About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Creationists launch “peer reviewed” journal

I’m not making this up, I swear. “Answers in Genesis,” the same nonsensical outlet that has given us Ken Ham’s “Creation Museum,” recently launched a “peer reviewed” “technical” journal, called, of course, “Answers Research Journal.” The idea, we learn from the “About” section of the journal’s web page, is to provide an outlet for “interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework.” See, apparently “there has been a pressing need for such a journal,” because “people want to know they can trust what is published on the Internet,” and they “can give you absolute assurance that the papers we will be publishing in Answers Research Journal are of the highest scientific and theological standard.” Of course, a high theological standard is a bit of an oxymoron, but let’s not quibble on the details.

The editor of this prestigious new arrival on the scientific scene is Andrew A. Snelling, who is so unknown and apparently insecure enough that he puts “B.Sc. (Hons)” after his name, before “Ph.D.” (in geology, from the University of Sidney). The esteemed (by some) Dr. Snelling has published an astounding 24 technical papers in 30 years of research, an average that would not get him tenure at the local community college. Accordingly, in 1998 Snelling had to content himself with joining the “faculty” of the Institute for Creation Research in California. Nevertheless, in the same year he won a whopping three (!!) prizes at the Fourth International Conference on Creationism for three technical papers he submitted (my hunch is that they were only three papers submitted, but I could be wrong, there may have been four). We are not told who else is on the editorial board of ARJ, perhaps the distinguished scientists who agreed to oversee the peer review process were afraid of losing tenure at their institutions. Damn secularist fascists in charge of American universities!

I simply couldn’t wait to start reading about all these new exciting scientific discoveries informed by a Christian perspective, and I wasn’t disappointed. The current volume of ARJ features the proceedings of the Microbe Forum, where we learn that “for many years the roles of microbes as part of God’s wonderful design have been neglected. Perhaps it is because many people associate microbes as the cause of death, disease, and suffering.” I think these many people have a point: what the hell was god thinking? Well, abstracts presented at the Forum begin to tell us, as titles include such gems as a “Creationist Model of Bacterial Mutations,” “Creation Microbiology and the Origin of Disease,” the highly technical-sounding “Viral/Bacterial Attenuation and Its Link to Innate Oncolytic Potential: Implications of the Perfect Original Creation in the Beginning,” and my favorite: “Pathogenicity Tools and Mycotoxins: In the Beginning or after the Fall?”

But the rest of the current issue of ARJ is not to be neglected either. For instance, in “Microbes and the Days of Creation,” by Alan Gillen (unknown academic affiliation), we learn that “ongoing research, based on the creation paradigm, appears to provide some answers to puzzling questions” such as “where do microbes fit into the creation account? ... Were they created along with the rest of the plants and animals in the first week of creation, or were they created later, after the Fall?” In a show of pure scientific balance, the author admits that “the answers to these questions are not explicit in Scripture, so the answers cannot be dogmatic.” Gillen ends up postulating that “microbes were created as ‘biological systems’ with plants, animals, and humans on multiple days [of creation week]” because as we well know “God made His creation fully mature, and complex forms fully formed.” Amen.

No need to go any further with this nonsense, as good as it is for a chuckle or two. The real question is: why? Why do creationists feel compelled to have a “science” museum, a peer reviewed journal, or, in the case of the Discovery Institute Intelligent Design think tank, a recently established (but very secretive) research laboratory? Could it be science envy? Indeed, even more broadly, why do creationists feel compelled to argue their case at all? Isn’t faith enough? When I was living in the south of the US it often happened that someone would engage me in an impromptu debate, where they were sure that I would see the light of (their) overwhelming reason and convert on the spot. When, instead, I managed to put them on the defensive, they would play with evident pride the faith trump card: “I believe in spite of evidence.” OK, fair enough (if more than a bit moronic), but then why did you just try to argue with me? Arguing, teaching, and doing research means that one accepts the rule of rational, evidence-based discourse. And yet creationists want to have it both ways, and promptly retreat behind the all-encompassing shield of faith when things get rough.

