It appears that my post on Creationist trolls was quite prophetic. Not only was my derision of journalistic missing-linkism validated days later by the over-hyped reporting of the Darwinius masillae specimen (fantastic and informative as it may be), but I was also immediately harangued by a Creationist who went on to fulfil all of my expectations. Thanks TFYOW.
Issues arising from the subsequent ‘discussion’ might be worth exploring here, if only as a reminder to myself of the Creationist rules of engagement (most are also applicable to proponents of Intelligent Design, which is effectively Creationism lite):
1. Misunderstanding. If it can be misunderstood it will be. Do not expect careful wording and logical structure to get the message across clearly, it will be misunderstood regardless of attempts at clarity.
2. Being offended. Something you say will no doubt be insulting or offensive, even if it’s true and is in no way intended to cause offence. This will often be due to a misunderstanding (see point 1).
3. Belief equals truth (AKA – why let a good story be spoiled by facts). Creationist truth is not influenced by facts or logical consistency, it is determined by belief, the Bible and what they are told by religious figures. If they don’t want something to be true, then it simply isn’t, no matter what the facts show. If you have a strong argument they may agree to disagree but if you push too hard you might be told a thing or two about why they believe and how you must therefore be wrong (see point 4).
4. Creationists believe that non-believers are wrong (see point 3). If you have the nerve to disagree you must be deluded and/or arrogant, depending on how convincingly you put your case. You will probably be either blessed, reminded of your firey fate in hell or both. The issue of how we are all sinners may be raised and Jesus will invariably be invoked as the only possible redeemer and Pascal’s Wager will be alluded to, so be prepared.
5. The Bible is considered literal truth despite making no logical sense (quick example, compare the first and second chapters of Genesis – did you spot the difference?). Inconsistency and ambivalence in the ‘good’ book allow almost any case to be argued any way. This can be put to good use, particularly with the help of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible.
6. If posting on a Creationist’s site you will probably be deleted if you make too persuasive a point, link to “dubious” websites (like Snopes.com) or do anything to encourage critical self assessment. I suggest copying any comments before they get moderated and posting them on this page in the comments section with a link to where they were originally intended to go (plus the number of the post you were disagreeing with). I’d love to see just what merits censorship and what gets through.
7. Don’t overestimate Creationists. They will pick the most banal minutae in your discussions (terminology, typos, style, phraseology) for criticism and ignore the wider context and implications. On occasion they will also draw attention from hard-to-answer questions using basic diversionary tactics – commonly by simply changing the subject (an anecdotal aside about how they found their Faith is a favourite).
8. Don’t underestimate Creationists. They are capable of being sneaky, tenacious and manipulative. They like nothing better than getting hold of the wrong end of the stick, which they can proceed to wave about in a reckless manner (possibly whilst salivating – rather like an over-enthusiastic puppy). Damned annoying and very distracting, but not very damaging – unless they are in a position to influence the wider world, in which case beware.
9. Creationists will not be satisfied until the world conforms to their opinion. Personal faith is not enough – they are obliged to push their agenda until everyone is ‘saved’. This cannot happen whilst there are other faiths nor while there are people still capable of critical thought.
10. As a final thought, remember points 3 and 4 – you can provide a perfect argument, with devastating logical and factual consistency, but it will be utterly wasted on someone with Faith. They pride themselves on having a mind closed to anything that does not correspond to Christian dogma or their accessory beliefs, indeed they seem to take Faith to be a virtue above all others (despite the Bible’s instruction that charity/love is the greatest virtue). If you do choose to argue it will achieve little more than wasting time that could be far better spent.
This blog will be updated – my broadband is down and writing more than a few lines on a G1 phone is not easy whilst editing is beyond my patience (apologies for places where I have missed links to examples – they will be added). If you have other points to add or examples I can include I’d be keen to have them, so please add them to the comments section below.