If this was just a year ago then I would barely have noticed. Mostly because my trusty old Nokia that I had then would have lasted long enough (I mean, the conference was only 2 friggin days long), but also because now, I rely on my phone for everything. Not just making phone calls (which I routinely forget it can do) but reading feeds, checking Twitter, facebook, but most importantly, checking my email.
Well, the upshot of this was that when I finally turned my phone on after being bereft of it for a sunny couple of days, I was presented with a glut of emails saying that people had been commenting on my blog.
In most circumstances, of course, I would be chuffed to bits, having an article that attracts interest; as would any blogger. However, when I actually read the notifications to say which article someone has commented on, I ignore, delete, and move on.
This is because, it has to be said that, over a year later, I have little interest in what is going on in that article now.
You see, every 3 or 4 months, this article reanimates from the dead, with an almighty moan. My policy in the early days was to whack at this zombie article, hard, with a metaphorical spade. Since then, however, I've instead taken a different tactic. Namely, ignore it; leave it alone to die again, on its own, through starvation.
Here's how it happened, then. The article in question was on the fallacy of missing links, and specifically why it irritates me when creationists bandy on about them all the time. I started writing it after a particular creationist started posting comments on one of my other posts, more as a reply to one of his comments. It grew from there.
At first, when it first started attracting comments, it was rather enjoyable. I was fairly new to blogging at the time, and so it was fun getting all of this interest. Something that I didn't expect was the positive feedback that I got, particularly from people that explained that they were formerly undecided about evolution but my article had tipped them over to accepting it. Such as this chap,
Thank you for writing your article about the 'missing links fallacy' . I am one of the aforementioned people who is on the line between creationism and evolution. I grew up in a household which was not religious, and as such I always believed in evolution, as it was based in science and seemed pretty reasonable. But, the last couple of years I've seen different documentaries, and read some articles, with convincing arguments advocating creationism.
OK, so, so far so good. After a bit, though, the whole thing started turning a bit sour for me. I think it's when the die hard creationist showed up; the one that I was originally addressing with the post in the first place. In the end, he ended up rather stealing the show, and rather monopolized what was originally a rather civilized discussion.
So, really, it's partly my fault. My policy since then has been to simply delete creationist comments, of which I've attracted a few since that article. But, at the time, it hardly felt fair to write an article specifically in reply to a creationist and addressing creationism, and them bar them from actually commenting.
For for whatever reason, though, the article has left one major legacy for me, and it is this:
Dealing with creationists is really, unbelievably mindnumbingly boring. It is simply tedious.
And that's why I haven't really been bothered with it since, nor can I imagine myself returning to it ever again. Except with this post of course.
Many people have sent me emails asking me to write more articles talking to creationists, so every time this article rears it's ugly head I think about writing an article like this to explain why I'm not interested. Then, though, like most of my articles of late it has to be said, I find myself being rather too busy and dropping it.
So anyway, here goes. This is why talking to creationists is boring, and why the whole thing hasn't interested me since:
1. They don't friggin' listen
Most of the time this is the most frustrating thing. It's very difficult to engage in what would be termed "conversation" with creationists. All they really want to do is simply chip in with their point, and then add other point if anybody seems to have listened. They are only really interested in seeing someone reply to their comment purely because it is a guarantee that somebody has actually read it. They'll then reply with something unrelated to what you originally said.
Most of the comments I delete these days seem to be from people cruising around and dropping some remark like this.
2. They can be spectacularly rude
Don't be fooled. No matter how civil they may start off appearing, sooner or later they will think that they have seen a chink in your armour and go in for the kill.
I'm a nice person, OK? I wouldn't speak to anyone the way some creationists can attack the authors. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't in real life either. Though this probably has more to do with the internet than creationism anyway.
3. They don't think for themselves
One of the things that I love about blogging (and something that I have most missed since I began neglecting it a couple of months ago) is people commenting with interesting ideas or thoughts. No matter how well you know a subject, somebody can comment with a completely new insight that you'd never even thought about before. This can be - and in fact is usually - from someone that has no expertise in the subject.
Whereas creationist comments - oh boy. The same, tired old arguments are hauled up again, and again. Each one has been tirelessly debunked over and over again, yet still, they are presented like we've never heard them before.
What do they expect? "What's that you're saying? It violates the second law of thermodynamics? Oh, no, dammit, you're right! I'd never even thought about that, but now that I do, I see that it undermines everything that has happened in biology for the past hundred years or so!"
