A Creationist is Giving Away $10,000

Joseph Mastropaolo is a Creationist and he has a challenge for evolutionists (more recently mentioned in The Guardian): Prove to an “impartial” judge that science contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis and the money is yours.

Joseph Mastropaolo

A California creationist is offering a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove in front of a judge that science contradicts the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.

Mastropaolo believes that evolution cannot be proved scientifically. “It turns out that there is nothing in the universe [that] is evolving, everything is devolving, everything is going in the opposite direction,” he said.

The Literal Genesis Trial contest would be held in a courthouse in Santa Ana, California and Mastropaolo has said he will create a list of potential superior court judges to decide the case. The participants would have to agree on a judge. Mastropaolo said that he hopes the trials can improve future debates between evolutionists and creationists by addressing the issue in a legal and scientific way.

This is what’s known in the scientific world as a “publicity stunt.”

If Mastropaolo really had any evidence in favor of Genesis, he would share it with the world, debunk evolution, and go down in history as one of the greatest thinkers of our time… instead of the shameless huckster he is right now.

In fact, he has published such a paper! (In a Creationist publication, of course.)

To test simply the alleged self-combining tendency of carbon, I placed one microliter of India (lampblack) ink in 27 ml of distilled water. The ink streaked for the bottom of the test tube where it formed a dark haze which completely diffused to an even shade of gray in 14 hours. The carbon stayed diffused, not aggregated as when dropped on paper. At this simple level there is no evidence that the “primeval soup” is anything but fanciful imagination.

Well, shit. I guess we’re screwed.

But I’m sure we can always go double-or-nothing and have Mastropaolo produce a talking snake.

(Thanks to Milos for the link!)

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.

  • Randomfactor

    Didn’t Dover already establish this? The judge seemed to think so…

  • primenumbers

    Didn’t evolution already win in the Dover trial, in front of a fair (and actually a real) judge?

  • TheG

    I’m reminded of a Richard Dawkins quote (that may have been quoting someone else… I can’t remember):

    “That would look very good on your CV: not so much on mine”

  • Abram Larson

    It looks like he disproved abiogenesis, not evolution. Something also tells me that no amount of “sceince” is going to be accepted to this guy. Or he will call it micro-evolution or some other goalpost moving crap.


    Same old nonsense. If you can’t prove every last detail of evolution then the Biblical account of creation wins by default. Does it ever occur to these folks that simply attacking Darwin doesn’t prove their point, and they do indeed, need to prove what they’re saying? I’ll offer this clown a million dollars if he can prove invisible pink unicorns don’t exist. He won’t collect his money for the same reason no one will collect on his challenge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=647371049 Todd Sampson

    That was my first thought as well! I say we ask Kenneth Miller to take up the challenge!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “It turns out that there is nothing in the universe [that] is
    evolving, everything is devolving, everything is going in the opposite

    “Devolving”? This sounds like evolution misconception number one, that evolution means “improvement” in some direction. Nope. It’s just gradual change in response to changes in the environment. Evolution isn’t going toward some goal, like a train going down tracks laid out beforehand. It’s more like a driverless car on a dry lake bed, being turned this way and that by the stones and pebbles that the tires roll over.

  • A3Kr0n

    “A Creationist is Giving Away $10,000″
    I’ll bet you $100 that he doesn’t.

  • Gus Snarp

    This ought to be a piece of cake, Dover, as mentioned, already did this. It’s a slam dunk. Perhaps he doesn’t plan on selecting impartial judges. But on the other hand, who would want to take part? It changes nothing, it’s a complete waste of time, and as Dawkins says, good for his c.v, not so much for mine. There’s no reason to raise this guy’s profile, and of course it’s never been about money for scientists. We’ve already seen the creationists’ willingness to ignore all evidence, so it’s probably best for us to ignore this.

  • kevin white

    That’s the thing. Creationists don’t use the dictionary, just a Thesaurus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.hitchcock1 Mike Hitchcock

    I believe he was quoting a former president of the Royal Society, but I don’t know which one.

  • Gus Snarp

    I just noticed that. And what does he define as the goal state of evolution? What’s its direction? And how does he know it’s going the wrong way? Where’s the evidence for that? That one line places this guy for me not just in the creationist camp, but in the camp of raging ignorant kooks. It’s like crossing Ken Ham with Neal Adams.

    Honestly, if he’s so ragingly ignorant that he has to impute direction to evolution, then he’s in no position to ask someone to provide evidence to a judge, he needs to educate himself first.

