Shoot me: I wasn’t aware of the Skepticblog, which is run by six people who include Steve Novella, paleobiologist Don Prothero, and Michael Shermer, but I’ll be paying attention to it from now on.
Two days ago, Don Prothero filed a report on how creationists had invaded the 2010 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA), including running an entire field trip in Colorado on which young-earth creationists, while identifying various formations as the results of “sudden deposition,” never identified their real agenda. There were also some talks by creationists, including a bizarre presentation by Marcus Ross of Liberty University (a tipoff) on Cretaceous mosasaurs, here described by Prothero’s colleage Steve Newton:
Because most of the audience probably did not know Ross’ background, it must have been puzzling to them when the first question following Ross’ talk challenged him on how he could “harmonize this work with [his] belief in a 6,000-year-old Earth.” (This question came from University of Florida geology professor Joe Meert, who bloggedabout the exchange.)
Ross answered the question by saying that for a scientific meeting such as GSA, he thought in a “framework” of standard science; but for a creationist audience, he said, he used a creationist framework. Judging from the reaction of the audience, this answer caused more confusion than enlightenment. Ross pointed out that nothing in his presentation involved Young-Earth Creationism. But he then volunteered that he was indeed a Young-Earth Creationist.
It was a strange moment for the audience. It was the last talk of the session, and as everyone migrated into the hallway, several people asked me what had just happened, as if they had misheard the exchange.
The problem is that although these folks should be given the right to talk at meetings so long as they adhere to conventional scientific standards (and they do, although it’s a lie), they can then boast about how their “science” has been presented at important meetings. As Prothero notes:
Sadly, the real problem here is that YEC “geologists” come back from this meeting falsely bragging that their “research” was enthusiastically received, and that they “converted” a lot of people to their unscientific views. As Newton pointed out, they will crow in their publicity that they are attending regular professional meetings and presenting their research successfully. For those who don’t know any better, it sounds to the YEC audience like they are conventional geologists doing real research and that they deserve to be taken seriously as geologists—even though every aspect of their geology is patently false (see Chapter 3 in my 2007 Evolution book). And so, once more the dishonesty of the YEC takes advantage of the openness and freedom of the scientific community to exploit it to their own ends, and abuse the privilege of open communication to push anti-scientific nonsense on the general population that doesn’t know the difference.
The good news is that the latest meetings don’t appear to have included stealth creationists—or at least they didn’t run any field trips.