I suspect that creationists, deep down, have internalized the much-despised secular ethos that one has to have reasons for one’s positions, and they feel that they really don’t have rationality on their side. They seek respectability through fake museums and peer review journals because they know that the Middle Ages are over, and just shouting one’s faith in god isn’t gonna cut it anymore (modern society disqualifying stoning and burning at stakes doesn’t help either). Indeed, the very progression that we have seen during the 20th century, from the Scopes to the Dover trials, from young earth creationism pretending to keep evolution teaching out of public schools entirely to so-called “intelligent design” (which accepts a lot of science, including natural selection) begging for a bit of classroom time, is a path of constant retreat, away from silly biblical literalism, inching ever closer to modern science. The most advanced of the creationist ilk, the ID supporters, have intellectually advanced all the way into the early 19th century (after Paley, before Darwin), while young earth creationists are still trying to come to terms with the Enlightenment. Perhaps if we wait another century or two they’ll enter early 20th century science and make peace with Darwin. Now, that would be a miracle to behold.


  1. The US Supreme Court once said in a ruling on creationism that "science is what scientists do." I had a problem with that statement, and this new "journal" illustrates why.

    If "scientists" are people who publish research in "journals," then all a creationist has to do is to hire some flake, call them a "scientist" and have their work published in a "journal."

    Now when somebody says "Just show me one peer-reviewed journal article..." they can say "Ah HA!" and produce one.

    I'm just surprised it took them so long to figure this out. I remember alluding to this in a speech for my speech class in 1997.

  2. This is just one example of the problem of bias in science. Bias is probably the worst infection the scientific community can acquire. It comes from religious fundamentalists who try to use science to hold back scientific knowledge that contradicts their faith. It also happens for profit-seeking parties, such as the oil companies that hire "scientists" to deny man-caused global warming.

  3. "OK, fair enough (if more than a bit moronic), but then why did you just try to argue with me? Arguing, teaching, and doing research means that one accepts the rule of rational, evidence-based discourse."

    Good point. But the responsibility must be on y'all then to demonstrate that either one could actually exist and thrive with out the other. Your camp is the one trying to place the artificial separation between the two. I, otoh, think that neither faith (belief) or the reasons we believe evidence matters at all can exist without the other.

    I personally could care less if creation interested folk are peer-reviewed by themselves or anyone else. Anyone who ever intended to do something difficult and therefore great generally had to withstand quite a bit of criticism to get it done. So what. They ought to just take it and move on.

    Not particularly impressed.

    On to my ladies winter tea.
    :) Have a good one

  4. Cal, reason exists perfectly well without faith. I personally have no faith in anything whatsoever. Faith and reason are mutually exclusive, as the former is believing something for which there is no evidence, or in fact contrary to the evidence, and the latter is based on proper observation and a rational approach. You can most certainly have one withoutthe other.

  5. Massimo said, "Arguing, teaching, and doing research means that one accepts the rule of rational, evidence-based discourse."

    I have to disagree. One can simply consider these to be effective ways to get people to join your cause, i.e. buying into the pomo idea of reason as just another abuse of power. You do not argue to get at the truth but to get the other guy to agree with you - sure this approach has a very long and dishonourable tradition.

  6. Kimpatsu
    You are really telling me that you truly believe that you evolved from NOTHING????? What is the rational for that?? You Can't possibly believe that this fairy tale is supported by science? Wake your God hating bias up and look at the evidence. There are NO missing links - never have been. We have NEVER seen anything evolve from something like a cat into a dog.
    Here is also some modern day signs of why there exists a real God. 1. The only God used as a curse word is (you sick twisted people use it all the time) JESUS. You had better be very certain that He is not God or else logically speaking you will pay a severe penalty. 2. What year are we in hum? 2008 and why is that hum? JESUS CHRIST! 3. The largest holiday that you celebrate hum? I guess CHRISTmas!
    Love you people, but check all the facts. . .

  7. Mr/Ms Anonymous really doesn't have a clue.

    No, we didn't evolve from "nothing"--nor does science claim that. Neither does science claim that dogs evolve from cats. But dogs DID evolve from wolves; and wolves evolved from their precursors, etc. ad infinitum.

    What year are we in? That depends on which tradition you live by, given that Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Chinese traditions all have different calendars, and we are in a different year in each tradition.

    You know, we rationalists are always willing to check the facts--but you've not provided us with any.


  8. Gary,
    Recomendation, if you plan on hanging around and commenting on Rationally Speaking regularly, then get signed up for an account, because whenever us regulars see "anonymous" we figure its Cal, who is a Mrs..

