I encountered my first true crazy this past weekend. I had heard about these creationists on the internet and in books and I knew a fair amount of their arguments. I knew they were insane, but I did not fully comprehend the crazy until now.
Just a couple weekends after the Morris Freethinkers (of which I am President) and some local church groups (Methodists, United Church of Christ, liberal Lutherans, and Catholics) hosted a Darwin Day event, the conservative churches invited an Answers in Genesis speaker, Dr. Terry Mortenson, to talk to the citizens of small town Morris, MN.
Dr. Terry Mortenson has an actual Ph.D. in the history of geology. This man is certainly intelligent but he has been preaching Young Earth Creationism since the 1970s and after a certain point, you can no longer assume ignorance or stupidity – you must assume maliciousness.
This man lied through his teeth to an unsuspecting audience the entire weekend. I am not aware of the content of his Monday morning lectures, but he spent all day lying to K-6 schoolchildren and later, high schoolers. High schoolers who attend a school that has a creationist for a biology teacher, mind you. These students will never learn what evolution actually says; instead, they will learn perverse misrepresentations.
Honestly, the dinosaur stuff was pretty funny. It is just so stupid that you must laugh at what this crackpot is claiming. Birds did not evolve from dinosaurs because feathers and scales look nothing alike; the ground-to-air theory of flight evolution would require millions of years of running dinosaurs until their scales frayed enough to become feathers; Tyrannosaurus Rex was an herbivore before Adam ate the forbidden fruit. These are all clearly ludicrous and yes, people will accept these claims hook, line, and sinker but… Life goes on, I suppose. You can only sigh with sad, sad laughter. It is just too absurd.
What pisses me off though is the blatant misrepresentations of evolution and scientists. It is one thing to say that evolution is false because there was not enough time for evolution to have taken place in 6,000 years. It’s stupid, yes, but it is also relatively benign. This all changes, however, when he starts calling “evolutionists” racists because Anglo-Saxons are more evolved than all the other races. Scientists flat-out lie while promoting fraudulent fossils from a fraudulent fossil factory in China. We support Hitler. We think Aborigines are subhuman. We steal our morals from Christians. We destroy society because we reduce men to primates.
Terry Mortenson is slandering every single working scientist when he makes these absurd claims and he contributes to the anti-intellectualism that is strangling our country. You can’t trust scientists! Therefore, evolution and global warming are hoaxes. These actions are downright evil in my eyes.
Not only that, but he insinuates that any Christian who disagrees with him is not a True Christian; they are misguided. Even though I am an atheist, I found this incredibly offensive. All I can hope for is that this kind of language pushes moderate Christians toward the pro-evolution side. I hope the Christians attending saw through this ignorant rhetoric… but I doubt it.
The ultimate crazy happened in between tonight’s two talks. Some local women approached PZ and challenged him to Pascal’s Wager and the beginnings of the universe. Run of the mill stuff. As the second talk was about to begin, one of the women told us that, “Whatever you may say, we will still be happy! Even if you kill us, we will die happy!”
WHAT THE FUCK!? Seriously?!
These women honestly thought PZ said that we atheists should kill Christians! They honestly believed this and that fact is mind-blowing. My mouth was agape for several minutes as I digested my first personal encounter with the crazy. These people actually exist! They actually exist! What the hell?!
PZ isn’t lying when he talks about Morris. There is a great university in the middle of it, full of amazing and educated adults, but we are surrounded by a lot of ignorance and foolishness that will pack into a concert hall to soak in lies.
This is not to say that all of Morris is like that though. As I said, we hosted an event with the more liberally-minded churches in Morris and we hope to bring the evolution discussion to their congregations to establish these much needed connections between university and community. There is a whole darker side to the town, however, and it truly frightens me. I am scared for the children who grow up uneducated and misinformed. These children will never fully appreciate dinosaurs as I and so many other children appreciated them. They will believe that dogs, finches, and moths never evolved. They will think that the very idea, the fact, that we are composed of stardust, one of the greatest ideas ever articulated by the human species, is a stupid joke perpetrated by lying scientists.
My first true encounter with Creationism was horrifying, angering, but a bit unsurprising. I knew this was all coming and what I have said here is nothing new. But I still can’t help from being flabbergasted from the sheer ignorance and malice that spewed from the mouth of Terry Mortenson. Mortenson is an incredibly evil man: the fact that he could constantly lie and twist half-truths for seven full talks while denying any possibilities of a Q&A after every single one of them, and subsequently have his audience lap up every single word he said, is a true and absolute horror.
Before this weekend, I had tired of the creationist and intelligent design debates. There was nothing new to learn and no one seems to convert either way. But nearly 50% of Americans deny evolution and only 28% of high school biology teachers properly teach evolution to their students; the battle is far from over. This weekend convinced me that there truly is a problem with our country as people uncritically accept what their preachers order them to think. We must fight this; we must retaliate whenever we have the chance; we must educate.