FFRF’s Latest Billboard Praises Darwin

It promotes Darwin instead of Dogma:

darwin_poster

Cute… but the “Praise Darwin” bit is just feeding into the stereotype that atheists treat Darwin as some infallible God. (I’m sure they know that and they did it on purpose.)

The billboard was be making the rounds in Madison, Wisconsin… before it heads to (wait for it) Dayton, Tennessee and Dover, Pennsylvania.

Score!

The beautiful billboard image, designed by Adams Outdoor Co., in Madison, Wis., utilizes the Foundation’s ironical signature stained-glass window motif and King James biblical style, but adds the iconic image of Charles Darwin.

The phrase “Evolve Beyond Belief” is directed at the 50% of Americans who still reject evolution and accept creationism: the Genesis myth that the earth was created out of nothing by a god less than 10,000 years ago.

“We want to ‘Praise Darwin,’ to give credit to human intelligence, not the supernatural, for answering the question, ‘Where do we come from?’ And who greater than Charles Darwin?” asked Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.

“America’s willful ignorance over evolution and the scientific method is an embarrassment and impediment. It’s time our nation and its public schools enter the 21st century and embrace this keystone of biology,” added Foundation co-president Dan Barker.

(via FFRF)

  • http://thesciencepundit.blogspot.com/ The Science Pundit

    I’m not sure how I feel about that (which is the same sentiment I had about their placard in Olympia). I’m a member of FFRF and support them. But I am a little uncomfortable with the language they use sometimes. On the other hand, considering some of the responses to the billboard and bus campaigns–particularly the “I didn’t know there were others who thought like me.”–I have to think that there’s no such thing as bad publicity; at least not while we’re still marginalized.

    It’s funny, I don’t particularly like to gratuitously offend people, but in my personal experience, many of the most monumental changes in my life were spawned when somebody offended my sensibilities and I didn’t have a good response.

  • cautiousmaniac

    (footnote: I realize this is slightly off topic)

    Ray Comfort recently accused us of trying to deitize Darwin, and celebrate his birthday as atheist Christmas.

    Since he’s figured us out, I say we drop the charade. Let’s pick some people who actually helped the world, or scientists who have made amazing discoveries, and establish them as part of our Secular Pantheon.

    And instead of just happily celebrating these Unholy Days with family and friends, we should also push the government to recognize our esteemed days.

    For instance, governments should take October 28th off this year to celebrate the 95th birthday of Jonas Salk. That guy all but cured polio. Banks take a day off two months later for a guy who supposedly made the lame walk. Salk actually did that. Where’s his bank holiday?

  • NYCatheist

    It also reinforces the misconception that evolution necessarily means improvement relative to your personal standard. Tell it to the blind cave fish.

  • http://www.jimloomisphotography.com Jimmy

    Probably the most retarded atheist billboard ever created.

    Here we are, trying to separate ourselves from the stereotypes that plague us, and some atheists go and perpetuate them.

    I hate this idea, I really do. I’m going to crawl in a hole until this clears.

    One step forward, 10,000 steps back.

  • misterjustin

    I also have to chime in and say I’m not terribly happy about this one. It does play into the stereotypes and while it will generate publicity I don’t believe that there’s no such thing as BAD publicity.

    This doesn’t speak to atheists; it speaks AGAINST religious people. Evolve beyond belief? Praise Darwin?

    Being an atheist doesn’t make us more intelligent, insightful, more evolved or in any other way superior. I’m sure we can all name at least one atheist that’s a real schmuck. Most of us can name at least one religious person that’s a real gem.

    Evolve beyond advertisements that make you feel smug and superior in your atheism.

  • http://thebasketeere.com Daymon Balser

    “Willful Ignorance” pretty much sums it up.

  • http://www.noonespecial.ca/cacophony Tao Jones

    This fails miserably.

    Not only does it play into the stereotype, it almost makes it seem as if Darwin invented evolution.

    As always, the litmus test is, is this going to convince anyone? The answer is probably no.

  • Aj

    Yes it’s pretty terrible. I hate theists perpetuating the nonsense that we worship Darwin or misconceptions about evolution, but for atheists do it.

    misterjustin,

    This doesn’t speak to atheists; it speaks AGAINST religious people.

    Against religious belief does not equal against religious people.

    Being an atheist doesn’t make us more intelligent, insightful, more evolved or in any other way superior.

    Doubt is a virtue, doubt is superior to faith. It’s not the only thing of virtue, and doesn’t mean atheists can’t have other flaws, but not believing in gods without evidence is certainly superior to believing in gods without evidence.

