The power of evidence

by Matthew Cobb

My colleague @ProfBrianCox tw**ted this telling list of scientists who became creationists after studying the evidence.

If you can spot anyone who’s been missed, please add their name in the comments.

 

57 Comments

  1. Jim Knight
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Yea, that list looks pretty complete…!

  2. Keith
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Brilliant!

  3. Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    This link hit Reddit and nearly knocked RationalWiki over … our “tumbleweed” articles are quite popular 😉

    • Matt G
      Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      You need to add the ghost town in the background, complete with broken saloon doors swinging on rusty hinges.

    • Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      American tumbleweeds: invasive exotics spreading thorny seeds that sprout on disturbed ground, thriving where land use is based on myth, magical thinking, and ignorance…

      Seems appropriate.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        Tumbleweeds are an invasive exotic – I didn’t know, and would enjoy reading about that. Got a link?

        • moarscienceplz
          Posted December 6, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

          Russian Thistle

          • Matt G
            Posted December 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

            That’s a long way to tumble.

        • Posted December 6, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

          Here’s the Wikipedia page, which also mentions other plants with the “tumbling” habit.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumbleweed
          Page misquotes the Flora of North America (FNA does not say the plant is “useful”) and also gives the impression that tumbleweeds are a “normal” desert plant; they are not. Native plants will out-compete them very quickly (within a year or two) if the land is undisturbed.

          Around here they can be frightening to encounter in a car; they’re as tall as the car and shatter on impact, leaving their caltrop-like seeds all over the road.

  4. Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    How about a list of scientists (or doctors, or engineers) who started out as creationists and ended up as creationists, but who mysteriously forgot and claimed that they had been converted to creationism by the evidence?

    Or a list of science students who started out as creationists, and who ended up not being creationists after they studied the evidence?

    Both much larger lists.

    • Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

      The Reddit thread actually had some discussion of this: does Kurt Wise count? Started as creationist, trained as real scientist, genuine Ph.D … retreated back to creationism, invented large swathes of baraminology …

      • Grania Spingies
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:03 am | Permalink

        Kurt Wise doesn’t count for. The simple reason that it wasn’t the evidence that turned him into a. Creationist.
        As you say, that it how he started out.
        Even more to the point he is famous for saying that no matter what the evidence said, he was still going to believe the bible instead. Whenever I read his “Here I must stand” quote, I feel immensely sad.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

          Apologies for the errant punctuation, my phone has a bad habit of inserting full-stops where I didn’t has for them. 😦

        • Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

          And Todd C. Wood – a hard-working baraminologist who admits himself his findings are excellent evidence for evolution, but has already decided the answer. A mind divided against itself.

    • Matt G
      Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Or the person who started out an evolutionist, experienced an existential crisis, converted to [your favorite religion here], and fell into that culture hook, line and sinker.

      How do we categorize a Francis Collins?

      • Erp
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        He isn’t a creationist

        • Matt G
          Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          He went from being an atheist and evolutionist to being a Christian and theistic evolutionist. He calls DNA the language of God. Where did that come from?

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted December 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

            And of course “theistic evolutionist” is another term for “evolutionary” creationist, which is a creationist but clad in science dressing.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Also John C. Sanford.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Strangely I can’t see any Steves on the list..

  6. Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Jonathan Wells (very first paragraph of preface of Icons of Evolution) claims this happened to him, but we know from his letters to his (spiritual, Sung Myung Moon) Family that he was lying.

    • Matt G
      Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      Are these letters available online? Do these people not care that they are lying their asses off, or have they compartmentalized so thoroughly that they are not even aware that they are stating a falsehood?

        • Ken Elliott
          Posted December 6, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Please pardon me, Paul, but does this mean that what Wells said on the webpage you linked us to, involving his and others’ embryonic research results and his subsequent interpretation of those results, can be scientifically refuted / disproven? I am nowhere nearly capable enough to discern the truth of what he states, nor even of what Jerry has been stating the past 2 days in response to Dobbs. So, I must rely upon the experts. In the case of Wells, you mention he is lying, so I hope it means the statements he makes at http://www.tparents.org/library/unification/talks/wells/DARWIN.htm are false. Is that indeed the case? When did he publish that page, by the way?

          • Graham Lyons
            Posted December 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

            I’d like to know also.

            My knowledge is limited but, as I understand it, the steps from an egg to an embryo are well known; but how one step leads to another is still a mystery.

            It may be that DNA does not ‘program’ these steps. But Wells absurdly thinks that that mistake by scientists – if it is one – provides evidence that the Christian god created all livings things, and that the account in Genesis is literally true?

            On a related point, if I were a believer, I would much rather say the the CG let evolution do the job rather than have to defend extreme inconsistency of a loving god creating predators who uniformly select the weak, young and elderly of their prey – just one example out of thousands.

          • Posted December 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

            Ken, I am making a very specific point. Wells claims to be a scientist persuaded by the evidence to become a creationist. But his own words contradict this.

            CLAIM: In the very first paragraphs of Icons of Evolution, Wells tells us that he accepted what his textbooks said as true until he was close to finishing his biology PhD.

            REFUTATION: But in the link I referred you to, 3rd paragraph, he says that

            Father [Sun Myung Moon]’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.in order to be better equipped to destroy Darwinism.

            So when he says that came to reject evolution as the result of his study of the subject, he is lying, since he was committed to battling against it from the outset.

