "What is Creationism?" that you cite makes the following erroneous statement: "Old Earth Creationists are creationists who accept some parts of science and reject a literal interpretation of Genesis."

      As an old-earth or "gap theory" creationist, I personally, along with Rev William Buckalnd, Oxford's very first professor of geology, accept the facts of science and a literal reading of Genesis.

      Sadly, like evolutionists, creationists are also divided in their views.

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    14. I am not surprised, John, that you would be stupid enough to say that. After all imbecilic, misinformed, and contradictory "ideas" populate your mind at astounding levels. It is logically impossible to accept the facts of science and still accept a literal reading of genesis. I suspect that you have a rather liberal definition of either "facts of science," of "literal reading of genesis," or both.

      (Larry still answered your mistaken claim that here "creationist" meant OEC.)

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    15. As I see it, Darwin's key error was the assumption that the variation exhibited by organisms to create new breeds could be extrapolated ad infinitum. I believe that although there is variation, organisms reproduce "after their kind" as Genesis says. The fossilized organisms that he regarded as ancestors of today's organisms, I regard as the extinct flora and fauna of a destroyed prehistoric age.

      As with politics, left and right interpret the same "facts" and reach opposite conclusions. Why don't we agree to disagree?

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  8. "If you dispute the existence of junk DNA then you could get an excellent grade as long as you get your facts correct."
    There is no such thing as junk DNA. It's a misnomer. Most of our DNA is from regulatory function rather than from protein coding function. Only 1.5% of our DNA codes for proteins. Just because the rest doesn't does not mean it is junk.

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    1. You have started quite wrong with your facts already. Scientists don't think that non-coding DNA is junk (you equated them, and scientists don't do that). Scientists know about regulatory sequences. Even accounting for such, there is such a lot of, at least apparent, wasteland, that this indicates quite strongly that there is both, selfish (undeniably there), and junk DNA.

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    2. There is no such thing as junk DNA.

      Thanks for letting us know.

      Are you an IDiot or just an idiot?

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  9. quite revealing that a creationist, Mr. Klinghoffer, would want to hit someone who dared to disagree with him.

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  10. Larry said, “Universities are places that challenge your beliefs and force you to think.” - Larry, I often perceive that evolution is not a theoretical model for explaining ‘natural’ things by making predictions, as in the scientific method (Question, Hypothesis, Prediction, Test, Analysis)? I see abstracts that question how well evolution explains a discovery, or that evolution is not a good explanation, but I do not see many abstracts whose evolutionary predictions are clear and validated as correct. I typically see evolutionary conclusions based simply on the findings, which are not necessarily tied to any prediction. The Reasons To Believe Creation model does make predictions, and it makes them in comparison to Darwinian evolution theory, theistic evolution theory, and young-earth Creation theory, so that readers can discern which model/theory-predictions most closely match the data, and fulfill predictions. In the interest of objectivity, and helping Creationist and Non-Creationist students “think”, would you share the RTB web site with those new students?

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    1. Sorry Denny, but the reason for your misperception is that you think that evolution is still a theory under test. No serious scientist thinks of evolution as something that has to be proven anymore. Thus, you will often see tests about how fast, or what mechanisms, and how much each mechanism contributes to evolution. Predictions from evolution are no longer in the realm of being a main subject for an article, but will be buried within articles solving other kinds of problems. When predictions are the main subject of an article it is, again, predictions testing one mode against another. For example, whether something is explained by common descent compared to it being explained by convergent evolution. Or tests about whether something comes from neutral evolution or else from positive selection. All of this because evolution is a pretty well established theory.

      You should be warned that holding to a middle school definition of science, or worse, an encyclopaedia definition, is insufficient to judge science. To actually understand science you have to study it a lot more than that.

      As for RTB, well, they try hard to discredit evolutionary theory on the basis of such limited definitions of science, and on the basis of calling everything they do not like in science "evolution," even when it is geology or some other field of science that they are talking about. RTB, like ICR, is a propaganda machine. Much better done that ICR, but still creationist propaganda. I often use this web site to train students to learn how science should not be done. Example, not by starting with descriptions of evil evolutionists holding to something because they hate "God," then misrepresenting what evolutionary science actually is, and not by basing their research on quotes and abstracts, but rather on the data. I have found that after checking that kind of crap, where rhetorics and bad methods are so clear and easy to spot, the students develop quite a good sense for detecting crap, and they are ready to also check actual published articles, scientific ones, and detect whether there are problems in such published literature too.

      I hope that answers your question. I am not Larry, but I do present my students with such crap as RTB.

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    2. As usual, Mr. Denny displays his total and complete ignorance of evolution. Evolution doesn't make predictions? How about this portion of a lecture by biologist Ken Miller. Sounds like a prediction to me.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

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  11. I wish the Anonymouses of this blog would get a real moniker! That would make it A LOT EASIER to have a good discussion.

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  12. I was looking at the slide show. I do hope Laurence A. Moran does not believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

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  13. Larry: try rereading your two paragraphs immediately following the Klinghoffer quote through the eyes of a quote miner - quoting this sort of thing out of context is the sort of thing your opponents tend to stoop to. I suggest using scare quotes or some other way of flagging that this is _not_ your advice.

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  14. Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

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  15. While not a fan of Klinghoffer I didn’t find this post of his too unreasonable. It seems to me very little of it had to do with the veracity of evolution/ID and most of it was practical advice. Larry is right; professors like to be challenged- but in lit and philosophy classes mostly. Its one thing to challenge a profs interpretation of some element of Crime and Punishment and another entirely to challenge your freshman Bio or Physics prof on some unassailable fact of the universe.... so in that sense Klinghoffer was reasonable.
    I teach biology labs at a state university branch campus. We get our share of nuisance students and a fair number of open creationists and I strongly doubt any of our faculty has ever graded them unfairly as a result. If Klinghoffers advice was overly cautious I think its because he, O'Leary and Luskin have over the years worked themselves up into believing an alternate-universe scenario where evil, lying atheist professors indoctrinate university students like Marine Drill instructors
    RodW

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    1. I think its because he, O'Leary and Luskin have over the years worked themselves up into believing an alternate-universe scenario where evil, lying atheist professors indoctrinate university students like Marine Drill instructors.

      You're probably right. In another part of their alternative universe, the churches and synagogues are places where free and open debate is the norm and anyone can challenge the leaders without fear of punishment.

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