    And of course, Gary is spot on. You are just repeating tired creationist phrases. We would not expect a cat to evolve into a dog, but they do have enough in common to infer that they had a common ancestor.

    The "Missing Link" problem was invented by creationist who demand a perfect sequence of fossil evidence for the evolution of millions of species. This is an absurd standard for evidence if you have any idea what the paleontological record is like, and what kind of geological processes create it and destroy it. But you really have no idea, because you believe you already know the truth.

    Yet there are various "links" found all the time between species.

    Now come on Cal, is that all you got? You forgot to ask: if we evolved from monkeys and apes, then why are there still monkeys and apes? (my favorite creationist missive) LOL!

  9. Actually, we don't know that "cal" is a Mrs. All that we know is what "cal " has told us. Why should we believe that?

  10. Massimo,

    It says (maybe they've changed it since you saw it) in the "Proceedings":
    Alan L. Gillen, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia

    I'm just surprised it took them so long to figure this out.

    Well, Baldape... those people are not specially notorious for their brilliancy, are they?

    Sheldon, for some reason I wouldn't say this second anonymous is Cal. I don't know why, but it does not sound like her style (even if the "really telling me" indicates it would be her response to Kimpatsu). But I could be wrong, of course. The Feb. 19 12:44 pm anonymous is way too stupid, that "reasoning"... hahaha. Must have been someones joke.

    Or just because Americans (maybe some other people too? Brits? other Anglophones?) might use "Jesus as a curse word" (??), some ignorant thinks that the whole world does... Can't be serious, can it? OK, rhetorical question.

  11. J,
    Yeah, I see your point. There is something about the style of that particular anonymous that isn't quite true to Cal's style, despite the same general beliefs.

    "Actually, we don't know that "cal" is a Mrs. All that we know is what "cal " has told us. Why should we believe that?"

    Anonymous #?,
    Well sometimes you just have to operate under the assumption that basic information people share is probably true. Or you would go crazy. I do believe that Cal is a woman, married to a guy that is at least a part-time Church pastor, lives in New Mexico, and is sincere about her beliefs. I also think she lies when she thinks it advances her fanatical religious-political agenda.

  12. I was going to rebut Cal, but I see Gary has done it for me.
    Typical creationist delusion, Cal, attack not what the science says but what you think it should be saying for you to score cheap points. Keep showing us your ignorance, and we'll keep laughing at you.

  13. J "Must have been someones joke."

    I think you are right. Thought the same thing myself. Might not even be a creationist.

    Oh shel, my husband also works on a dod project. he's a pilot. They fly and test some interesting equipment that has to be airborne.


  14. "and we'll keep laughing at you."

    So laugh. Waste of precious energy really. But you are entitle to waste as much energy as you think you can afford. I certainly can't keep you from being silly and close-minded about 'other-natural' stuff either.

    I'm a professional needler, Kimpat. Get that? And I have had practice at it since I was three. (youngest of five kids) Trust me, you can never win this one. :)
    but, of course, I hope you do win in the most meaningful sense of the word.

  15. kimpat, shel, J
    Aside from needling, and in terms of just the pure humanity of an individual, i don't have a pref between creationists and evolutionists. I truly like both. And don't actually expect that you'll like me back. You really don't have to.

    I use to go to both skeptics (evolutionists) and creationists meetings for NM maybe once or twice a month. I figured it was the only way to be fair about the whole matter. Really don't know why we go through phases of our lives where a particular thing is appealing then it is not but we just do, I suppose, till a particular thing is resolved in our mind. Maybe after a certain point, I had just seen and heard enough. I began to think that both sides tended to be wackos about certain aspects of the debates. And after I figured that out, I quit going to any of the meetings.

    As far as peoples' mental states in regarding (or not) the criticism one might receive along the way, I may obsess a bit about somethings, but that's just to keep up with some people I know. :) I do think that there is quite a lot of OCD in both camps. Probably more so in the evo camp tho.

    We could all choose to kill the debate right here and now (solve countless cases of OCD) by not chasing people down SO HARD, but that ain't gonna happen. :)


    do step outside once in awhile and see what's really going on. It's good for your brain.

  16. I am hosting a contest to see who can get the first crank paper published in their silly little faux-journal. For complete rules go to my announcement.

  17. Bing, is your real name Alain Sokal?
    Cal, you're not a needler, you're a troll. If you had any evidence of the supernatural, we'd be forced to reevaluate our worldview. So, the real question is, why do you believe something for which there is absolutely no evidence?

