The Lies of AiG

A post was merged into an existing topic: To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize? ID Theory vs. BioLogos

Yes, I agree that an updated version for Abrahamic monotheists would be welcome. This isn’t only for or about Christians as well, since Jews, Muslims and Baha’is all believe in the Garden of Eden origin story for humankind.

I’ve been gathering a similar but different list, and would be willing to work with others to bring a new collaborative list together. In fact, this is indeed a plan that I’ve had also for the past couple of years, since there is so much contention around primary and secondary sources in science, philosophy, theology discourse. Contact me by DM if interested.

Isn’t this what Swamidass was recently planning to do with a wiki page for Peaceful Science? He floated that idea last month, but it didn’t get much traction. Of course, it would still be a “secular list”, since Swamidass insists that “secular” means “neutral” and “fair”. I would not “trust” a Swamidass-generated list anymore than being always careful with Talk Origins.

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I think it might be best to try to approach Talk Origins with the idea of building a section within the site specific tailored to address the kinds of questions that YEC have regardless of their faith tradition. This would give them a sense that there are people associated with the site who understand and respect them and want to help them with their questions. Once they have been reassured, they might be more disposed to venture more broadly throughout the site, ever able to retreat back to the theist section if they get too anxious.

I disagree strongly that Talk Origins is the right place to build further. That’s the old, but best not the new. The expression of “especially one written by Christians” would make it considerably different than Wesley Elsberry’s project.

I’ve seem to be the opposite where I find myself less and less wandering into there! Probably 10-11 years ago I was a frequent reader of exclusively YEC material. I basically filtered everything through that lens, basically afraid to learn anything outside of its constructs. When learning about a new topic, I would carefully come back and see ‘what does AiG or CMI or ICR’ have to say about this. And then through that filter, I successfully had my viewpoint never challenged.

The thing that broke the camel’s back for me… was when I actually went to research a topic on my own (in my case it was cosmology). I slowly began realizing that scientists actually do know what they’re talking about and models like the big bang model are on really solid ground.

Then, I became disillusioned and shocked at my previous arrogance. I was disillusioned that the articles never actually taught me why or how it is that scientists came to various conclusions… and when they reported or articles they often just cherry picked a phrase to cast doubt, but they would leave off the explanation oftentimes literally right after the statement in an academic paper. And then I was really humbled at the arrogance that came from me reading this material exclusively. I had superpowers… where I was able to read any scientific paper and know better on any topic than the actual authors. This is pretty shocking to think about in retrospect as I’ve written many scientific papers and a random person couldn’t just read my paper and have the slightest clue about correcting my conclusions. That would be a joke and even then, they would have to set up many experiments to prove me wrong and publish their own paper.

So today, I don’t really care what they have to say about much of anything beyond just loosely keeping tabs on the most recent ideas to share in some of my classes. It’s better for my blood pressure levels anyways.

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Agreed. And you will find on this forum many instances where people have taken claims made by AiG in articles or its museum or creationist films and dissected them and pointed out the errors. For example: Misrepresentation of Grand Canyon rock formations - #2 by jammycakes

No one is claiming that everything they say should be taken at face value with a smile and nod. It’s just that we don’t know why every individual does what he or she does. People are very different and very complicated and when you have the kind of indoctrination that goes on in these circles (some of which involves spiritual abuse and resulting trauma) you just never know what motivates people. We can empathize with people we strongly disagree with. You can have full and informative conversations about the lies of AiG without getting into the “why” part.

It is destructive. But can you name a single example of a time your approach actually worked and an influential YEC was shamed and bullied into good science and theology? Look at where the country is right now! Forget YEC, look at the complete unwillingness to accept basic facts about vaccines, viruses, masks, and climate change. If you think yelling at people and demanding an evidence-based argument gets anyone to change their mind about conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, you must never venture on to social media or have a single friend, family, or acquaintance in those demographics.