  • Gus Snarp

    I just noticed that. And what does he define as the goal state of evolution? What’s its direction? And how does he know it’s going the wrong way? Where’s the evidence for that? That one line places this guy for me not just in the creationist camp, but in the camp of raging ignorant kooks. It’s like crossing Ken Ham with Neal Adams.

    Honestly, if he’s so ragingly ignorant that he has to impute direction to evolution, then he’s in no position to ask someone to provide evidence to a judge, he needs to educate himself first.

  • C Peterson

    His downfall could be hearing this in court. Because technically, he is correct. Evolution can’t be “proved scientifically”. Nothing can be. There are, of course, certain challenges here (for instance, there is no concept of “devolution” in the biological sciences), but in the end, a court isn’t a body that requires absolute proof, but merely evidence beyond a reasonable doubt- something that is easy to demonstrate in the case of evolution (and indeed, has been demonstrated successfully in more than one court).

  • Blacksheep

    Isn’t the overriding implication that life began ultra-simply and evolved to greater and greater complexity – with man as an example of a species that is far more complex than the way life first began? Or is that journey from simple to complex accidental and random? (I’m not being sarcastic…)

  • Kengi

    Evolution doesn’t have a “direction”. Taken as a whole, life has gone from simple to complex, but that isn’t some sort of rule for all individual species, nor for the actual processes involved.

    There are, in fact, many examples of individual species losing a previously evolved trait because of en environmental forcing.

    The fallacy is in believing that evolution has a specific “direction” it must always follow.

  • Gus Snarp

    In broad general terms that’s correct. But mainly because there’s no where to go but more complex when you’re talking about a prokaryote, and you’ve got to establish, for example, a tubular, symmetrical body plan before you can get to simple limbs, and limbs before you get to hands, so to that extent, increasing complexity is inevitable. But once sufficient complexity is reached, there’s nothing preventing some branches decreasing in complexity, say by losing its eyes, and that happens as well.

  • artiofab

    I’m really confused on why The Guardian gave him any ink, he’s an academic (since he did teach as CSU-Long Beach for a while) but on the topic of evolution he is a crank; his website (that I don’t think is worth linking to) gives a list of “debates” that other academics (and in some cases, entire departments!) have declined to have with him.
    That’s his trophy wall, he’s proud to tell the Internet that hundreds of people think he is too crazy to have a rational discussion with. The guy needs a good mental health therapist, not more publicity.

  • Kengi

    To put it another way, if complexity is more advantageous than any disadvantages that complexity introduces, natural selection will tend to favor complexity. If simplicity becomes more beneficial, the selection will tend to favor simplicity in that particular situation.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’ve noticed from the article that this isn’t actually “giving away” anything. He’s setting it up as a bet, the scientist side has to front $10,000 as well. And I’m certain the terms and conditions will be set up, as much as he’s able, to favor his side.

    And this:

    “The evolutionists thereafter could read that transcript and make their case a bit stronger on the next one they contend against and we can do the same,” Mastropaolo said. “We can read the transcript and not have have to go through the same process over and over and over again without any let up, without any resolution.”

    Um, yeah, we’ve tried that. You can find it all at http://www.talkorigins.org/, or a number of other sites, as well as Miller, Shubin, Dawkins, and a number of other books, and of course the academic biological literature. But creationists seem to be unable or unwilling to read, or to adequately evaluate evidence, since they still keep claiming things like irreducible complexity no matter how many times it’s been shown to be false.

  • chris tucker

    Technically it isn’t even about evolution. The rules state (yes i went. ugh):

    “3. If the non-literal Genesis advocate proves that science contradicts the literal reading of Genesis, then the non-literal Genesis advocate is awarded the $20,000.”

    So, I believe the “impartial judge” must be the key to this silly ordeal. Because I don’t see how you can get passed the first page of genesis without a few scientific contradictions. I mean; you don’t have to disprove Genesis, just prove that science contradicts it. Not even saying which is right.

    As I said, silliness.

  • Ryan Jean

    He was quoting a member of the Royal Society as a means of retorting demands for a debate from William Lane Craig:

    Don’t feel embarrassed if you’ve never heard of William Lane Craig. He parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name either. Perhaps he is a “theologian”. For some years now, Craig has been increasingly importunate in his efforts to cajole, harass or defame me into a debate with him. I have consistently refused, in the spirit, if not the letter, of a famous retort by the then president of the Royal Society: “That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine”.


  • http://twitter.com/cryofly anuran

    Imagine if this dude is a science teacher in a school.
    I bet he has an India ink and water experiment to prove god as well.
    PS: I really have some desperate use for $10000.