  • Anticontrame

    I’m really starting to wonder if theists have secretly taken over the FFRF.

  • Ex Partiot

    good idea but wrong wording. Honor Darwin for what he did but praise him, I don’t think so, sounds to religious and it will give the fundie nuts something to yell about

  • mikespeir

    Cute… but the “Praise Darwin” bit is just feeding into the stereotype that atheists treat Darwin as some infallible God.

    Yeah, count me out. It’s the same reason I don’t have a Darwin fish on my bumper.

  • http://www.rationalitynow.com Dan Gilbert

    I agree with most commenters here. I don’t like the “Praise” wording because it puts us back in that stereotype that we’re so emphatically trying to escape.

    This is my 2nd disappointment with the FFRF, of which I am a member. :-(

  • Luther Weeks

    Praise Darwin, Praise Gaylor (both), Praise Ingersol, Praise Barker, Priaise Dawkins, Praise Wilson, Praise Stark, Praise Paine, King, Parks, Shehan, and Ellsburg.

    Synonyms: praise, acclaim, commend, extol, laud These verbs mean to express approval or admiration. To praise is to voice approbation, commendation, or esteem

    At worst, this is just an less than average marketing campaign. It does not kill anyone, burn anyone at the stake, or waste a precious life in the worship of a myth.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Has Dan Barker gone off the deep end?

  • http://aclevererversion.blogspot.com/ EnsignRose

    This fails on a few levels. First, as others have said, it just fuels those people who say, “Well, I believe that atheism is just another religion.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one.

    But also, this billboard is just (throat clearing) preaching to the choir. If FFRF is attempting to reach out and get people to start questioning their dogma in favor of scientific evidence… this just doesn’t seem like the way to do it.
    Atheists might get a chuckle out of it but otherwise they’re not really hitting the mark.

  • SarahH

    I don’t understand what sort of target audience they’re hoping to reach.

    I’m never a fan of something that misleads theists into (stronger) belief that atheism is somehow a religion. Freedom From Religion also means freedom to think whatever you want about Darwin, and while many of us science geeks see him as a hero, telling your audience to “praise” him is just counter-productive and “meh” all over.

  • JimboB

    As much as I respect and admire Dan Barker & everyone at the FFRF, I can’t say I like this billboard. I think D.B. still has some unfortunate evangelistic tendencies which are making at least some atheists uncomfortable.

  • Awesomesauce

    Two strikes.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    I think D.B. still has some unfortunate evangelistic tendencies which are making at least some atheists uncomfortable.

    I wrote about this exactly on Skepchick a while back:

    Is Dan Barker a Fundamentalist?

    A better title would have been “Is Dan Barker Still a Fundamentalist?”

  • Richard Wade

    …but the “Praise Darwin” bit is just feeding into the stereotype that atheists treat Darwin as some infallible God.

    I thought that at first as well, but then I had another thought, “So what?”

    Stop and ask yourselves, “So what if some people think that?” What bad thing will come of it? Anyone who thinks that way is going to be thinking all sorts of idiotic things about atheists, and nothing we do will change them. How many creationists have you met who respond to a rational argument on the subject of evolution or atheists?

    The word “praise” is satire on the ubiquitous “Praise the Lord, or God, or Jesus, or Allah, or whatever. Satire can be a powerful way of challenging widespread assumptions but it always runs the risk of being taken seriously by a few people who just don’t have the wits to tell the difference. So yes, it is a mild anti-religious dig more than a pro-atheist statement, but I am beginning to think that millennia of the religious enjoying immunity from critical thinking has left them too thin-skinned.

    The phrase “evolve beyond belief” is probably meant figuratively, as in something like “develop your own mind to no longer indulge in belief,” but I also think it applies here literally as well. We will simply have to wait out the long, slow process of natural selection in the realm of ideas. If a new way of thinking has an advantage in the changing intellectual environment and an older way has a disadvantage, then eventually the old mentality will become extinct. Stay strong.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Stop and ask yourselves, “So what if some people think that?” What bad thing will come of it?

    A false belief will be reinforced.

    How many creationists have you met who respond to a rational argument on the subject of evolution or atheists?

    Glenn Morton comes to mind. Well, I haven’t met him, obviously, but other than that …

    The word “praise” is satire on the ubiquitous “Praise the Lord, or God, or Jesus, or Allah, or whatever.

