I get email

October 23, 2011 • 6:28 am

Here’s a comment that didn’t make it, but I’m putting it up for your delectation. I get a fair number of these.  Americans, meet one of your neighbors:

Evolution (ha), the chance of that theory holding water is like me putting my watch in a bag ,the smashing it with a hammer . Then shaken the bag and dumping the broken watch out and it becoming whole again! It simple did not happen ,God is the alpha and omega ! Not a monkey . Come on people if your as smart as you wish you were you would KNOW the TRUTH. ( JESUS CHRIST) THE TRINITY . Seek him and you shall find him ,believe in him(john 3:16) and have eternal security in HEAVEN. Don’t. Well I guess you will be without bananas in HELP FOR ETERNITY…..

131 thoughts on “I get email

      1. No, it’s not plain ignorance. The person knows how to use email and has access to the internet. This is willful ignorance.

  1. H.J. Muller (Nobel for showing X rays mutagenic) used to take out his pocket watch, drop it, and say that that was a mutation. What is the probability that the watch would run better? Ah, but now we have a million watches dropped and selection occurs for the watch that runs better.

    Viva Darwin!

      1. I would say that it is “natural” if you don’t assume humans are separated from nature. In other words, human selection or artificial selection is nested within natural selection.

        1. Sure, if you pit it against ‘supernatural’ selection .. but that’s not how the concept of ‘natural selection’ is normally understood and used. We don’t use the expression ‘natural selection’ to mean any type of selection that takes place in nature.
          Breeding a Dachshund and a St.Bernard from a wolf is, I think, not considered a form of natural selection. Despite the fact that the selection is done by ‘natural’ humans.

            1. Although I wonder about such things as the ants that farm aphids. Do thay do anything to sort the aphids for the characterisitics they need, and thus directly or indirectly, selectively breed them? They would blindly cast out the ones that failed to give them what they wanted, so there could be a kind of artificial selection without (conscious) intention.

              1. I don’t understand why you think that would not be conscious. After all, they would be choosing to cull inadequate aphids. That sounds conscious to me.

                Perhaps you meant to say ‘intelligent’ rather than conscious. I would still disagree with that description.

                I would like to know if anyone’s done work on ants and aphids to see if the ants do this.

              2. Bert Hölldobler & Edward O. Wilson’s The Ants refers to aphid care. A nice drawing in figure 13-37 has this caption: “Workers of the Formica polyctema attending aphids (Lachnus roboris) …”

              3. I don’t understand why you think that would not be conscious. After all, they would be choosing to cull inadequate aphids. That sounds conscious to me.

                It doesn’t matter how it sounds to you. There are spiders that make spring-loaded webs that pull themselves back into position after releasing. This is not a conscious activity, it is autonomic activity that has resulted from millions of years of natural selection.

                Ants and spiders have very primitive nervous systems relative to us. They cannot be conscious in any way that we would recognize as “conscious” per se.

          1. I am advocating a viewpoint that artificial selection is a TYPE of natural selection. And I think it is consistent with a typical formulation of natural selection. Natural selection simply describes differential survival and those that survive better are represented in the next generation. Artificial selection describes a case where natural selection occurs by humans(Although like the examples in the comments, ants “artificially” select too).

    1. It also seems that people who make this kind of argument don’t know the difference between parts of macroscopic objects like watches, planes, etc. and atoms/molecules.

      1. Humans reproduce watches that work…

        This is the way technology evolves. Just as DNA (information) is selected over time, the information in regards to building products evolves over time via human selection and reproduction. It’s really not so different. The first watch did not poof into existence… all watches are built upon time pieces that came before via information (on building time pieces) that has evolved over time.

        1. The problem with Muller’s argument is that he didn’t consider selection. If we remove the watches that have production defects the remaining points to better designs.

          This is actually done in semiconductor industry, where chips are done “statistically” in parallel and the ones that doesn’t work or fail early under stress tests are sorted out. And those points to weaknesses in the circuit design and/or manufacturing defects, that the next cycle of circuits/process tries to avoid…

          Muller didn’t know the manufacturing world any better than the biological world he tried to diss.

        2. Yes technology IS developed or if you insist, IS evolved, it does not evolve, that is it is itself not the agent of its own development. But the watch has been developed – if you like the best design has been selected – by people not by itself. It is human selection, whereas natural selection is a natural process with no design involved. This is why Paley’s watch was never going to be a good comparison with a biological entity. Life requires some method of variation, reproduction, respiration of some sort, excretion… have I missed someting? Anyway, none of these are things that the watch has.

            1. Thanks for that link – very interesting. I wonder if anyone has e-mailed RD & Jared Diamond to point this out.

    2. This analogy doesn’t work because watches were put together with selection processes that are entirely different than those the watch would be subjected to by “dropping” it.