  • C Peterson

    Isn’t the overriding implication that life began ultra-simply and evolved to greater and greater complexity – with man as an example of a species that is far more complex than the way life first began?

    No. This is an illusion created by the fact that the path from simple to complex is a long one, meaning that more complex lifeforms are generally more recent than simpler ones. This makes it appear as if there is some sort of direction to evolution. What tends to be missed with this view is all the evolutionary changes that represent simplifications. This is true even in humans, which are arguably no more complex than many other mammals- perhaps less so. It is seen in whales, which lost their legs. It is seen in animals that moved to dark environments and lost their eyes. It is seen in the millions of highly stable ancient “simple” species that still exist largely unchanged because they are so well adapted to their environments.

    Evolution drives species to change in such a way that they are better able to reproduce in their environment. That can just as easily lead to an increase in simplicity as an increase in complexity (to the extent that these terms can even be clearly defined- a better way of saying this might be that traits are lost as well as gained).

  • No no no

    I hope no one even tries because it gives credibility to the notion that creation is even a viable option. It is like an alchemist posed the same challenge to a real chemist. It only serves to promote the illusion that batshit crazy is viable.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Ya, I was thinking Miller or Collins would be good- Miller obviously more interested in the debate. And heck, Dover was ID, not even humans created in present form. I wonder what Mastropaolo thinks Genesis says about the age of the earth and universe.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    No, the trend is towards “better adapted to the environment” Sometimes that is what we would think of as ‘more complex’ but sometimes it is not. The fact that so many very ‘simple’ organisms still exist shows that complexity isn’t a necessary result.

  • Gus Snarp

    It’s actually a bet, you have to pony up your own $10,000 up front, so it’s no good for getting a desperately needed $10,000. Now if you’ve already got $10,000 and desperately need to turn that into $20,000…

  • Kengi

    I would assume that his basic “court” argument that science can’t disprove the Genesis account would be that the Genesis account is so vague that no one can “disprove” it. If you make your claims vague enough, you can just keep avoiding any reasonable argument against those claims. Like trying to nail Jello to the wall.

    What will never get mentioned is the difference between this argument and actual science, which generates useful, testable predictions based upon empirical evidence.

  • Gus Snarp

    Well, he does say a literal reading of Genesis. And we don’t need evolution to show that science contradicts a literal reading of Genesis. If Genesis is literally true, then every human being on earth descended from a single man and woman in the recent past. If we can peg him down to a time span, then we ought to be able to easily show that there’s no way to account for the genetic variation among humans from a common ancestor only 6,000 years ago. And since judge’s routinely accept DNA evidence showing how related people are, the science there is open and shut.

  • Edmond

    What the…? Science has shown that fruit is made of flesh and fruit and seeds, and that the knowledge of good and evil is nowhere in there. Science has shown that humans are made of carbon and nitrogen and potassium (among other things), and that dirt/clay/mud is not a component, nor can you make a new person from the rib of another. Science has shown that snakes do not have a larynx.
    I’m sorry, did he need more? There’s LOTS more.

  • http://twitter.com/yjmbobllns Yojimbo Billions

    What judge would even agree to do that? He does realize you can’t just walk into a courthouse and ask for adjudication on whatever ridiculous topic?

  • RobMcCune

    Most life on earth is still single celled.

  • Psychotic Atheist

    Beyond reasonable doubt is only for criminal cases. For this matter, the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ or ‘clear and convincing evidence’ burden might be more appropriate. These are lower burdens of proof, which should mean the result is more certain.

  • Trickster Goddess

    Reasonable doubt is only the standard for criminal trials. For civil trials the standard is balance of probabilities. Under that he doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.

    Also, I wonder what career minded superior court judge would hire out for such a stunt? It isn’t like this is an actual law case, deciding an issue based on legal points. I think he’ll probably end up getting Judge Judy.

  • C Peterson

    Since reasonable doubt is already an easy hurdle, further lowering the burden of demonstration is all the better.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    It’s absurdly simple to prove that “science contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis,” since the Noah story is in Genesis. How many thousands, if not millions, of animals needed to be taken aboard Noah’s Ark for every species to survive? Could they all fit? Could they have (scientifically and rationally, which is what he’s calling for) survived all that time? Could there possibly have been adequate food on board to feed them all without divine intervention? No, of course not. I’ll take that $10,000 now, please.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    They argue that you didn’t need all those animals, only 1 pair of each unclean ‘kind’ and 7 pairs of each clean ‘kind’ without really explaining what a ‘kind’ is. They say things ‘micro’ evolved from there.

