Back in the days of Usenet, one of the posters to Talk.Origins was a former creationist named Glenn Morton. He is the author of a meme, Morton’s Demon which explained the sort of confirmation bias at work in the religious mindset. This he had witnessed from within and without, and his story is an interesting one. His career as a petroleum geologist forced him to an epiphany -wherein undeniable facts persistently refuted erroneous beliefs required by his prior association with dogmatic propaganda groups like the Institute for Creation Research. During his slow transition from Young Earth Creationism to theistic evolution, there was a period where he was somehow able to understand how the earth was billions of years old Monday thru Friday, but he was still able to pretend it was only thousands of years old on weekends. Eventually his mutually-exclusive dichotomy came into focus as an inevitable consequence of overwhelming evidence.
Empirical rationalists like myself once turned to him as an inspiring example of intellectual honesty, illustrating the importance of evidential analysis over whatever fraudulent fantasies one might prefer to believe. My own perspective at that time was that it didn’t matter whether one believed in gods or spirits or fate; the important question was whether one would accept or reject evident truths that might challenge those beliefs. It seems I had underestimated the extent of cognizant detriment which religion still has even in a diminished state.
My own experience with Morton was deeply disappointing to say the least. At first he was open to share useful and interesting data with me in a very rational and intelligent manner, and I appreciated his time and knowledge very much. Then in 2005, I invited him and two other Christian scientists to moderate a debate between me and an ‘ex-Darwinist’ now claiming to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. My opponent was busily courting certain members of the State Board of Education who had already become infamous for their rejection of science. So I invited a couple of the worst ones at that time to co-moderate our debate and see which side the science really backed. My opponent selected a 3rd moderator from another fundamentalist creationism ministry, a man who gave a face to the phrase, “bewildering inanity”. I balanced the equation with three professional scientists, a geneticist with the human genome project, a famous paleontologist involved with Jurassic Park, and of course Glenn Morton. All of these respected scientists were experts in their fields. My thought was that any false claim my opponent made would be immediately refuted by at least one of them. They were also each devout Christians, chosen in an attempt to keep the focus on the science, and not let our discussion degrade into theism vs atheism.
Sadly that attempt failed with my own selected moderators turning against me instantly. The geneticist dropped out at the onset when my opponent’s mod accused my chosen mods of not being ‘true’ Christians. The paleontologist (who was also a Pentecostal preacher) told me initially that creationists were simply ‘bigots’. Yet he ignored everything that was being said by either side, and instead used my forum -at my invitation- to soap-box his own bigotry against atheists.Morton did the same -only worse. Turns out he hates atheists, HATES us simply because we are atheist -even though he was once very nearly atheist himself. That is until he found some way to rationalize his continued belief, -something I couldn’t do, and wouldn’t do as a matter of honor. How does Morton justify his unreasonable hatred of atheists? By accusing us of being bigoted. Theism seems to thrive on irony and projection.
So during our debate, he openly criticized me with complete contempt. I had the impression that he was negotiating support of my opponent behind the scenes, because Morton revealed that he didn’t care how accurate the claims of either side actually were. To Hell with education, facts be damned; he said he just didn’t want an atheist to win a debate against a Christian. That’s how little accuracy or honesty matter whenever they confront religious biases.
To prove my point, he has done it again. On my 50th birthday, (coincidentally) Glenn Morton deleted all his files from his own web-page. His explanation, ‘Why I left Young-Earth Creationism‘ is still available on other websites, but no longer on his own. His explanation for ‘Why I took my creation web pages down‘ is a disorienting decent into madness. In it there are many lines of cascading failure, including this gem:
“I watched the leftist party vote 3 times to drop God and Jerusalem and then watched their leaders steal that election on national TV and everyone knows that election was stolen.”
Sorry Glenn, but there is no ‘leftist party’. Many normally conservative registered Republicans voted Democratic this time either because they didn’t want to be associated with religious insanity, or because they didn’t want to be ruled by theocracy, or they voted for a host of other socially, environmentally, or financially conscious reasons that might have nothing to do with religion. Nobody, NOBODY voted to “drop God’ or Jerusalem. As for ‘stealing’ the election, according to Global Research, all the vote-stealing machines were owned by Republicans, if not by the Romneys specifically. So maybe we don’t all really ‘know’ what Morton obviously doesn’t know either.
Worst of all, he considers it acceptable to teach children alleged facts which we can all prove -and HE can prove- are certainly wrong. He says religion has a right to be wrong, and that means it’s OK to lie to children in the guise of ‘teaching’ them. He says creationism is factually wrong, and a detriment to his religion, but he still prefers that to atheists NOT indoctrinating other people’s children. He says that offering only an actual factual education instead is somehow tantamount to a totalitarian forced conformity.
(shakes head in wide-eyed bewilderment).
It occurs to me that Glenn Morton’s notoriety -and all the respect he has ever rightfully earned- was based on a single honest reflection, a period of clarity -which his religion has since found a way to retard and reverse; much the pity.