True, and the audience is people in the pews, the consumers not the producers. I’m all for vociferously publicly denouncing dishonesty of elected officials and others who have influential public platforms and are spreading lies. That is a democratic obligation. But those people don’t hang out here.

Actually research does not bear this out. Acceptance for evolution and climate science in the US has increased over the last decade, including in the church. And some of it depends on semantics: Exploring Different Ways of Asking About Evolution | Pew Research Center

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You would need to ask yourself if you are seeking justice or seeking change. If you are going to change peoples’ minds then you need to consider grace, empathy, and compassion. If all you seek is the satisfaction of telling people they are wrong, then you can use a program of calling people out or “holding them accountable”. There is also the line between law and personal liberties. Are we really going to go around and arrest people because of their beliefs?

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Hi Gregory, thanks for introducing me to Wesley Elseberry and his site counterbalance. That looks like an excellent resource. We just need to find a way to lure YECs there. Perhaps this site could leave the figurative trail of breadcrumbs…?

I’ve been arguing with creationists off and on for several decades now, and I’ve often been infuriated by some of the illogic and falsehoods. But I can’t think of a time that I’ve ended up regretting it when I was able to control my temper and respond without anger.

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If only it was as simple as those who fooled you with YEC had known better but just had it in for you. But of course the most effective promoters were themselves also fooled into these irrational views. It is an organization of victims, top to bottom. No one is directly responsible for holding beliefs they were carefully brought up in. So rather than looking for someone to punish, it is better to look for those who can be helped.

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Agreed. It can be so easy to want to have a specific target when you feel anger, betrayal, or other emotions that can come with a worldview shift. Sometimes a person can also feel shame about what they used to be like, and project that onto others who still hold the same views. It’s good to find healthy ways to process these kinds of things without taking them out on others, and I appreciate how this forum and other groups can help with that.

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I’ve certainly seen that on atheist forums. So much anger and the compulsion to go off on someone who reminds you of the feeling of betrayal never diminished. It isn’t a good quality of life. There are good self serving reasons to forgive others.

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Hi Christy, once again, thanks for your feedback.

I hope it is understood that I am now just speaking in context of the issue of this forum post? I am not making a case for changing the mode of dialog when dealing with YECs who visit BioLogos. I am just exploring the ways in which we might engage with these people in a broader sense, and I am proposing a framework for responding to these people’s claims, that puts the onus on them to raise the level of their conversation such that it can be considered fair, justified, rational and reasonable, and thus worthy of the consideration of informed people.

Let us separate out the producers from the consumers as you put it.

Firstly the producers, those who create and maintain the AiG site. Of the five people listed on the site, three of them have a background in science. These are Ken Ham, Dr Danny R Faulkner and Andrew Snelling.

Ken Ham has a degree in applied science with an emphasis on environmental biology. AiG is chock-full of false claims and the ridicule of scientific studies, which anyone with even a passing knowledge of how science works would know are false. His famously obtuse line ‘were you there?’ is an attitude to scientific evidence that belies what he has to know given he has studied science himself. You simply cannot be unaware of this level of cherry-picking and distortion of information on this scale. To quote mine, you have to actually read the papers and gloss over the detail to find something you can twist to your purposes. This obfuscation and misrepresentation cannot be merely the bi-product of personal belief. Calling this cherry picking doesn’t really convey the level of deception, because it is conscious hiding of the key information in the paper that shows that the quote, if seen in context, would say the opposite, that supports the lie. This is deceit, plain and simple.

Andrew Snelling, another Australian (sorry!) has a PhD in geology is AiGs director of research.
Snelling works professionally as a geologist for mining companies and produces peer-review papers talking about the earth being billions of years old. He uses correct scientific knowledge to advise companies where to prospect for oil, gas and minerals and so he knows for a fact that the scientific explanation of strata, rock formation, mineral deposit rates, and radiometric dating techniques, produce accurate predictions that cannot be derived from a literal interpretation of the bible, yet he is publicly saying that the bible and Noah’s flood explain it. This is clearly a case of lying. And, even if you were to say that his sincerely held beliefs mean that he isn’t lying when he says the earth is young, I would say that this is excusing ignorance for ignorance sake, and at any rate he is at least lying in his published work (in his own mind).