      IOW, dropping watches was never a selection pressure in designing watches (to run better) to begin with.

      now, if you want to claim dropping watches is a selection pressure on designing them to CONTINUE running after dropping them, that’s a different story.

      such are the problems inherent in trying to compare a simple mechanical, derived, device with an actual organism undergoing selection.

      In short then, whenever you hear someone comparing a mechanical device to a biological one for purposes of illustrating evolution, I’d recommend skepticism, as it likely is a bad analogy.

  2. That’s when you smile at the neighbor in question, pat him on the back, and wish him a wonderful day .. and go on with whatever it was you were doing.

    1. naww, if it was a neighbor at least, and not just a passing stranger, I’d at least say:

      “Well, you’re quite wrong, but is there anything I could say or show you that would change your mind?”

      If they then respond with “no”, or the equivalent (like if they ask for something obviously impossible), then I move on.

      Ignorance can be cured, only stupid is forever.

  3. After having a smug chuckle at this poor fellow’s expense, I am sadden by this post. He (she) clearly doesn’t have a strong command of English which I assume is his native tongue. It is illustrative of the failure of our school system to teach both grammar and science alike. I don’t doubt his religious sincerity, but how can he read the Bible with any insight at this level of literacy?

      1. No, I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer. I just meant to say that I had a good laugh, but there is a deeper issue here. I’m wondering where do you begin with someone like that? They can’t even hope to understand science if they are so full of dogma and aren’t capable of reading on an adult level. In addition, in America we sometimes like to proffer that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. That is fine to a point, but to be ignorant that you are addressing a PhD in genetics is folly. The emailer seems to think that with the authority of the Bible to back him up he is equal to a “debate” with our Dr. Coyne. That is what saddens me, not that Dr. Coyne posted it. It is good therapy for WEIT readers!

        1. Apparently when you wrote “I am sadden by this post”, you were employing a novel variation of the popular Internet meme, “I am disappoint.”

              1. I am sadden for the burdened floor.

                [And the absence of preview that is, too often, a dissa-point on this here website.]

        2. Sadly, I think in the worst cases, religious people are not only not taught how to think, they are actively taught not to think.

          I’m told that nuns in Catholic schools would say, “Don’t think – we’ve got priests for that.”

          1. They’re actively taught that thinking is evil:

            Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but – more frequently than not – struggles against the Divine Word….
            Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.

            – Martin Luther

    1. “It is illustrative of the failure of our school system to teach both grammar and science alike.”

      Teachers should be accountable for their pedagogical shortcomings. But you somehow don’t mention student personal accountability. Or, are they not accountable and culpable merely and solely because they are “minors,” as defined by the law?

      Not a few students – being human – are willful and have agency, and therefore do not regard themselves passive material objects to be moulded or manipulated (or exploited – re: “human resources” in the view of private corporate tyrannies).

      Feel free to acknowledge the fact that not a few humans are by nature all too easily oppositionally defiant, don’t want to be in school, don’t want to learn, are keenly anti-intellectual and profoundly un-curious, and, to the extent that they are that way into adulthood, despite the at least excellent efforts of at least some of their teachers, those students/adults are themselves responsible for the results. (And let’s not forget the influence of parents and other influences outside the school, over which the school has no control.)

      I believe it was Bertrand Russell who said that “Some people would rather die than think.”

      (Re: Hofstadter, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.”

      Jacoby, “The Age of American Unreason”)

      1. Very well put. I agree and you said it much better than I did. I was specifically thinking of the Jacoby book when I wrote the reply. We undervalue intellectuals as a culture.

      2. Teachers should be accountable for their pedagogical shortcomings. But you somehow don’t mention student personal accountability.

        Or, as is the case with most budding creationists, PARENT personal accountability.

    2. Your initial comment expressed very well my own impressions and concerns. The writing of the person in question is representative of a gargantuan social and educational dilemma in the United States that grieves me to no end.

    3. You are assuming this individual has actually read (even a part of) the bible.
      Many of them do not, and have not, read the thing.
      They just believe what they have been told about it, and the passages that they have read (out of context) in it.
      This letter writer probably just does what many do. Make stuff up to fit preconceived notions.

      1. Now you know how an elephant feels

        It’s definitely a problem for the Indian & ‘Sumatran’ elephant, but not for the African who prefers coffee.

            1. Ty for that link. I appreciate it. Love elephants.
              How many different species of elephants remain?
              African (forest), African (plains), Asian (?) and Javan?
              Would love to learn more.

            2. Doh! I thought as I wrote it that those islands were all linked in before the seas rose at the end of the last glaciation! Like Maltese or Cypriot elephants. Thanks for the link.

  4. You should have also included his email address in your post. And I noticed the URL for this post – dare I assume we can expect more in these inane emails? I hope so, as they are quite enjoyable, and motivational, as well.

