Every Fair Needs a Freak Show…

If you’re visiting the Dane County Fair in Madison, Wisconsin today, keep your eye out for Mary Weigand, who has a special booth set up:

The part-time nurse from West Bend seeks to convince people that the universe is only 6,000 years old and that Charles Darwin was wrong. Her booth proclaims Christianity and evolution incompatible.

“Can you believe in evolution when God says he created the world and everything in it in six days?” she asked. “There’s really nothing to reinterpret.”

Weigand, center, shows off fake dinosaur bones

At least the article in the Wisconsin State Journal quotes a couple experts who actually know a little something about evolution:

Donald Waller, a UW-Madison botany professor who studies evolutionary biology, was dismayed to learn of the booth’s existence from a reporter.

“I think it’s a testament to the power of belief and the difference between belief and science,” Waller said. “She is asking that the physical laws of the universe be changed to accommodate her views.”

Techniques such as radioactive isotope dating repeatedly conclude that some geological features are hundreds of millions of years old, Waller said. “There’s little disagreement among scientists about the age of the Earth,” he said.

“This is nothing new. This is the standard creationist story,” said Charles Byers, UW-Madison professor emeritus of geology. “There are lots of examples of intermediate fossils showing progression of life going back for half a billion years.”

So Weigand is paying $680 for the privilege of being mocked by the educated. So be it. I’d love to see video of a precocious child quizzing her on her evolution knowledge.

Or, better yet, maybe Charlie’s Playhouse can purchase a booth at one of the fairs she’ll be attending in the future — let’s have some real science nearby to counter Weigand’s falsehoods.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Trace

    Freak show? Now, now…

    “As long as they’re just explaining things nicely and not pressing their views, I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all,”

    You see? Mike (or is it Mark?) does not think it is all that bad.

  • adam

    I’m a christian and I think the literal young earth interpretation of genesis is the result of the groupthink produced by the period of time in which christianity was exploited and perverted. While it may feel nice to consider yourselves superior because of one christian’s viewpoint, just know that there are christians who may cause you to question your own beliefs, just as atheists often cause me to question mine. The only identification I have with weigand is being “mocked by the educated.” I live in Seattle and am one of maybe 4-5 christians at my public law school. 

    I only have surface knowledge of physics and related sciences, but I do think that answering the following question necessarily joins religious notions with scientific concepts (I chose the term “concept” intentionally because I believe the first step will be exploring which definition of “matter” we will be using). Here it is: what is the probability that I, after dying and decomposing, will at some other point in space and time, be typing this exact same thing, and that this thing is being read by yourself? It need not be on the same computer, the same house, or the same ISP address. I don’t know how to approach the language issue; I am tempted (for simplicity’s sake) to require that the mere message be communicated, but now I feel like the question is very undefined. The main variables that need to be recreated are these words, your encountering them, and both you and my exact genetic make-up. Feel free to explore or better define the question. Maybe it will be fun!

    • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

      I’ll get back to you on this once the LSD kicks in.

      • adam

        Hahaha…may I suggest coffee instead? You know, serious pursuit of religious thought can also produce the after effects of copious drug use. Ezekiel was a mad-man raving in the street. If he asked me for money I probably would have that he was just another crackhead. Cheers.  

    • Thin-ice

      You and 4 or 5 others managed to get as far as law school with your faith intact? Does it not cause you to wonder why maybe half or more of your remaining fellow students probably were Christians when they started at university, and there are now only 4 or 5 left? Education tends to do that to people. The more people become familiar with science and scientific method, the more irrelevant religion becomes, especially the fundamentalist type.

      If you had a fellow law student who believed the earth was flat, wouldn’t you have even the slightest temptation to mock his beliefs? In the same way, many of us here (ex-evangelical Christians BTW) regard the belief in a 6k-yr-old earth and universe in exactly the same light. It’s much easier to mock a christian who believes in a young earth than a christian who is an old-earth creationist. And may I add, it deserves to be mocked. This belief has no place in a modern industrialized country like America. Only Turkey, among ALL nations, has similar high proportion of it’s population that still believes the literal creation story.

      • Adamtsp

        First, thanks. 

        Your comment seems to be at odds with some of the other responses. Some people think that I am wrong in saying that there are not very many christians in my school, whereas you are saying that progressing in education tends to drastically decrease the number of christians. I think that both you and your peers are making valid points. As I said in the reply to Louis, yes, that was a pretty short-sighted and unqualified number to throw out there; it was merely myself trying to communicate a minor point that led up to my main point, which, besides the LSD comment and JD’s, seems to have been bypassed. 

        To respond to your own contention, creation necessarily involves personality, more specifically, humanity. At what point did humans become the fully personal, moral (or at least non-zero sum game playing) creatures we are today? While 6,000 years is not the best estimation, there are arguments to be made that support such a belief system. Furthermore, a flat earth? What is dimension in an infinite universe? How big are you really? 6’0″? While I won’t seriously contend that the earth is flat, I will contend that you my friend are the center of the universe. Me too! Weird…

    • Anonymous

      I’m not sure what the aim of the question is, other than maybe it’s possibly a very broad restatement of an argument about the perceived unlikelihood of life forming out of a soup of organic molecules.

      • adam

        Sorry, it was kind of an off-the-top method of procrastination from studying, so admittedly yes, its a terribly undefined question. It is unlikely that life formed out of a soup of organic molecules, but scientifically, I think you could describe that phenomenon as probable.  That being said, isn’t the situation I laid out probable in the same sense? I was drawing on the mystery inherent in the nature of the universe, as well as bringing up some unsettled issues that are fundamental to scientific study. As I said above, my guess to actually approaching the question was to decide what we thought matter was. Does that help? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/Blotzphoto Louis Doench

      I live in Seattle and am one of maybe 4-5 christians at my public law school.

