Evolution, Creationism, and Subway

Jason Rosenhouse at EvolutionBlog has a great story to tell from his experience at a Discovery-Institute-sponsored Darwin vs. Design conference. He was standing in line at a Subway restaurant. A woman and three (unrelated) children were in front of him:

The woman was talking animatedly to the kids. “Did you see those people with the Happy Atheist shirts?” she said. “They were handing out leaflets.”

I perked up. Sadly, I had noticed no such people. If I had I would have gone over to lend them some moral support.

The woman continued. “I wish one of them were here. I can’t imagine how they can respond to all the evidence for design.” I won’t swear those were her exact words, but it was something very close to that.

How could I resist?

“Well, I’m an atheist,” I said. “Why don’t you ask me?”

Read the rest of Jason’s entertaining (thought ultimately very depressing) story here.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Jason Rosenhouse, EvolutionBlog, Discovery Institute, Darwin vs. Design, Subway[/tags]

  • Prokop

    Discussions like that are the main reason why I’ve pretty much given up on religious discussions and discourse. Too many arguments basically come down to the following:

    Person 1) What the Bible says is true!

    Person 2) There is no reasonably justification to take the Bible to be absolute truth, and any argument for why the Bible must be true can also be applied to other, contradictory religious tomes.

    Person 1) What the Bible says is true!

  • http://hauntologie.blogspot.com Lydia

    Frustrating. But as someone commented on his blog, he may have gotten the teenagers thinking….

  • Siamang

    Yeah, he was banging his head against the wall. In a conversation like that, you have to use a judo approach…. use their force against them.

  • http://blogs.chicagoreader.com/daily-harold Harold

    Good point, Lydia. I found a post a while back that reminded me that this is often the way suchthings go:
    http://blogs.chicagoreader.com/daily-harold/2007/02/08/why-we-argue/

  • MTran

    Yeah, he was banging his head against the wall. In a conversation like that, you have to use a judo approach…. use their force against them.

    So true.

    About 20 years ago one of the hot pop-psychology issues was religious cults and people who were seduced by them into forgoing basic health care, dropping out of school and abandoning friends and family. Other cults were seen as being nothing more than brainwashing schemes to siphon away people’s money.

    Sadly, I knew families who had lost children or spouses to some of these weird outfits so I got ahold of some “deprogramming” articles to share with them.

    If I remember correctly, it was more difficult to deprogram the more intelligent or educated converts because they could out reason or out argue most of the challenges or appeals aimed at them. So it was more effective to simply speak to them about why and when they came to believe what they believed. By asking relevant non-accusatory questions, the more educated converts would often reason themselves out of their condition.

    A different approach was needed for those who had little education or who based their decisions on emotional reactions or in response to authority figures. For these types, undermining the authority of their teachings or teachers seemed to work better than rational arguments.

    Of course, “cult” converts usually know that they are members of a fringe
    group and may be amenable to “returning to the fold” from which they fled. In contrast, there is nothing fringey about Christian cults such as the Southern Baptists or Roman Catholics. They are more likely to consider the doubters to be the ones who need to be “brought back” to the church.

    Still, honest inquiry is one of the strongest remedies for superstition that I know of.

  • Siamang

    I’d try turning the tables.

    Stop them from asking questions they really don’t know anything about and start to ask some really tough ones of them based on actual knowlege.

    I usually try to break the wall and say things like “Will you go with me this Saturday at 12:00 to the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History and you and I together will ask these questions of the experts there with the evidence there in hand?”

    “Ummmm….. that’s when I wash my dog…” is usually the response.

  • Richard Wade

    I love the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History. Both my parents worked there and I grew up there. I knew every display case in every hall, every historian, archeologist, paleontologist, entomolgist and geologist. I handled pre-Columbian gold, pinned lables on insects, went out on digs and sorted through boxes of fossils. I watched men and women assert their theories which stood or fell by the strength of the evidence. I owe so much to the influence of that place. I considered myself the luckiest kid I knew. Superstition didn’t have a chance to infect my mind.

    (sigh) Ah, nostalgia.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    Still, honest inquiry is one of the strongest remedies for superstition that I know of.

    This is SO true. It is the hallmark of one Atheist “organization” I am aware of to bash believers who come on their radio show with ridiculous, trite “questions” that end up being utterly ineffectual. The key strategy, the one they don’t understand, is to ask the question honestly, genuinely seeking an answer and not having the goal of “trapping” the opponent or destroying him/her. When I have used the honest questioning strategy myself, I have gotten *nothing* but positive results. No converts, and some opponents have walked away from the conversation with tail between legs, but I still consider the overall result positive.

  • Richard Wade

    MTran and Patrick, it’s so good to hear that principle of honestly asking a question expressed so clearly and succinctly. I often have a hard time convincing someone that I’m not baiting or tricking them because they’ve been ambushed so many times. Why this simple idea of openhandedness has to be so rarely used, I just don’t understand.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your support on this. To respond to your concern about “convincing someone that (you’re) not baiting or tricking them,” I would introduce one more strategy, once again a very successful and useful one: concession. My friends, not every single utterance made by a theist is completely wrong. It’s okay to agree with them when something they say (and it doesn’t even have to be associated with religion) is obviously true. Let them know when they say something that you have no dispute with, and it helps them relax. Heck, it makes anyone less defensive. Give it a try, the results will freakin’ amaze you.

    I’m 100% sure I got this great strategy from reading How to Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Highly recommended reading, regardless of the man’s own position on matters of religion.

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    “My friends, not every single utterance made by a theist is completely wrong. It’s okay to agree with them when something they say (and it doesn’t even have to be associated with religion) is obviously true. Let them know when they say something that you have no dispute with, and it helps them relax. Heck, it makes anyone less defensive. Give it a try, the results will freakin’ amaze you.”

    I find that a lot of the time it’s very, very, very (did I mention very?) very hard to find something that a theist says in an argument that’s actually in any way correct. They can be crazy out to lunch about everything.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    They can be crazy out to lunch about everything.

    That can be very true, and I’ve experienced it so many times myself. To my point, though, if you’re talking to a theist and the theist says “There’s a big tarantula crawling up your arm” and there really is a big tarantula crawling up your arm, then technically, the theist is “right.” That’s the sort of thing I’m getting at.

    Let the theists generalize and blanket label the crap out of us as they certainly will – it’s a blunder that needs to be exposed by their making of it. At the same time, let us not fall into the precise same trap.


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