    But as long as they say Noah was 4K years ago, there still isn’t time to get the genetic diversity within humans, let alone everything else.

    Kangaroos also pose a problem for Noah.

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    According to Bubbapedia:
    An Evolutionist: Is a person who can sit through a 12 course meal and be perfectly contented.
    A Creationist: Is a person who throws a major tantrum for waiting an extra minute in the McDonald’s drive through queue.

  • Earl G.

    He wants someone to disprove Genesis? Well, I’m sure we could find a five-year-old with a free afternoon …

  • trj

    Well, lets see…

    Genetics disproves a literal Adam and Eve, linguistics disproves the Tower of Babel, cosmology disproves the genesis account, and every branch of the natural sciences disprove a global Flood.

    But I have a feeling all of this will be dismissed since I can’t demonstrate a cat giving birth to a dog, and so accordingly evolution must be false.

  • Roger Peritone

    Yep…it did. So that old con-artist can send his money to the NSCE people and to the teachers of Dover. Oh wait….the ID/creationists only lost the Dover case because they didn’t handpick the judge. (though they did think that he was one of them)! IDiots.

    This character is also talked about here:


  • Pseudonym

    Disclaimer: I’m not a physical chemist, but I used to work for them. So I’m going from memory here. Nonetheless, here goes.

    Carbon black in suspension doesn’t clump on a scale large enough to be seen with the naked eye.

    It definitely clumps, though. At said previous workplace, we worked with carbon black nanoparticles (which are, of course, smaller than the microparticles in India ink; this is important because Brownian motion tends to move them around more, so they hit other particles), distributing them throughout a polymer film. They definitely clumped when you didn’t want them to, but not on a scale you could see, even with a microscope. The only hint was that the electrical resistance of the film was higher than you’d expect.

    Incidentally, my boss (in conjunction with an emeritus professor) was the first person to find a closed form for the attraction force between two buckyballs (which are in the graphene family, not carbon black, but it still applies). It pretty much matched the experimental figure.

    But more to the point, I’m not aware of any proposed model of abiogenesis which involves carbon black. Hell, we make carbon black from chemical mixes which were originally organic, such as petroleum or vegetable oil.

  • Pseudonym

    Perhaps he is a “theologian”.

    Until about ten years ago, most theologians hadn’t heard of him either.

    BTW, the original source of the quote was Robert May, now Baron Oxford. While I’ve never heard May speak, Dawkins’ impression of May completely nails a certain kind of Australian academic accent.

  • Pureone

    Genesis 2 disproves Genesis 1.

  • Pseudonym

    If Genesis is literally true, then stars are holes in the firmament. As the theologian John Calvin famously pointed out in his Commentary on GenesisM, 300 years before Darwin, Genesis is a book written by, and for, uneducated peasants:

    For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.

    If the “trial” ever goes ahead, this is going in my amicus brief.

  • artiofab

    If Genesis is literally true:
    Stars are holes in the firmament
    Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are holes in the firmament that move
    Any objects found since the discovery of the telescope (other galaxies, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, all moons of all planets besides Earth) do not exist
    The moon and the sun both produce light and are probably around the same diameter
    Both the sun and moon move around the Earth
    The Earth is for all intents and purposes ‘flat’, but either circular or oval-shaped (Genesis does not make this clear)
    The Earth is a few hundred or a few thousand miles in size, encompassing parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
    North and South America, Antarctica, and Australia do not exist

    Okay, to be fair, Genesis doesn’t say all of that, but the entirety of the Hebrew scriptures makes it very plain that the Earth is not very large and the cosmos is a miniscule place compared to our current knowledge of it. So either the Genesis is literally true or Australia is real.

  • artiofab

    He used to teach kinesiology at California State University Long Beach.

  • LesterBallard

    “This is what’s known in the scientific world as a “publicity stunt”…”

    This is what is known as a asinine publicity stunt.

  • Bdole

    This sounds like the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics argument. Increased entropy, +Delta-S, is the spontaneous direction of change given a small enough or negative change in enthalpy, Delta-H. with Temperature as multiplier of entropy. Therefore, Jesus.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Whoa. Okay, I’m convinced. Praise +Delta-H!!

    …Or is it Praise +Delta-S?

    Crap. Now we got two warring sub sects again.

  • Nohm

    You’re absolutely correct.

