How Would You Try To Get Through?

I received an e-mail recently from someone whom I banned for trollish behavior, which seemed to me to be wasting the time of not only myself, but also other commenters. The individual in question was demonstrably dishonest, and refused to interact with evidence. The e-mail illustrates the same persistent claim or belief that the individual in question had presented evidence for their own viewpoint, and that others had not adequately responded, when the reverse is true. I’m not sure whether the individual is dishonest or delusional or both. But I wonder whether to respond, and if so how.

How would you try to get through to someone who wrote the words below?

Hello,
[NAME] here whom you banned from the forums for supposedly being
a troll. Which I contest. In fact it is you who has been name calling and
being disrespectful but I am going to forgive and overlook that behavior.
I am unclear as to what you want me to say or do in order to be unbanned.

I stand by the scriptures which state that entropy started after a literal day
six of creation (sun up, sun down, Yom) because of man’s sin and effected
everything including plant life. (Thorns and thistles now appear).

I do not see any evidence for the geological time periods where fossils appear as they draw the chart in science books. They don’t even show a real picture.

I have shown clear scientific evidence that chalk cliffs can form rapidly and did so during the flood period where many marine animals died rapidly in different parts of the ocean due to volcanic and mass flooding activity. This also distributed and layed down the fossils we find today. You can put dirt
and water in a jar, shake it up and see the same results.

No one has observed a planet forming nor the earth forming. There is no
possible way to measure the age of the earth unless you answer how many
and of what isotopes were there when the Earth began to be a solid sphere.
I have asked you numerous times and you have not answered that question.
Also, since the scriptures say that God “stretched out the heavens” I do not
see how we can give an age to the universe either.

I do not feel that I am being deceitful in any way. Quite the opposite. I think
many of the scientists that come to certain conclusions about things we can’t
observe, test, nor repeat are the ones coming to the wrong conclusions and
it certainly is not a bad thing to be able to openly discuss these things,
regardless of which conclusions we accept or do not accept. As long as it is
done in a civil fashion.

How do you get through to someone who makes claims about shaking a jar that they have clearly never tried? Perhaps I should show them this video, which addresses that claim, and also addresses chalk formation?

YouTube Preview Image

Should I direct them to mainstream scientific sources such as those made available by the NCSE, and specifically Christian sources such as this article at BioLogos that address the Biblical and scientific evidence?

The problem is, I think that I and commenters on this blog have tried all that multiple times with this individual, and more, and he just keeps pretending that we have not done so.

I hate leaving someone in ignorance. But I also hate to let someone just repeat the same things over and over again, while those who actually know something about these subjects are forced to repeat the same answers over and over again.

How would you respond, if at all?

  • LorenHaas

    Shake the dust off your sandals and move on.

  • Anthony Lawson

    This is a tough one. There are going to be people who are just unreachable, and others who may eventually come around. For me personally it was reading different material on the days of Genesis, it was the theological arguments from the framework position that got me rethinking my views and finally deciding to give evolution a chance (through Darrell Falk’s “Coming to Peace with Science”). Each person is different.

  • dangjin

    You simply need to repent and rid yourself of your sinful lies, and false teaching

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’ve asked him to repent of his sinful lies and false teaching, but he refuses to listen.

  • Ted Troxell

    I’m with Loren.

  • aar9n

    Is this our old friend, or perhaps dr. T? Entropy started at the fall. People who say this have absolutely no understanding of physics whatsoever.
    Have you considered this might be a middle schooler?
    When I was in middle school and a creationist, I would troll in a similar fashion on national geographics website

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I suspect that your reference to “our old friend” may be to the person in question. Whether he is a middle schooler, I don’t know, but that would fit the immaturity and level of discourse, so maybe. It is hard to tell from online interaction alone.

      • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

        He’s not a middle-schooler, no. He’s a geeky thirty-something (phps early 40s) with teenage kids, who attended his local community college.

        I think that is perhaps a little unfair on the maturity of his discourse. He isn’t the sharpest knife, and his indoctrination has always been a huge roadblock to actually communicating with him, but he has been civil and slow to anger when barraged with insults, imho. As above, I’ve no desire to continue trying to drag him to the information he claims to be seeking, but I respect him more than theot, or Doctor Tee, say.

  • Neil Carter

    Waste. of. time. And I am notoriously, ridiculously patient with people, hanging around in conversations waay past the point of any forward movement. When a person has an idea in their head this firmly, direct address does nothing because beliefs like these have defense mechanisms. In time, if this person truly desires truth, the evidence will lead him closer to reality.

  • arcseconds

    Of course, now they’ll be complaining to anyone who will listen about secularist censorship…

    Regarding the point about no-one having seen planets form, if you decide to continue the discussion you could try asking whether they think it’s OK to jail people for murder when there are no eyewitnesses. Or whether it was reasonable to be concerned about Nazi germany developing an atomic bomb in 1939, as several scientists including Einstein were.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      We actually have data about planet formation. I thought about mentioning that in the post too.

      • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

        We have data on all the issues he brings up. In fact there have been two occasions where he’s cited a paper where his bad reading of the abstract made him think the paper supported his point, but he didn’t bother reading or understanding the actual paper which contradicted him. Data is irrelevant in this case, I think.

      • arcseconds

        Data, yes. It would have been reasonable to treat it as a speculative (although scientifically plausible) hypothesis when Kant first proposed the idea in the 1750s, but since then of course it has been subject to the normal treatment of connecting to evidence and other theories, and modelling, etc.

        But what they’re demanding is, I think, a video of a system going from nebula to planets.

        • arcseconds

          it’s the old “you weren’t there, so how could you know?” objection.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            The irony is that, if we had a video recording of a system going from nebula to planets, given the short amount of time in which we could have made the video, that would be proof of intelligent design, whether supernatural or seriously high tech.

            • arcseconds

              Well, we could have such a video from a civilization that isn’t terribly much more technologically advanced than we are, but has been that way for a very long time, and put it together by time-lapse photography :-)

              Of course, you could raise the question as to whether or not it’s an actual recording or the result of a very impressive modelling exercise…

  • x x

    My sense is that this person is so far down the rabbit hole of creationism that he’s a lost cause as far as meaningful dialogue is concerned. He has all the pat answers and just wants a forum to repeat them.

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    cdbren has shown himself to be invincibly ignorant. There is ample information on all these topics out there. He is quite genuine about not knowing and not understanding, as per his email above. But we’ve pointed him in the direction of actual resources and he has not followed them. I’ve offered to talk through these issues too by email. I’ve implored him numerous times to enroll in a basic continuing ed course at his local college, or even just visit the library and borrow a textbook. His ignorance is not the result, then, of not knowing, but of being determined not to know.

    He will, of course, complain now that he’s been censored. I have pointed out to him that he has many tens, probably over a hundred comments on this blog, and all of them are still visible. The accusation of censorship rankles, of course.

    But I think there’s no point continuing the conversation. There is a genuine waste of time for anyone else coming across his repeated assertions and attempting to put him right, when he’s demonstrated no willingness to read and understand anything so far. I have wasted many hours, perhaps tens, responding to him over the last two years, and he still comes out with the exact same point we’ve discussed in depth in the past.

    I think he sees participating in this forum as an evangelistic duty: if he keeps repeating his version of truth, these evil false-Christian science-worshippers might come to his version of faith. He doesn’t see it as a way of engaging with other people, so every response is just another opportunity for apologetics.

    Despite the fact that you inevitably look like an ass whenever you ban someone, I don’t see a good reason for us all to go around the same merry go round on every post.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      We could have played “Name that troll.” And the winner is…Ian! :-)

      • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

        Yeah, but given the back-story to his email, it was hardly a mystery!

  • Paul D.

    The comparison of arguing with a creationist to playing chess with a pigeon is apt. (It knocks over the pieces, craps on the board, and then declares victory.)

    However, the value in argument is not so much to win over someone who is wilfully ignorant, as to demonstrate the flaws in the other position to spectators — some of whom may still be on the fence.

  • newenglandsun

    Would this article from RTB be of any use?

    http://www.reasons.org/articles/noah%E2%80%99s-flood-a-bird%E2%80%99s-eye-view

    Not that I agree with them.

  • Guest

    You could ask him who wrote Genesis, and when? How does he know when it was written? Was he there? How does he know it wasn’t written in the 1900s or something? It might make him think about the nature of evidence and how we can ever know anything about the past. Or it might just clue him in too how annoying theses types of questions can be.

    You could try to explain the it’s possible to believe in evolution and still be a Christian and keep your morality. A lot of evolution denialism seems to be a fear of losing yheir faith.

    But there’s probably nothing you can say to convince him. I mean, the answers are right there at his fingertips. All he has to do is google, or read through Wikipedia. We live in an information age.

  • Guest

    Things that don’t make sense about the flood.

    1. Noah was told to take a male and female of every species, but some species are hemaphrodites and have no true males or female. Others, like the whiptail lizard or the Brahminy blind snake, reproduce parthenogenically without males. And there’s a species of ant that requires two types of male to breed with the queen, one to make workers and one to make more future queens.

    2. We’re just supposed to believe that the fllodwater randomly sorted fossils so that all the dinosaurs, big or small, fast or slow, were buried under all the mammals, and trilobites just so happen to be in the same layers all over the world, and all the kangeroo skeletons are in Australia? What are the chances of that.

    3. The purpose of the flood was to wipe out all the wickedness from the earth and yet nearly as soon as they break ground Noah gets drunck and Ham spies on him naked. So, humans are still wicked, even the ones God personally approved to go in the ark. God’s plan failed.

    4. What happened to all the plants? Most plants can’t survive in sea water. So Noah would have needed to store all the plant seeds and then wait for them to grow. and meanwhile, the animals would starve to death. What did the goats eat while the grass was growing? How did the Koalas survive until the eucalyptus finally grew leaves again? What about animals that ate fruit? It’s perishable and Noah wouldn’t have had a fridge. Even if he could store enough fruit to feed the monkeys and toucans for 40 days, it would have gone rotten. And then there would have been no fruit trees on the land for several months at least (some fruit trees take years to fruit). The result? Extinct toucans.