Dr. Danny R. Faulkner has a BS (math), MS (physics), MA and PhD (astronomy, Indiana University). He is full professor at the University of South Carolina–Lancaster, where he teaches physics and astronomy. He has published about two dozen papers in various astronomy and astrophysics journals. This man will be fully aware of the comprehensive evidence for a 13.7 billion year old universe and and yet publicly professes 6,000 years on the AiG site.

These luminaries are knowingly hiding information from their readers, publicly professing two entirely different claims in different forums. They are knowingly misrepresenting science, cherry picking, and quote mining to try to paint a different picture than they know is presented by the papers they refer to. This is a deliberate deception which they absolutely do know about. So in my view, allegations of coordinated, large-scale deception are well-founded.

So my charge that these people set out to deceive on a large scale is unimpeachable.

I will talk about the second group further down. First I want to respond to this from you Christy…

Christy, with respect, I don’t think you have fairly represented what I said. My approach is not about confronting people and bullying them. It is not about yelling at them. I didn’t suggest anything like that at all. In fact, my personal approach with people has always been a form of street epistemology where I gently but firmly re-route the conversation onto the need for veracity, fairness and fact checking, and about what constitutes valid and sound arguments and evidence. My push-back only comes if and when people refuse to engage in that discussion - usually when they don’t like where it is heading in that it shows their position to be weak - and start getting forceful, dogmatic and arrogant. This is not a common occurrence, but if this happens, my response is to say that I am more than happy to continue a conversation with them once they have done the research, properly informed themselves of the science, and can show that they have a proper understanding of what science is saying. I say that until then, I simply cannot take anything they say as anything more than uniformed opinion which I am not obliged to take seriously.
I often use the example of them going to a doctor for medical advise only to find that this was not a real doctor but someone who downloaded their degree from a bogus online ‘institution’ and got their source information from ‘Answers in Homeopathy’. Would they accept treatment from that doctor or would they demand that the doctor attend medical school and actually know and understand the science? Would they allow such a doctor to operate on their kids, or advise medical boards, and lobby governments to change policy in line with their uninformed views?

I merely point out to them that this is exactly what they are expecting from me, and are expecting me to sit by and watch while they influence others.

It is the others that I am referring to here, and also those that are in public office that are also of this ilk. We should be calling out dishonesty wherever we find it, regardless of the domain of discourse or the personal beliefs of the speaker.

If we can say that what is published on AiG are lies then we are implying conscious deception on the part of the authors. To assert a lie is to assert intent. Otherwise you must downgrade the charge to willful ignorance. So, if we agree that the writings on AiG are lies, then we agree there is intent to deceive. Hence, it is valid and reasonable to want to know why. For, as in life generally, understanding the real motives behind people’s actions, equip us to better direct our responses. Responses that go straight to the why, can very quickly erode the flimsy foundations of someone’s position, provided of course we do get to their ‘why’. It is a challenge yes, and it is fraught yes, but it isn’t not an invalid approach.

Questioning the why of the consumers invariably leads to their fear of immorality and of moral decline which they have been taught is a product of people straying from the literal Word, and following the godless and hateful evolutionists. Their fear is much easier to address then going line by line through the countless lies in AiG and furnishing convincing rebuttals. In my experience, gently confronting people with their why is really to get to the core of the problem.

Lastly, to get back to those who proselytize, and by this I mean go out of their way to push their agenda. I say again that once someone chooses this path, they take upon themselves the slings and arrows that brings. If you choose to push unfounded claims and influence others, and public policy etc, then a more robust and direct approach is quite warranted. Nevertheless, I am always calm and reasonable with people and direct them down the path I outlined above.

Yes, this is a point that I’ve made myself in the past.