  5. You should have also included his email address in your post. And I noticed the URL for this post – dare I assume we can expect more of these inane emails? I hope so, as they are quite enjoyable, and motivational, as well.

  6. You should have also included his email address in your post. And I noticed the URL for this post – dare I assume we can expect more in these inane emails? I hope so, as they are quite enjoyable, and motivational to continue pushing Evolution to the masses.

  7. Evolution (ha) the chance if that theory holding water us like me falling down, skinning my knee, and it heals all by itself without getting infected. God put Band-aides and neosporin here for a reason. /End sarcasm

    1. WHY do so MANY writers of Ignorant inanities RANDOMLY capitalize Words?
      You know you are going to get a load of Shite just from looking at a paragraph with RANDOMLY capitalized Words.

  8. KNOW the TRUTH. ( JESUS CHRIST) THE TRINITY . Seek him and you shall find him ,believe in him(john 3:16) and have eternal security in HEAVEN.

    No. Jesus said that he is “not fit for this undertaking” and that you must “go to Muhammad the Slave of Allah whose past and future sins were forgiven by Allah.”

    The Prophet said, “On the Day of Resurrection the Believers will assemble and say, ‘Let us ask somebody to intercede for us with our Lord.’ … ‘Go to Jesus, Allah’s Slave, His Apostle and Allah’s Word and a Spirit coming from Him.’ Jesus will say, ‘I am not fit for this undertaking, go to Muhammad the Slave of Allah whose past and future sins were forgiven by Allah.’ So they will come to me and I will proceed till I will ask my Lord’s Permission and I will be given permission. —Hadith (الحديث), Volume 6, Book 50, Number 3

    You will surely burn in hell for saying that God is three:

    Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one God, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve.
    Original: لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ هُوَالْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَقَالَ الْمَسِيحُ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اعْبُدُواْاللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ مَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللّهُعَلَيهِالْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ
    لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلاَثَةٍ وَمَا مِنْإِلَـهٍ إِلاَّ إِلَـهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِن لَّمْ يَنتَهُواْ عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِي

    The Qur’an (القرآن), Sura 5:72–73 (The Dinner Table, سورة المائدة)

      1. How does one tell how many immaterial entities are god. How do you count immeasurable beings? How do you distinguish them from non-existent beings?

        1. Wasn’t it Nietzsche that claimed the god (gods, whatever) have gone AWOL? Or at least missing?

          How do you find a missing god?

        2. Hi Torbjorn. No. One of his characters claimed the following in The Gay Science [1882]:

          “Have you heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, “I seek God! I seek God!” As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter…

          Whither is God,” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are murderers…. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him…

          The madman is saying that the shared European cultural Christian belief in God is dying. Nietzsche believed this meant the loss of a universal perspective ~ the end of objective truth. To be replaced by (what became known as) perspectivism. Some people think Nietzsche wasn’t an atheist, but I think he was the worst kind of atheist ~ a miserable one!

  9. So many of those who supposedly follow the bible’s tenets are in desperate need of literacy help. Yet the bible is considered such great literature.

  10. I’m not so sure I’d be so quick to blame the school system all the time – especially for people like the correspondent. Seems the church that told him he was being taught nonsense must be partly to blame.

      1. What goes on in the trenches includes the behavior of oppositionally defiant students, making it rough on other students who want to learn.

        FWIW, I’ve substitute taught full-time for over five years, mostly grades 4-10 in the core subjects, and it’s student behavior which keeps me from getting fully certifed [though I am already quite “certifiable” ;)] and immersing myself long-term in oppositional defiance.

        1. I do not envy you or Phaenarete0042 your challenge since I cannot imagine the defiance that is now commonplace in schools. When I was in public school (a few years ago!!) I’d have got the strap for being so impertinent as to say I wasn’t going to listen to the teacher; not suggesting that was right either, before I get accused of it but the teacher certainly had an easier time of it!

      2. I suspect that the letter is from a child– and very possibly a home-schooled one.

        In any case, how does one educate a person who imagines themselves “saved” for what they believe and “damned” if they doubt?

        It’s hard to educate those who imagine they know more than anyone who might give them a clue.

      3. My daughter is about to graduate from college so she is a recent product of the public school system. She is very literate and thinks for herself. This is at least partly because of the support she had at home which promoted the above and did not include religious indoctrination, although it did encourage being aware of, and familiarization with, religions. Since she went through the same public school system you have recently (I assume) left, it cannot be the school system entirely, even though I sympathize with your statement re the “trenches.” There were several teachers without whom my daughter would have had a much poorer educational experience!

  11. Good thing evolution doesn’t have to hold water then!
    I guess God is sort of like like alpha and omega – made up for human convenience, consequence of our tendency to try and put order to an otherwise chaotic world. Of course God’s not a monkey, monkeys are real!
    what good would eternal security be anyway, sounds rather dull
    I love the last line.