Seriously, if there's one comment that grates more than anything else it's that. Mostly because they have no idea what it even means themselves. It just sounds clever. To them.
4. Most "conversations" are simply a desperate grab to be the last word
I felt tempted to just not give them the oxygen of publicity. The problem is that, leave it too long and they feel like they have scored a mini, rather petty victory. Usually, of course, their stamina is better than mine and I give in.
We go from this,
Thank you for your response in this forum. I apologize for taking so long to respond, however my last time posting I experienced some difficulty in getting my post to appear, and I made a note to come back later.
Please understand that all of my responses are intended to be respectful and honest.
This serves as a perfect example of the fact that evolutionists cannot ever win a debate.
Oliver has left the premises. After " telling a story " of why transitional fossils don't exist ( natural processess destroy only transitional fossils and don't affect any other types of fossils) and presenting claims which have subsequently been shown to be false, he disappears when confronted with the massive, numerous, and obvious problems with the evolutionary " storyline".
Please. The last word is not an indication of who is the victor, like Russel Crowe at the end of Gladiator. There is nothing big about keeping an argument going.
This is why I think that real life debates ultimately aren't very productive either. Like it or not, creationist debaters are well rehearsed and know very well not to get trapped into a logical discussion. Instead, they will be based on firmly ideological and populist notions; much more crowd pleasing strategies. There are few of us that can battle this well.
After all, evolution is complex. Many people will disagree with me on this one, but I think a lot of people underestimate creationism and creationists. They underestimate actually how difficult and almost intractable the problem is. It's very difficult to convert someone on logic alone.
5. You will never, ever, not ever, convert a died-in-the-wool creationist
You are not going to convert a creationist. It's just not going to happen.
Most creationists are so wrapped up in their own assertions that the mental re-wiring required to abandon the mindset is just impossible.
As they say, if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail, and most creationists will blithely hammer away at even the most incontravertible facts. Most creationists have probably always thought like that, and probably always will.
Yeugh. See? This is not enjoyable for me. I'm already feeling really worked up.
And here's the real problem. I get it. I get that there's vast swathes of the US population - not to mention a sizable number in the UK - that are consigned to scientific illiteracy by rejecting one of the most important tenets of science itself.
These people are lost to us. But, more importantly who knows what else they have lost out on. Because to me, the story of our creation through billions of years of organic evolution is so intoxicating, it makes me shudder to think that, some poor people are being misled into thinking it's not true.
Russell Garwood has just written a piece for Nature saying that we should take up the fight with creationists. He argues that it's important because we need to present a united front and not allow them any ammunition. Of course, I agree with this, and so, particularly because I blog here at Science 2.0, much more of an outreach base; I feel a tad guilty.
As if that wasn't enough, though, do you want to know the real reason why I feel a bit guilty for not writing more things to address creationists?
Because of the simple fact that I know for each shouty, annoying creationist that hogs comment threads, there are many, many more people - a silent majority in fact - that are reading, and not commenting.
Of these people, I'll bet that there are a sizable number that are undecided about evolution. They simply don't know what to make of things. [This next bit originally appeared unquoted; apologies for any confusion]
And the point of this post is to tell you to keep writing articles like this, because even though I do believe in a higher power out there, I have an open mind, as I'm sure at least some of your more spiritual readers do. You've put me on the side of evolution, where before I was 'teetering' between. Of course I still have a lot more research that I want to do, because I want to understand evolution thoroughly.
And it's these people that really we should be reaching out to connect with. These are the people sitting on the sidelines while we battle it on out, intrigued to see who the victor is. The more we appear like we just don't give a toss about creationists, the more they'll feel like the just don't give a toss about us.
So there you have it. I know I should write articles to creationists. I know it's good for me, it's good for science, it's good for the public - jeez, it's good for the whole blimming world. It's just that it's not enjoyable. I don't have that much time to blog, as evidenced from my recent posting history, and when I do sit down to write something, it's not something I really want to deal with the aftermath of. I don't even really enjoy pointing out bad science papers. Not because there are people that do it much better than me, which there are, but because, in general, it's not fun saying to a whole group of people that they're wrong. Even if they are. In a big way.
All in all, though, I guess it's a bit like teeth pulled out. It's going to hurt in the short run. But it'll save a lot of hurt in the long run.