    As has been said, this is a publicity stunt. Much like Kent Hovind’s challenge, no one will attempt this (because it’s rigged), and therefore Mr. Mastropaolo can claim that no one will challenge him.

    Dishonest as hell, of course.

  • Nohm

    Or, as I like to say, “Dover.” [mic drop]

  • Nohm

    This type of “trophy wall” is pretty common with fundie debaters.

  • Keulan

    Any reasonable person should refuse his challenge, for several reasons. 1) You have to put up $10,000 of your own money as well as the $10,000 this creationist is putting up. 2) Even if you do provide scientific evidence contradicting creationism, he’ll likely just move the goalposts so that the evidence you provide no longer fits his requirements. 3) You’d be wasting your time on this moron and giving him more publicity and credibility than he deserves.

  • http://twitter.com/BdrLen Len

    read the rules here, they are hilarious


  • cipher

    I thought all the Thesauruses were killed in the flood.

  • baal

    Can you prove that history actually happened? Why would you accept court records and newspapers, they aren’t the word of god and all.

    (disambiguation: I’m being ironic)

  • baal

    or shrinking to the tiny scale as in the tardigrade.

  • Gus Snarp

    Tardigrades are awesome.

  • CultOfReason

    He is neither a theologian nor philosopher. He is a Christian apologist. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere + Yvonne Aburrow

    Indeed, as Karen Armstrong has pointed out, literal belief in the book of Genesis creation story is a relatively new thing, at least among the learned.

  • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere + Yvonne Aburrow

    if Genesis is literally true, I am a wombat.

  • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere + Yvonne Aburrow


  • Alexis

    Okay, disprove Genesis as a science text…Hmm, according to Genesis there is a firmament between the heavens and the earth. This firmament is close enough to the earth, that builders in stone and masonry construction are a threat to the gods because they might build a tower so tall they can breech the firmament. There are finite height limits so stone and masonry construction that have been surpassed by steel buildings, aircraft, space probes and mountain climbers. No firmament has been encountered therefore Genesis is wrong.

  • Thegoodman

    “5. Evidence must be scientific, that is, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.”

    So you can ask the creationist to present his “evidence” first. Then walk out with the money?

  • Thegoodman

    Psh, satan put thesaurus bones underground to trick us. Nice try satan, +1 Jesus.

  • CJ

    I need help and a bit of an education. Someone has told me that the 2nd law of thermodynamics proves evolution to be false. What is a good response to this?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    The best resource for specific arguments is talkorigins.org. Just go there and search


    The short answer is that the “violation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics” argument ignores the “natural selection” phase of evolution. We make some random changes to the genome from on generation to the next, but we select for those changes that are better adapted. The ‘selection’ part is key, and is also why anyone who starts saying “random” when describing evolution probably doesn’t understand it.

  • Drakk

    That and the fact that the second law of thermodynamics applies to what we call closed systems. That to say that there is no energy flowing into or out of them.

    The surface of the earth is assuredly not such a system.

  • CJ

    I was actually just at the site, very helpful. Thank you!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    As Zack Kopplin just pointed out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-zimmerman/literal-genesis-trial-_b_2961284.html Mastropaolo has a history of pulling shit.

    He very much liked the phrase “competent to contend for the Life Science Prize, also warning me that “Evolutionist hallucinators so out of touch with reality are psychotic by medical dictionary definition, and therefore not mentally competent to contend for the Life Science Prize.”

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    Ooh-ooh, my 7 year old did this one: The moon is NOT a source of light. Can we haz the money?

  • Pseudonym

    That’s certainly true. Before the 20th century, almost every theologian of any significance who has written on the topic has seen Genesis 1 as being at least partly allegorical.

    I say “almost”, because you might be able to make a case for St Basil the Great’s Hexaemeron. But even there, he clearly wasn’t trying to make a scientific case.

  • artiofab

    Well I guess it’s like having a C.V. of, um, places that didn’t hire you.

  • artiofab

    This is why the Christian fundamentalist movement of the late 19th century has been argued, by almost every theologian on the planet, to be an incredibly short-sighted and reactionary movement.

    …that somehow still exists in the 21st century in a country that has put people on the moon (which, oddly enough, does not produce its own light and is much smaller than the sun).

  • artiofab

    Except that wombats can’t type!
    Literal interpretation of Genesis: 1, wombats: 0.

  • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere + Yvonne Aburrow

    Ha ha. Damn, I had not thought of that.

  • TheBlackCat13

    “Except that wombats can’t type!”

    That’s just what they want you to think.

  • artiofab

    Valid counter-argument, I cede the floor.