            That’s all. I’m not addressing the rest of what he says in that posting. No date, but “a few months” after he’d finished his PhD, in 1994, in Molecular and Cell Biology.

            • Ken Elliott
              Posted December 11, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

              Thank you for the clarification. I see it now. I didn’t even glom onto ‘Father’ being the right reverend Sun Moon Shine, or whatever his name is.

      • Posted December 6, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        “The ends justify the means”, presumably.

  7. Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    It’s something of a badge of honour for them to lie that they found “Darwinism didn’t stack up”. Witness that blithering idiot Eugene McCarthy – sorry, “leading geneticist” – and his human=chimp-pig hybrid fantasy.

    It’s an extreme form of the common evangelical trope trotted out ever since CS Lewis: “I was an atheist, but the evidence didn’t stack up, so I became a Christian”.

    For example, Alister McGrath (noted Christian commentator and apologist) likes to call himself an “ex-atheist”, but in fact it turns out that all he did was flirt with Marxism in his teens. As did we all. Ho hum.

    • John Taylor
      Posted December 7, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      Lee Strobel (definitely not a scientist) also claims that he converted from being an atheist to a believer after “studying” the “evidence” from the usual cast of characters. Of course he was only an atheist in the first place, like all atheists, for the guilt free sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

  8. Posted December 6, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    A list of those who studied theology with rigorous honesty and remained convinced of theism produced identical results.

  9. TJR
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of the Official God FAQ:

    http://www.400monkeys.com/God/

    Also of the compilation tape we once made of “The Very Best of Lionel Ritchie”.

    • Merilee
      Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Awww…Lionel’s not THAT bad…

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 7, 2013 at 1:31 am | Permalink

        There is worse. For some unfathomable reason Amazon keeps spamming my email with promos for The Very Best of David Hasselhoff.

        I find this bizarre. I can think of no conceivable thing that could account for it.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 7, 2013 at 1:34 am | Permalink

          Forgot to mention, of course, that the Very Best of the Hoff would be a list… just like the featured list in this post. 🙂

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 7, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

          Maybe someone punked you!

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    😀

  11. Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    A no-brainer… chuckle.

  12. Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Well, there’d be…um no, he doesn’t count — not persuaded by the evidence.

    And then there’s…ah, nope…not a scientist.

    Oh, wait! I know! There’s…er, come to think of it, he was always a Creationist.

    Sorry. Love to help you out, but I’m afraid I can’t think of anybody you’ve missed.

    Cheers,

    b&

  13. Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    One real example: Dean Kenyon, who went from writing Biochemical Predestination to writing Of Pandas and People.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      The key phrase in the post is “after studying the evidence”.

      • Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        A strange, sad case. In 1089 he wrote, of himself a dozen years earlier, [Quote via Wikipedia] “I read some of Henry Morris’ books, in particular, The Genesis Flood. I’m not a geologist, and I don’t agree with everything in that book, but what stood out was that here was a scientific statement giving a very different view of earth history. Though the book doesn’t deal with the subject of the origin of life per se, it had the effect of suggesting that it is possible to have a rational alternative explanation of the past.”

        It is indeed sad when someone with a scientific background considers Henry Morris’s concatenation of absurdities “rational”.

        • Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

          1989!

        • Greg Esres
          Posted December 6, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

          “It is indeed sad when someone with a scientific background considers Henry Morris’s concatenation of absurdities “rational”.”

          Agreed, but I do understand the motivation to grasp at any straw to preserve a measure of faith. I remember many years ago at being pleased by “Mitochondrial Eve”.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 6, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

            I remember many years ago at being pleased by “Mitochondrial Eve”

            Could you elaborate? I know that there are a couple of ex-deists in the board, but never having made a list, I don’t know if you’d be on it.
            Did you follow the misleading popular presentations of that topic which implied that there literally was one single mother of all humanity (the popular press only rarely added that she was most likely a black African, starving in the Sahel region ; might have humanised the suffering too much for comfort)? Or did you follow what the actual science was (that this was inevitable for any evolving population)?

  14. Posted December 6, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on π's blog and commented:
    Jerry’d almost got me there … My initial reaction was “Evidence??? What the dickens …?”

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 7, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      It was Matthew, not Jerry. A frequent guest poster. It is easy to overlook the byline…

      • Posted December 7, 2013 at 12:59 am | Permalink

        To be able to read properly would clearly be an advantage on so many levels … I’ll be more careful next time!

  15. Greg Esres
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I felt a small sense of despair as I clicked on the link….

  16. Thomas Beck
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    “I became a creationist after studying all the evidence in favor of it” said absolutely no one, ever.

  17. Lynn A.(Ottawa)
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Love it! I really did laugh out loud.

  18. jeremyp
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    All four of the Chirp brothers are creationists? Really?

  19. Posted December 6, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Hee hee hee. Reminds of this this other cricket meme:
    Awkward Silence

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 7, 2013 at 12:51 am | Permalink

      Love it!

  20. marcusa1971
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised there were that many!

  21. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    It’s a complete list of those who unlike Laplace found a need for that hypothesis after all.

  22. El Schwalmo
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    If Intelligent Design-proponents count as ‘creationists’ I’d mention Michael Behe.

    He tells in different publications what influence the evidence presented in Denton’s ‘Evolution. A Theory in Crisis’ had about his conversion to Intelligent Design, yet not YEC.

    He also mentions discussions at earlier stages of his career telling compelling evidence from his point of view concerning abiogenesis etc.


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