It’s one thing for an English Literature student who hasn’t set foot in a laboratory since they finished compulsory science education at age sixteen to make scientifically incorrect or incoherent claims from the pulpit. Their mistakes could be unintentional and made in good faith. They don’t know what they don’t know. It’s a different matter altogether for someone with a science degree to do so. If someone has a university degree in science — any science subject — that means that they understand, at least in general terms, what science is, how it works, what the rules are, and the role played in it by measurement and mathematics. They also know how to get to grips with at least the basics of subjects with which they were previously unfamiliar. They do not have the luxury of the excuse of ignorance. This being the case, they have to meet a much higher standard before they can be excused from charges of lying.

This is not at all what I said or proposed. I have not talked about justice seeking, and that is definitely not my thinking at all.

Also, it is not about some kind of satisfaction in telling people they are wrong. This is another mis-characterization of what I have said.

It seems that I am being criticized here for impugning motives of others, yet here you are impugning my motives.

Holding people to account is not possible when one is not their boss. I am talking here about a community attitude adjustment. I am saying that we should all demand more from people who make unfounded claims, present long-debunked arguments without bothering to research and fact check, and actively promote beliefs that impact all our lives adversely.

This is a consciousness-raising exercise for me. A case of ‘let’s rethink our collective response to these people’ in the same way that we might fight racism say. If I encounter someone claiming some negative thing against another race, or that their race is superior, I am not going to let that go unchallenged (even if that challenge is gentle but firm). I will meet that comment with a demand for evidence and facts and a logical coherent argument, because we should demand this from people who are potentially causing harm to us and others (and because as we know with racism as with YEC, there isn’t a coherent argument or any evidence).

I am able to be empathetic but still be steadfast in my opposition.
I am able to be compassionate about someone’s experience, given their upbringing and experiences and even rarely, possible abuse, but still not allow this as a reason to let the poison forced into their heads be spread still further and infect others.
I am able to consider grace in my dealings with these people, but still be resolute in the defense of truth.

Yes there is a line between law and personal liberties, but there is also a line between the rights of the individual and the greater good (at the risk of sounding like a lefty).

I should also mention the duty Christians should consider here. I like what James McKay aka @ jammycakes says on his well written site About this blog – How old is the earth?

"This is a very serious cause for concern. The Bible has far, far more to say about the need for honesty and integrity than about either the age of the earth or evolution. If we are to acknowledge that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), we must abhor any kind of falsehood, and right at the top of the list of falsehoods to abhor are religious falsehoods within our own ranks. Such falsehoods are immensely damaging to the Great Commission."

Are you serious T? Surely you know I am not saying that? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Let us challenge these people as we would challenge racism. Let us challenge these people as we might challenge communism say. (Outside of BioLogos of course) Otherwise we are in danger of normalizing crackpottery and conspiracy theories as socially ‘cool’ and acceptable - if we aren’t already at that point. I am not talking about ostracizing, bullying or shaming like some of you have suggested but merely meeting their nonsense gently and firmly with the demand for rigor and research and evidence, otherwise to treat what they are saying as the nonsense that it is - exactly as if they were spewing racist nonsense to you. As Hitchens said “Anything that can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”.

I hope that makes things clearer? :sweat:

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Right. But wanting to know why and asserting we definitively do know why are not the same. I don’t think anything in this post above violates our guidelines. You can talk about the propensities and typical characteristics of certain groups. You can say “I assume they do this because…” The thing that I was hoping people would avoid on this thread is singling out specific people as not really Christians, total charlatans, con men, only interested in money, child abusers, etc. You can wonder about those things, but asserting them as facts based on deductions isn’t appropriate. I don’t think that is what you are doing, I was just anticipating that some people would given the topic, and I want us to be sensitive as a group to the fact that people in various stages of questioning the AiG dogma visit here and read these threads and we don’t want them to hear that they are the reprobate enemy. It’s fine to critique published work and it’s fine to say they should know better.

