Drew Zahn’s Creationist Idiocy

Drew Zahn is a former pastor and current Worldnutdaily “reporter” and columnist. In his latest bit of stupidity, he claims that the movie Men in Black III supports creationism. After discussing the plot of the movie, which involves time travel, he makes this silly argument:

J and the younger version of K (played well by Josh Brolin – unfortunately one of the few praiseworthy performances in the film), in turn, must rely for help upon an alien named Griffin who can peer into all the possible futures that branch out from any moment in time. Some of those futures are likely, others are so seemingly impossible – like the ’69 New York Mets’ World Series victory – that Griffin says the agents will need “a miracle” to defeat their foe.

“A miracle is what seems impossible,” Griffin says, “but happens anyway.”

Griffin’s favorite moment in time, he explains, is when an incredibly improbable string of events brings a World Series victory to the ’69 Mets: A woman in a baseball factory has an affair, which means she’s not overseeing an imperfect horsehide that is made into a ball that floats a few microns too high, causing a player to pop up a fly that is caught for the final out by a player who only became a baseball player because his father couldn’t find a football for a childhood Christmas gift, and so on and so on.

I mean, what are the odds? So small, even some of the most ardent spiritual skeptics still refer to that team as the “Miracle Mets.”

But calling such things “miracles” – and pointing to circumstances even astronomically less likely – is exactly the argument many creationists and advocates of intelligent design are making to describe the origins of life.

Mr. Zahn, please grab a dictionary and look up the word contingency. What you are describing here are contingent events. We experience them every day in a million ways. Our very existence is contingent upon millions of previous events that did — or did not — happen. If even one of our ancestors had died in childbirth, or been spontaneously aborted (as a huge percentage of all pregnancies are), or had decided not to go to some event where they met their wife, or had just been too tired to have sex the night at a given moment, “we” would not be here. That is contingency.

Creationists like to point to all of those coincidences, each of them staggeringly unlikely in the full context of all possible occurrences. But that misses the point. If any of those millions of contingent events had not happened, “we” would not be here, but someone would be here, and their existence would be just as unlikely as ours by the same standards. It’s like holding a coin-flipping competition with every person on earth, each one of them taking on one other person in picking the flip of a coin, with the winners moving on to the next round and repeating this exercise until we are down to only one winner, who would have correctly picked a coin flip a mind-blowing number of times in a row. But would this be a “miracle”? Would it prove that this person was created to win that competition, or designed to win that competition? No, of course not. Someone has to win the competition. This is evidence of nothing but the proper function of the laws of probability.

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  • unbound

    MIB III was a fairly boring affair overall…but I’m impressed that some wacko was able to link it to creationism. Maybe they should relabel creationism with creativitism.

  • Eric R

    Well I’m convinced, if its in MIB III (buckets of money flowing into our pockets) then it must be true….

  • harold

    the argument many creationists and advocates of intelligent design are making to describe the origins of life

    Also the old “origins of life” bait and switch.

    Intelligent Design as used in this context refers to the body of work associated with the Discovery Institute and authors such as Behe and Dembski. That body of work consists of logically flawed efforts to deny biological evolution (not the “origins of life”). “ID” was developed in response to the Edwards v. Aguillard decision, which found that teaching sectarian creationism as science in public schools was unconstitutional. Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by George W. Bush, came to the following decision about “Intelligent Design in Kitzmiller V. Dover http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District#Decision. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Pandas_and_People#Pandas_and_.22cdesign_proponentsists.22

    Many creationists also deny the scientific consensus with regard to the age of the earth and universe, and insist that Biblical stories like Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the Whale are literally true (even though in the latter case the animal is described as both a whale and a fish).

    All of this goes well beyond disputes about the origins of life.

    We don’t yet have a perfect model of how life originated on earth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis, although this is an extremely active field and there is no reason for scientists to resort to magical explanations.

  • harold

    I assume my comment is being moderated because it contains links.

    In case this will reduce concern –

    They’re links to the Wikipedia pages on Judge Jones’ decision in Kitzmiller vs. Dover, the changes in creationist textbook “Of Panda’s and People” after Edwards V Aguillard, and Abiogenesis.