    But as satire it flops. If “Praise Darwin” were said in front of a crowd who already understood that scientists didn’t treat Darwin as a demigod, the overstatement in referring to him as one might Jesus, etc. would be funny. As it stands, the billboard is aimed at a crowd that may be far more ignorant.

    The phrase “evolve beyond belief” is probably meant figuratively

    Yes, but it’s a figure of speech based off of mistaken ideas about the theory of evolution.

  • Pseudonym

    WWDD?

  • Richard Wade

    J.J.Ramsey, I agree with each of your points in response to my comment but I’m beginning to think that for the vast majority of those people who would have their false belief about “Darwin worship” reinforced, or would misunderstand the satire, or would continue in their misconception about evolution, it’s a completely futile, crazy-making waste of time to try to prevent every goofball notion they’ll cook up whenever we open our mouths. To my question, “So what?” you answered “A false belief will be reinforced.” To that I ask again, so what? They will think only those thoughts that fit their little, simple worlds. Only false beliefs have a chance in minds like that. We can’t be responsible for correcting their willful, hard-working, dedicated and fortified ignorance. They and their children will be handicapped living in a world that is more dependent on science every day, and we may sadly have to leave them behind.

    Or maybe I just need a vacation. I make a living explaining scientific concepts to children and lay adults. With some people, the task seems like I’m tossing marshmallows at a battleship. Maybe somebody can give me a pep talk.

    I wouldn’t have suggested this billboard idea either, mainly because it’s just not worth the money. Not much bang per buck for good or ill. The positive thing it might do is to notify isolated atheists in the area that they are not alone. The negative things are the effects you and others have mentioned, but it’s not like this billboard is a great, catastrophic blunder that will set us back decades. A few more bumpkins will be a little more bumpkiny. Darn.

  • JimboB

    writerdd,

    I think one of your commenters said it best saying Dan isn’t a very good PR person for atheistic advertising. He’s using too much of a “sermon-esque” style – the type of thing you expect from preachers.

    It’s sort of a catch 22… trying to appeal to a broad audience of freethinkers and many others without using tried-and-true marketing techniques he likely picked up before his journey out of fundamentalism.

  • http://cannonballjones.wordpress.com Cannonball Jones

    It’s kinda funny when you first see it but all in all I hate it. All it does is add more fuel to the ‘atheism is just another religion’ fire. Really not what we need. Let’s try to keep religious language and imagery out of atheist communication eh? Well, except when we’re mercilessly mocking it :)

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Richard Wade:

    To my question, “So what?” you answered “A false belief will be reinforced.” To that I ask again, so what? They will think only those thoughts that fit their little, simple worlds. Only false beliefs have a chance in minds like that. We can’t be responsible for correcting their willful, hard-working, dedicated and fortified ignorance.

    The catch is that you are not only dealing with a group of willfully ignorant people–who are probably unreachable–but also those who are taught by these willfully ignorant people and are simply ignorant–and the latter may be more reachable.

    More to the point, there’s no reason to add barriers that don’t have to be there. Just because we are stuck dealing with people who are bigoted against atheists doesn’t mean that we should help reinforce the bigots’ canards.

  • Richard Wade

    J.J. Ramsey:
    Good point. There are always a few who are reachable or else none of us would be talking about this today. I’ll take some deep, slow breaths, remember the stories I’ve read right here on FA by people who found their way out of the ignorance labyrinth and renew my efforts to light candles rather than curse darkness.

    I’ll model the behavior I want to see in others by changing my opinion because of a rational argument. Thank you.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    My problem with the billboard is that it doesn’t reflect the contributions of Wallace!

    But seriously, I agree with a lot of the people here. Still, it is the 200th birthday of Darwin this year. And I’m not big on the word “praise” in this context, but no harm in giving a major shout-out to Darwin, as people that respect science, because year by year, Darwin’s far-reaching ideas are being proven more and more correct.

  • misterjustin

    Against religious belief does not equal against religious people.

    This is a semantic argument. If I speak against religious belief to a religious person they’re going to take it personally. Saying, “atheism is dumb” is going to spark a like response.

    Doubt is a virtue, doubt is superior to faith.

    What I’m speaking to is the idea posited by the sign that we “evolve beyond belief.” This implies that those without belief are somehow more evolved. A superior species if you will. While this may spark another semantic argument it is certainly going to elicit an emotional response from the intended audience.

    It needs to be remembered that the audience for these signs is, at least in part, those with religious beliefs or those questioning their religious beliefs. If we’re simply advertising to other atheists we are, if I may, preaching to the choir.


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