[Edit: I had initially misspelled the name of museum curator John Feakes. The text has been amended below.]
Later this month, the Winnipeg Skeptics will be visiting Winnipeg's very own Creation Museum.
The Uniter, the University of Winnipeg's student newspaper, recently did an article on the Creation Museum, and they interviewed both me and Winnipeg Skeptics co-organiser Ashlyn Noble for the piece.
After allowing museum curator John
"Resistance to science and resistance to evolution is just a bad idea because you end up accepting a lot of ridiculous claims," said Gem Newman, 26, a computer scientist and the founder of Winnipeg Skeptics, a local secular group committed to the advancement of skeptical thinking.
"Creationists are often grossly uninformed."
Group members like Ashlyn Noble, a 22-year-old biology student at the University of Winnipeg, plan to confront Feakes during an upcoming tour of the museum.
"The goal is to reach the wider community," she explained, adding that several [members have signed up for a tour.]
I have several problems with that.
First, the obvious: the tail end of the last sentence was actually misplaced, and appears out of context in the middle of the article. Probably a copy-pasta error.
Second, I did not say that "creationists are often grossly uninformed": I said "creationists are often grossly misinformed". It's a subtle but (in my opinion) important difference. There are plenty of folks on both sides of the argument who are uninformed—maybe they're not interested in science. But we are in the midst of a concerted misinformation campaign that is being perpetrated by people who hold the absurdly indefensible position that the Bible is inerrant and literally true.
Third, we don't plan to confront
I got the impression throughout the interview that the student journalist was trying to push the conversation in a certain direction. He'd often ask leading questions that seemed designed to constrain my response to a narrative that he'd already outlined.
The quotations in the article attributed to me were actually paraphrased. So here's what I really want to say on the subject, in a scattershot sort of way.
First off, you have to understand that I'm not an expert: I'm simply an interested layman. That said, the evidence for evolution is legion, from multiple disciplines. Ontogeny and developmental biology, anatomical vestiges, transitional fossils, molecular and genetic evidence—hell, we've witnessed evolution in action! And were evolution false, it would be easily falsified. As Haldane is purported to have said, a single rabbit in precambrian strata would suffice.
Creationism is a form of science denial. We'd like to think that most creationists aren't dishonest, simply misinformed, and prone to the same cognitive pitfalls to which we all fall prey. People tend to reach for any evidence that they think will shore up their position, and we tend not to be picky as to the quality of that evidence. Confirmation bias means that we only look so far as the evidence that confirms what we already believe, rather than looking at the whole picture.
Minimization of cognitive dissonance is another major factor. Recent research has shown that, when presented with evidence that contradicts strongly-held ideas, rather than accepting the new data and changing one's mind, people are more likely to dismiss the evidence, many going so far as to claim that the idea in question cannot be adequately investigated by science.
As skeptics, we honestly want to understand what other people think and why. I personally find that examining the way that people think is fascinating. There are all sorts of logical pitfalls that we all make on a regular basis that most of us are complete unaware of.
I understand that these articles must remain relatively short and that they are often used to flesh out a previously-concocted narrative—and so it behoves me to point out that John
I guess we'll find out.
Addendum: Apparently Feakes was also dissatisfied with the article.
I've since spoken with Mr. Cabel, and he's informed me that he used the word "confront" because he felt that it was common sense to assume that a group of well-informed skeptics would be going to a creationist museum to present the evidence for evolution.
And, you know, that's fair.
Even so, I still wouldn't have used that particular word—and, to his credit, Ethan apologised for doing so. He had also used another quotation from Ashyln ("I think it's important ... to bridge the gap between science and faith") to tie the article together at the end (and to balance the confrontation bit), but this was apparently missing or misplaced in the online version of the article.
I think that a fair bit of my frustration probably came from having a forty-five minute conversation condensed into two sentences. Ethan rightly points out that, given their word-count restrictions, I oughtn't have expected anything more.
In sober second thought, I find that my opinion has changed. I think that Mr. Cabel is probably a careful and conscientious journalist, and in a fit of pique I made a mountain out of a molehill. (Nah, that doesn't sound like me!)
In any event, based on our conversation, I think that Ethan is genuinely enthusiastic about getting the story right.