Ping (zestyping) wrote,

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Well, i'm back from the Hovind lecture. It's been a crazy long day today, from start to finish: up till 8 am this morning working on the science flyer, a nap until noon, then off to the NCSE to do a little research on isochron dating, then a drive into the city to gather notes on Hovind's afternoon presentation, back to Berkeley to meet MM to edit the flyer, off to Kinko's with MM and LQ to print copies, back to VLSB to hand out flyers, off to Zellerbach for a tech run of the dance piece, back to VLSB for Hovind Q&A, a nice little respite at Au Coquelet, and finally home.

I had hoped to get all of the evolution supporters organized ahead of time, with specific instructions about getting all the flyers out and warnings not to be diverted into long arguments with Hovind. But such hopes were dashed when we arrived at 2050 VLSB at 6 pm and found that Hovind and his minions were already there. It was impossible to get organized in a corner of a huge lecture hall with random people wandering in and out. However, we did manage to get quite a few flyers distributed. You can see the final version online (follow the link at the bottom).

During the Q&A period, MM and LQ both got up to ask questions and did a great job. MM managed to get in a great line about how she didn't feel she always had to be addressed as "Dr. Markstein" because she was secure about her abilities. LQ was extremely good at forcing Kent to stay on topic and nailed him to his claim that evolution was a "fairy tale" because none of us were present to directly watch it happen: by his logic, the Genesis story was a fairy tale, and so was Abraham Lincoln. His defense was that Genesis was his religion and he wasn't asking for it to be taught in public schools. LQ challenged him to distinguish the Genesis "fairy tale" from the evolution "fairy tale".

I got in line to ask Dr. Hovind a question. I was still second in line as we were about to run out of time, but he recognized me and said he wanted to make sure i had a chance to ask my question. When i got up to the front of the line, before i had a chance to say anything, he announced to the audience that he knew me and he wanted to tell them something about me. He recounted the story of what happened at Waterloo (seven or eight years ago) when, in response to my claim that humans have vestigial tailbones, he pulled out his pocketknife and said he would be happy to remove my tailbone. I thought the story made him look silly, but he announced that i had responded by writing in a newspaper article that he had "threatened" me with his knife. He portrayed my claim that he "threatened" me as an misrepresentation since he was standing 75 feet away from me with his knife. I countered that whipping out a pocketknife was not a reasonable way to answer a factual question. He was so afraid of me that he felt he had to attack my character before even hearing what i had to say.

Perhaps i should have answered with a story of my own. If i'd had a tape with me, i could have shown the audience what Hovind thinks about women or what he thinks about Islam or how funny he finds it to shoot Muslims.

But i let his character attack drop, and got on with my question. I pointed out that, just a few minutes ago, he had told LQ that his belief in the biblical story of creation was his religion, and that he had said that evolution should not be taught in public schools because creation and evolution were both religions. He concurred. And i confirmed with him that his ministry taught the biblical story and a 6000-year age of the earth. Then i turned to the audience and announced that i was about to ask him an extremely simple question and to please pay attention. Then i asked him what the name of his ministry was. He said, "Creation Science Evangelism." And then i asked, "Now what is the word science doing in the name of your ministry that teaches something you just agreed was your religion? Why can't you be honest about the fact this is based on the bible and call it Biblical Creation?" This drew some applause from the scientists in the audience.

He claimed that it was science. I pointed out that scientific claims required evidence, just as he had been saying his entire lecture. "Do you have evidence for a 6000-year old earth?" I asked. "Can you tell me about a measurement for the age of the earth?" I asked. He had no experimental evidence to present. All he could say was "I have an eyewitness account." He went on to talk about the bible. "What do you have?" he asked.

At this point, i could have done a few different things. I could have described the radiometric dating methods that were detailed on the flyer. Perhaps i should have. I could have asked if he considers the bible to be scientific evidence. Maybe the strongest thing i could have done is to ask, "Is that all you have? If the bible says the earth is 6000 years old, does that take priority over all other evidence?"

Instead i turned to the audience and said, "I know many of the people in this room believe in God and many of you are Christians. I want you to understand that you can stand up for what you believe in, proudly and honestly, and say you believe in the Bible, without saying that the 6000-year-old earth is science."

A few times during this exchange he attempted to pull me off track by saying that the lies in the textbooks about evolution were not science, and challenging me to prove evolution instead of answering my question. After this had happened a couple of times i got fed up and turned to the audience and said, "Did you see what he just did? He completely avoided the question. Now watch me ask him again."

DG, KS, NH, NP, and CT also came. It was great to have their support. (If you were there and remember interesting moments or good Q&A exchanges that happened, feel free to add to the story.)
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