That is fair. I think it usually works out best when the attention keeps getting directed to the evidence that exists and not to demands that they defend their own position. Most people who are entrenched in this view do not seem to me to be able to evaluate the weakness of the evidence they believe is quite strong. So if you try to put them on the defensive they tend to respond with an avalanche of links to bogus stuff and you waste time pointing out the errors while they are already moving on to the next spew of links. At no point do they engage with the actual good evidence. But I think most are not equipped to do so very profitably anyway because of their strong cognitive biases and distrust of the source. Speaking from personal experience on this forum, I can’t remember a single time when a die hard YEC proponent responded with actual learning when they were pushed to defend their bad arguments. I also can’t remember a single time when a die hard YEC was presented with good science and conceded it was good science. I do remember lots of cut and pasted Bible verses, quote mines, and links to nonsense.

One of the biggest questions we ask around here is “how do we communicate this stuff in a way that YECs will listen?” I’m convinced an adversarial debate format where the biggest pile of evidence wins is not the way to go. I have never seen it work. Tapping into shared values seems the best route. Love for the Bible and getting its message right. Concern about younger Christians falling away from faith. The fact that the gospel is about Jesus and these details about literal days and dinosaurs are peripheral to it. Good science on topics that don’t trigger them like ecology or medicine. Sometimes you can make a little progress with those starting points.

Also, one important thing I have gathered from years of conversations here is that the people who are actually in the process of changing their minds are the people watching, not the people arguing. Over and over again we hear that people have been reading conversations for months or years and not participating and then they finally accept the science. Often they mention that one of the key things that helped them change their mind was the patience and kindness they saw and how that helped break down their distrust and assumptions so they could actually listen to the facts. It’s even more apparent when the other side is always condemning people to hell and being jerks about everything. So I often tell myself that a given discussion really isn’t for the person who is stubbornly dug in to unfounded beliefs and deceptive arguments. It’s for the people on the sidelines.

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But will that actually work? Will confronting racists with facts and evidence change their mind? I don’t know. I doubt they believe as they do because of facts and evidence.

My main point is that we can’t force people to accept facts and evidence, or force them to use logic and reason. It is something they need to decide to do. This is about persuasion, not confrontation.

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You’re welcome. Here’s the site’s executive director, a visual artist from Seattle (Biography: Adrian Wyard). He has good credentials from Oxford in “science and religion.” It certainly is an impressive collection he has put together, though I don’t think he’s been adding to it recently.

It seems Elseberry was one of the people featured there. He and I bumped into each other some years back, but he’s not one I’ve followed closely in the science, philosophy, theology conversation as being all that interesting in his own work. The network itself and what it produced was highly valuable, rather than his “scientific” contribution. Such synthesizing activity is of course valuable too (cf. Karl F. Kessler, rather than just Piotr A. Kropotkin).

Another “network” like this was the Access Research Network for the ID theory community. It still exists, but most activity there has dropped since 15 years ago, unlike the ISCID community, which fully collapsed. Access Research Network - Wikipedia & International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design - Wikipedia

As it is, if you’re proposing or interested in discussing something constructive in this regard, I’ve been looking recently at how to “find a way to lure YECs there”. You’re correct, I believe, about leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. What else do you have in mind in this regard that could help overcome “the lies of AiG”?

@T_aquaticus. Again, this is not what I have said. Please pay close attention to my words.
Read over my other posts in this thread and you will see that.

I think that there is a tendency in here for some people to assume that anything other than the gentle, accommodating and graceful approach advocated at BioLogos MUST be confrontational, aggressive, bullying, and as you have characterized it now, an attempt to convince people they are wrong using facts and evidence.

This is not what I have said, and I should point out anyway, that this is a false dichotomy. If one’s goal is to convert people, there are many gradations in any approach and many different approaches, so it is not as black and white as some of you have implied.

However, and please make sure you all get this clear going forward - I am not trying to convert people.