    5. Inbreeding would be a huge problem. Every creature would need to mate with it’s nearest relatives. Two creatures is not enough for genetic diversity…look how sick pedigree dogs have become, because of all the ‘backcrossing’ (breeding to close relatives) to exagerrate their traits. Same with the humans on the ark. The next generation would have to marry their cousins.

    That kind of inbreeding would be visible in the animal’s DNA too. It’s called a population bottleneck. There’s no sign of an identical population bottleneck in every species on earth.

    Noah’s ark is a nice story for kids, as long as you focus on the animals going in two by two and not the people drowning. It could be a good inspiration for protecting the environment. But one thing it’s not is an historical account.

    • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

      1. Creationists are fine with evolution, even huge evolutionary changes, as long as it doesn’t apply to the big animals they remember from children’s books, and they can justify calling it ‘micro-evolution’, because they couldn’t tell the animals in question apart. So many (cdbren included has stated as much before) would be fine with the idea that Noah took one pair of ants on the ark, and the different varieties of ants developed later. Ants, in the terminology of creationism, are one ‘kind’. But a Zebra and a Horse – clearly different! [NB Creationists who pull this one, don't seem to realise they are suggesting that evolution is more powerful and faster than any scientist would claim].

      2. Creationists know the names of the handful of places in the world where the geological column is all messed up (though they ignore the documented reasons why). And on that basis they are happy dismissing the other 99.9% of consistent layering. Fossils aren’t consistently laid down, therefore. Your claim is wrong.

      3. Well, things were much worse before the flood. The flood was only ever a stop-gap measure. God knew full well that sin would only be finally eradicated by the sacrifice of Jesus (plus a few thousand years to wrap things up, presumably).

      4. Good point, can’t immediately come up with a creation science answer. Its a trivial one to solve with an appeal to miracles, however: God sustained the food on the ark without corruption, and provided food for all the animals after disembarking.

      5. A basic premise of creation genetics is that mutations that cause genetic disease and weakness increase over time, so at the point of the flood, individuals had virtually no errors in their genomes, thus inbreeding wouldn’t be a problem. As for the lack of population bottleneck – that’s because worldly scientists make false assumptions based on their evolution religion, so they look for the wrong things.

      Gee this is fun, and really easy. When you don’t need any evidence, but just need to find post-hoc justifications, this sciencey business is a breeze!

  • spinkham

    You’ve tried pointing out the evidence. You’ve tried showing them places where people who they are more likely to consider members of their tribe pointing out the evidence.

    There’s really nothing more you can do. The social inertia of someones’ pastor, family, talk radio, etc who all hold this opinion, however ill founded it may be, trumps any evidence you can give hands down.

    Identity-protective cognition is not a force that can be overcome by any force from people on the outside: Only change from those that would be considered in-group members or a change in perceived personal identity will be sufficient to change the mind of people on issues that their groups have taken up as identifying issues.

  • arcseconds

    It might be worth remembering that for creationists, it’s not an abstract question about whose theory maps the observable phenomena better (however much they might try to act as though it is), but rather a question of personal loyalty, and whom it is appropriate to trust.

    Their question “how do you know? where you there?” isn’t just a piece of grade-school sceptical rhetoric (although it’s that, too). They take themselves to have an eyewitness account from an impeccable source they know personally. No implausible-sounding story concocted by a bunch of dorks from the other team involving billions of years, arbitrary processes, and a noticable lack of the involvement of their favourite person ever is going to trump that.

    As long as the matter is seen as cheerleading for Team God (and refusing to cheer as the deepest betrayal), I fear appealing to evidence may be beside the point.

  • Sherry McCameron Peyton

    I’m close to believing that fundamentalism is a mental illness. These folks absolutely emotionally depend on their being correct in their beliefs. They cannot bear a world where they are wrong. For them, it’s a matter of life and death. So therefore, no amount of actual facts will ever make a difference. If you get them young enough in college, I think there is a chance. I’ve talked myself blue in the face. It does not good. I just wish they would turn away from politics, since I’m prepared to accept them as they are, if they would stop meddling in grownup stuff.

  • Tom Scharle

    As long as one sets the rules of the game, one can make the rules fit the outcome that one wants. I think that it is pointless to discuss an issue if there is no agreement on a common set of rules.
    I make the assumption that your correspondent accepts the authority of modern science to influence the interpretation of Scripture when it comes to the heliocentric model of the Solar System and the various texts which seem to say that the Sun is in motion around a fixed Earth.
    How and why is it any different with respect to modern science and Scripture when it is about things related to the fixity of “kinds”? The science is not any less clear, nor are the texts any more clear.
    Does your correspondent have the same rules for both cases? Let us see the rules spelled out which allow heliocentrism but reject common descent. I have no expectation that you will be able to get a response to this.

  • Straw Man

    It’s a corollary of Dunning and Kruger’s work, that those who refuse to seek out a basic education on a subject, will forever remain incompetent yet convinced that they are above average competence.

    I.e., we have scientific proof that there is none so blind as the one who refuses to see. Move on.


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