  18. Great article!

    I would like to ask permission to cross-post this to ExChristian.Net. Naturally the posting would be attributed to this blog with a link back.

    I can be contacted by clicking here.

    Again, great article.

  19. That creationist people want to engage in a rational, evidence-based discussion is an excellent opportunity to figure out its nonsense. The antithesis of a rational, evidence-based discussion (like the Answer Research Journal) can provide an exciting moment for that the rational discourse gain a mayor acceptance into the public by means of the contrast. It may be possible that Cal finally change its mind -).

    Good post! M.


  20. "Cal, you're not a needler, you're a troll."

    You mean waiting under the bridge for some poor soul to fall in so I can gobble them up? LOL Okay, if you insist. As if there actually existed true skeptics who thought they could 'fall' off the bridge at all.

    I know for certain that people from your particular world view don't just fall off the bridge. And nothing changes unless you will (want) it to. And I don't think that physical evidence is the central issue with most skeptics. I think it is something else. It's is the evidence of the authenticity of a believers life that proabably matters more.

    That simple. Just my pov tho.


  21. Absolute rubbish, Cal. When new evidence arrives, a skeptic amends their viewpoint accordingly. That's how science works--no dogma. Compare and contrast that with superstition.

  22. Kimpatsu said "If you had any evidence of the supernatural, we'd be forced to reevaluate our worldview."

    I'm not so sure.

    Exactly what would constitute evidence for the supernatural? Isn't every argument that a supernatural event has occurred an argument form ignorance, IOW, that it can't be explained any other way?

  23. @BaldApe:
    I'll rephrase.
    "Any evidence of a perinormal event."

  24. Kimpatsu,

    It's not your phrasing. I just think that the two worldviews, one that includes the possibility of supernatural entities and one that does not, are not easily separated by evidence.

  25. Of course they are, BA. There is no evidence for the supernatural, so the assumption that it exists is deluded.

  26. There is no evidence that lightning strikes people's houses to "smite the wicked," but some people believe that. Many people claim that they were spared from some great disaster because God has work for them to do.

    My point is that you and I may dismiss the possibility of supernatural events out of hand, but giving lip service to being open to evidence that the supernatural may exist seems disingenuous unless you can define what such evidence might be.

    Burning bushes? Crying statues? Baby Jesus on a piece of French toast?

  27. believing that lightning is a punishment is a delusion because it can be shown to be an example of the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, and the Jesus in burned toast, etc., are examples of pareildolia; IOW, these are all phenomena that can be explained. Any phenomenon that should eb examined for the possibility of the supernatural would have to be greater than these examples, and at that time, I would certainly consider the possibility of a perinormal phenomenon. Wouldn't you?

  28. I would certainly consider the possibility of a perinormal phenomenon.

    Certainly, methinks.

    For example, if the "miracles" of old started happening all over. Or any stuff we can think up. Every dead person coming back from the dead (preferably in good condition, please?), all amputees growing their limbs back overnight, water raining UP all at once all over the world until it's all bone dry (and, since it's a miracle, the water is not in the atmosphere either, so no horrible humidity)... We can have a lot of fun inventing all kinds of absurd things that we would be hard pressed to explain using any natural phenomena and laws, known or undiscovered. Sure, there's always an extremely slight chance that there would be a natural explanation for every amputee getting their organs back tomorrow morning... but I don't think I would be inclined to go with that explanation. Now, if we're talking star fish and a bit longer period, OK...

    I have a friend who says something I suspect is similar to what Baldape is saying (correct me if I misunderstood): if something supernatural occurs, it automatically ceases to be supernatural and becomes natural (since it obviously happened), we just have to find the explanation. But I'm afraid that would be dogmatic naturalism, which is no different from the religious people's behaviour. Get your beliefs, then no matter what happens, adjust the facts to fit them. I admit everybody does that to some extent, but I see a limit...

  29. J, I think you got it.

    I guess I was worrying that I might be dogmatically materialistic. The examples you give are good ones. If a well and truly dead person were to reverse his decomposition, rise from the grave, and start spouting wisdom, I suppose I would have to admit that there was something going on beyond the natural.

    The usual examples of supposedly supernatural events are so poor or historically questionable that I failed to consider the ones that haven't happened.


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