    The gist of my comment is that Zahn refers to “origins of life”, but that this is common bait-and-switch; creationists deny much more fundamental science than merely hypotheses of the origin of life.

  • eric

    Forget ‘contingency,’ look up ‘fiction.’ Or how about ‘artistic license.’ If MIB3 wants to posit design to make its plot work, I can’t imagine any sane person thinking that has any relevance to what goes on in the real world.

    MIB3 supports creationism the same way the movies Thor and Avengers supports Norse mythology.

  • mojave66

    Not only is basic biology a problem for them, basic probability and statistics is an issue. Want to bamboozle a creationist/climate change denier? Explain “variance” to them.

  • Emu Sam

    Contingency is going on my list of things that need to be repeated in school every year, because otherwise most people don’t seem to get it.

  • It sounds like the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy on a cosmic level.

    It also reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes comic: Calvin had decided that all of history was specifically geared for the purpose of producing him. Wars were fought, nations rose and fell, and so on, specifically so that his parents would end up together and produce him in that specific form… So that he could watch Looney Tunes.

    It’s all about ego, refusing to accept that our specific present moment and the people living this moment aren’t inherently more special than the alternative outcomes that didn’t happen. It probably doesn’t help that a lot of our science fiction forces direct alternate counterparts to exist, with identical DNA, similar roles, and so on.

  • between 29 and 30 rounds (coin flip)

  • laurentweppe

    Huh: wait: Men in Black III therefore Creationism?

    You know what?

    Zahn wins

    God exists and mess with the process of natural selection.

    Because Only He can makes sure that bigots are not driven to an extinction which would be unavoidable if only the harsh process of natural selection happened.

    Seriously: How could you find food, breed, and groom their offspring if all their brain is able to do is producing non-sequitur like MiB ergo Darwin is Wrong?

    That’s it: the New Watertight Argument in favor of intelligentit’s a fucking sadisically cruel joke– design: bigots could never survive on their own, therefore God make sure that they keep on going to still have someone to laugh at.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    “A miracle is what seems impossible,” Griffin says, “but happens anyway.”

    I think this definition of miracle is incorrect. To me a miracle is something that really is impossible but happens anyway. Of course, given that many people now consider finding their car keys or getting a good parking space to be legitimate examples of miracles I guess the above definition does work.

  • This is evidence of nothing but the proper function of the laws of probability.

    Ah, but you can’t have laws of probability without a probability of a Lawgiver! Take that, Atheism!

  • Michael Heath

    This type of logic failure is similar to the failure tripping up Behe when he criticized Thornton’s work though the failure Ed blogs about here is one step more advanced in one aspect. Behe makes the same error in his book when he argues for the infeasibility of a certain result by mutation and selection alone.

    Behe’s failure is analogous to arguing that it would be practically impossible to predict the exact set of stats which reflect how last year’s New York Yankees did*; the failure being that the actual results are entirely within the realm of possibility, the difficulty is the number of results, one, relative to the number of possible results, which is enormous. This wingnut merely takes that one degree further by pointing to an outlier result and then claiming it would practically impossible to do the same.

    *I didn’t create the Behe analogy, someone else did where I paraphrase it here.

  • naturalcynic

    In the NCAA Basketball Tournament, one and only one team must end their season with at least a six game winning streak. And 63 [or 67] out of 64 [or 68] teams must end their season with a loss. Does that seem logical without accounting for contingency?

  • thebookofdave

    Let him have MIB III. It’s probably not a very good movie, but if Christian fundies need to feel there’s entertainment safe enough for the kids, they can go out with Zahn’s approval.

  • bksea

    OK. I’m convinced – the Mets did not win the 69 World Series. I wonder who did?

  • jakc

    Wonder what Zahn thinks of the X-men movies, which despite all their babble about evolution, would get a failng grade in a biology course.

  • dingojack

    What? Did WhirledNutsdaily run out of 50’s sitcoms?

    😉 Dingo


    How can science compete with:

    Argumentum ad Castorem, Ergo Deus‘? – oh wait –

    Scooby Doo.

    They wouldda got away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids! (how’s that for contingency?)

  • Didaktylos

    Everything that happens is against the odds.

  • Doug Little

    Owww the nice Christian man thinks we are all miracles, that everything around us is a miracle and that any event at any point in time is a miracle.