I am advocating a demand for a higher standard of dialog which requires that people lift their game if they want to be taken seriously. I am saying that if someone comes to you with this nonsense, then demand they back it up but not with the rubbish from AiG, but by demonstrating a mastery of the scientific subject matter involved. If they are making a claim that constitutes overturning the entirety of scientific reality as we know it, and with it the life’s work of hundreds of thousands of people over 150 years who have devoted their lives to the often painstaking, difficult and methodical pursuit of truth, then they better know their stuff otherwise we should dismiss them firmly and gently. We should make it clear that if they publicly espouse these views, then they have a moral and ethical duty to be across the science properly. Just as they would expect from me if they had come to me for a medical diagnosis. A doctor has a moral and ethical duty to not merely profess to know medical science, but to actually know it.

This has only happened once to me, but if such a person becomes insulting or pushy, then I will state that they need to come back when they know what they are talking about because currently they are talking nonsense, and now that I have directed them to the proper resources, continuing to push their dogma constitutes willful ignorance at best, and willful deceit at worst. If I come across an obnoxious and vigorous Hovindite for example, this is exactly what I would say if they are unrelenting in their bluster - I think you know the type.

The point is that none this is going to convert them and that is not my objective here. So as to avoid any further confusion, here is my objective. Raise our standards.

Liars and bullies prosper when people go along for various reasons including social pressure, personality type, lack of confidence, not the right time or place, and often a feeling of stunned amazement that anyone could seriously believe this stuff and publicly declare it, and finally the shock of dealing with someone who is determined to convince you of something you know is factually wrong as if it is you that is the ignorant one. This experience often leaves people flatfooted, caught like a deer in the headlights, unable to process what they are experiencing and so become dumbstruck. Often, it seems to me, people realize that any attempt to tackle these zealots is futile and just play along until they can find an excuse to leave the room.

What I am saying is that rather than trying to convince them they are wrong, signal very clearly that you expect that someone espousing such a world shattering scientific view has a virtually unprecedented grasp of all the evidence on both sides and has studied and researched the original scientific papers themselves and has ground-breaking science and evidence to back it up. If they do not have this, then come back when they do. This is a fair and reasonable request. You don’t need to fight over details of evidence, facts, science, theology or anything, simply demand that they know the science properly before continuing. This is something we can all do.

If they do not back down at that point, and become insulting and belligerent as I said above, I will play the moral and ethical duty card, and if necessary the willful ignorance or willful deceit line.

The point here is to reduce their audience, to frustrate them because getting their ‘information’ just from AiG is not going to get them past the front gate of rational informed discourse. This approach signals to them, that if they want a seat at the table, then they have to earn it, and don’t just get a free pass because they were raised in a faith tradition.

Lastly, I want to go back to my original point. Which as that as a society, we need to get our head around the personal responsibility we all have to each other, which comes from the fact that what we believe impacts others. This means that we have a duty to hold properly formed views, to be educated, to be informed, to check our sources. This is particularly true if you wish to push your points of view onto other people.

I would be upset to find that I had been telling people something that I later found was false but I was too irresponsible to check my facts. Is this not an ethic we would like everyone to sign up to?

It is time that we treated this kind of willful ignorance as a form of deceit, because the end result is functionally equivalent to a lie. If we all recognize the importance, the duty, the responsibility, to understand the truth and the evidence and the research and the theory but then don’t do that work, AND we choose to spread our very impactful and confronting unsupported views, then we should accept the label of liar. Choosing not to find out information that could reveal to you and others that you are wrong is as much of a deception as knowing that what you do say is factually incorrect. In my view, it is time that we recognized this.

We know better but we still do it… does that sound familiar? Does willful ignorance get us off the hook against the charge of bearing false witness? Because if it does, then nothing means anything anymore. We must all unite and stand against ignorance and not give it a voice so readily.

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Sometimes I think that positions and presentations of groups such as AIG and the Creation Museum and other groups to remain nameless (so we don’t get sidetracked) are the result of a delusion that perpetuates itself as people repeatedly talk to those of like mind.