      I find that incredibly unlikely, even in the Pacific Northwest.  Unless you’re using one of those definitions of Christianity that excludes everyone who isn’t a Real True Christian. Like Catholics or Episcopalians or Lutherans… they don’t count as christians… do they?

      • The Captain

        What I have found that to usually mean is that “I have talked to only 8 people and 4-5 of them said they went to church, so there are obviously only 4-5 christians in my whole school”.

        • adam

          I have talked to more people than that. It wasn’t meant to be an exact stat. I was trying to make the point that I made in the reply to Louis as a small part of my overall point, which no one seems to be tackling. 

      • Adamtsp

        No it was an approximation. In my section of 100-110 there are 4-5 people who openly identify as a christian. I obviously can’t qualify that statement. Sorry for the imprecision on that front. I don’t identify with any particular denomination, but there are fundamental beliefs that makes one a christian, just like there are fundamental non-beliefs that make one atheist. I don’t know if that clarifies. Were you just fishing for an irrational response haha…? My intention with that bogus “stat” was that being mocked by the educated is extremely common, and that atheists sometimes represent themselves as poorly as christians do, i.e., an automatic derisive incredulity focused towards myself, and an utter lack of respect for anything about me. Basically, it seems to me that stereotyping a minority is en vogue in academia. 

  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    I especially like how the sign behind her says “Interpret the Evidence.”

  • G-bird

    *facepalm* Unfortunately it is all well and good having the experts comment on this in the local paper, but will they be there on the day to inform the misinformed? Some poor impressionable kids are going to get terrible information from an authority figure (in their young eyes) and their parents might not know enough to correct the issue, or even want to correct things. Urgh.

    Charlie’s Playhouse is amazing and I would teach my kids using all of their products.

    I get that people have their misguided views on things and they are entitled to have those views, but it makes me mad when they miseducate the young and then cause those kids to get confused and upset, especially if they are then corrected by an educator in front of their peers. Of course the correction is critical, but the social mockery is not.

  • Anonymous

    I always thought people like this were crazy, even when I was a (liberal, science-friendly) Christian. But the longer I am out of religion and belief, I look at people like this and am increasingly baffled by the level of pure stupidity and delusion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1034366850 Erin Jones

    AHH! I haven’t been to the fair this week but I live in Madison, and I remember many booths like this at the Rock County fair in Janesville WI, just 30 miles to the south of Madison. My brother and sister where given a tape one year that mocked the fossil record and they kept quoting it all summer. I think they were 8 at the time. My mom was mad becuase even though sh eis xian she knows evelution is a fact and tried to keep us away from those booths at the fair.

    They poop up every year along with the right to life tent, which I remember walking by right after my son was born, wishing I could tell them to shove it, that I was grateful that as a teen mom I had the ability to choose.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

      I think you meant pop…or maybe you didn’t.

      Nice city by the way. Too bad Mary Weigand is spoiling it a bit. My family just visited Madison following some time at Devil’s Lake and we were happy in both locations.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1034366850 Erin Jones

        Lol, yeah, I meant “pop up” my son was watching Dinosaur Train this morning on PBS and the episode was talking about dinosaur poop! He thought it was funny and I can’t get it out of my head, it was true but oh so ridiculous. So that’s what I blame the typing of “poop” on.

  • cipher

    The most recent comment, from “InbredChristian”:

    All u fancy book learned peeple thank u know it all. Muh Bible an Fox News is all I nead tuh know. Ah got muh Bible, shotgun, whisky an the sister I married an had 9 purdy kids with. God bless Sarah Palin!

    Saved me the trouble; I really can’t improve upon that.

    • Anonymous

      Even Christians aren’t THAT crazy. At least they wouldn’t say it that way

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      You got trolled big time.

      • cipher

        No – my point was that “InbredChristian” did such a good job of making fun of them, that I didn’t have to.

        Really, people – we’re supposed to be smarter than they are.

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          So you wanted to troll but since another troll posted something better you are now happy?

          • cipher

            Pretty much.

  • Mbadmin

    God did it. Now, I can stop thinking about that hard to understand science.

  • VANHORN_DEE

    why the fear of facts or science by conservatives and fundamentalists?  same is true for global warming.

    • Anonymous

      They consider the Bible to be the absolute and literal word of god. So if it gets one thing wrong, other things could be wrong too…

  • Bob Becker

    Oh, my…. is that lady wearing cotton/polyester blend clothes?  But the bible says…..

  • Anonymous

    I had a visit from my father this weekend.  He tried to embarrass me by telling my children how I used to love dinosaurs and would watch any dinosaur programme on the telly and read any book I could find about them.  I still love dinosaurs but I don’t have as much spare time these days.  I love how the evidence is available for anyone with an open mind to see for themselves.  I spent many hours and days exploring the garden looking for dinosaur bones when I was a child and when I was older I’d scour beeches looking for ammonite or trilobite fossils.  I love how anyone can gather this evidence for themselves and form a simple chain showing changes that occurred through time.  From simple Cambrian fossils through dinosaurs right up to our modern ancestors.

    Any cretin creationist who rejects evolution and calls fossil evidence false should go and look at the evidence for themselves.  Go to a natural history museum.  Read a book or watch a documentary on paleontology.  There are whole TV channels dedicated to educating the ignorant.  What do they have to lose?


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