      1. Not unless this is the sort of person who’s inclined to wear Boston colors on a New York subway during the World Series.

  12. Seems to me the watch trick—has been done. It was an early staple of both magicians, and comedy show of the 60’s and 70’s. A member of the audience is asked for his watch, and surrenders it to watch in horror as the magician places it in a bag and hammers it to death. Shakes bag to show watch is disassembled, and then reaches inside and viola pulls out a working full intact watch. Hence Evolution is true. I even think I have a description of how this trick is accomplished if you should want to add it to your lectures Jerry. It think it would be a stellar ice breaker, or concluding note.

    1. Penn and Teller explained their version of the trick in one of their books for the public.
      1. Find out what kind of watch the person has
      2. Buy another one just like it.
      3. Smash his watch….

  13. This ‘smashed watch nonsense’has been repeatedly told by people, who are soo silly to understand what Evolution means.
    They keep seeking Jeses Christ, but all they find is trash.


  14. The part that gets to me more that even the denial of evolution is the reference to John 3:16, which says, in essence, that all believers (regardless of how evil they are) will be rewarded, while all non-believers will be punished. This assertion is based on the proposition that one is free to alter one’s beliefs at will (volitionalism), and that one can therefore be held responsible for those beliefs even if they’re not reflected in one’s actions.

    Among other reasons, I reject volitionalism on the grounds that if it was possible to control one’s own beliefs, lie detectors couldn’t work, or even be expected to work.

  15. If I may presume to speak for Jewish atheists everywhere, I am offended by such insensitive proselytizing: the god we don’t believe in is the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thank you very much!

  16. Oh, man! I just came off service in a grand jury! That, plus contemplating the even more ominous reality that the jury population includes people like that, should make anybody shake in his boots! Would this rule come in handy? If you’re charged with a crime and you’re guilty, choose a jury (its ingredients of stupidity and perverse views on divine justice probably will help you); if you’re not guilty, choose a judge (being this unlucky should be improbably: the judge happens to be someone like the author of the quoted email).

    1. You know, Richard Dawkins actually discussed that in Unweaving the Rainbow- statistically, you’re apparently better off choosing a jury trial if you’re actually guilty and a judge if you’re innocent.

      1. Thank you, I didn’t know that. I’m flattered that Dawkins sees it the way I do. Apology: I meant to write “improbable” where I wound up with “improbably.”

    2. Oh yes, jury duty is sobering. I was on the jury panel in a case wherein two drunk youngish men went into a corral in which a show horse was kept. They stabbed the horse to death. The prosecutor asked what for him must have been a routine question during the selection process: “Do you have any difficulty with the sentence of two years if the defendents are found guilty?” More than one prospective juror said something to the effect that, ‘If abortion is allowed, then why are we making torture of a horse a crime?’

      Jury duty is scary indeed.

      1. Are you sure they were being obtuse or just coming up with an excuse, any excuse, to be outright rejected for a place on that jury? In Oregon, when you are called for jury duty your term is one court day or the length of a trial if you are chosen for a jury. Too many people would choose to say something stupid and get excused than be honest and potentially placed in a jury trial that can last weeks.

        1. Far too many people in the part of Oregon I’m native to would be asking that question in complete seriousness.

    3. If you’re charged with a crime and you’re guilty, choose a jury (its ingredients of stupidity and perverse views on divine justice probably will help you); if you’re not guilty, choose a judge…

      That’s a sentiment that’s been around for a long time. Congrats for deriving it yourself.

      Look too closely and jurisprudence in action is like sausage making.

  17. My neighbor put his watch in a bag, smashed it with a hammer, and prayed to God to fix it. Now he keeps asking me what time it is. What should I do?


  18. I think his point is a bit weak. He should do the test, take his Rolex super gold, smash it, put the remains in a bag, shake it and report the result.
    If it stays a rubble he may have a point, but remember it is just on test he would have to do more to be sure!

  19. Well, I’ve just smashed up my watch, and it didn’t mutate into an iPhone. I’m converted. I will faithfully follow the Bible. I know there are lots of Brothers already hounding the dirty homosexuals, so I will start attacking people who

    “‘cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” (Lev 19:27)
    “wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” (Lev 19:19)
    plus any priest, or similar who does not follow Lev 19:
    13 “‘The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, 15 so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the LORD, who makes him holy.’”

    1. To be fair, Lev 19:19 actually forbids wearing clothes made with both linen and wool, not just any two materials. Modern translations often simplify it, but I’d you’re going to be stoning people for it, you should probably make sure the you’ve got an accurate translation.

      1. I wouldn’t look for a more accurate translation if what I’m reading is the 1985 Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh! Why? There, Leviticus 19:19 reads “You Shall observe My laws. You shall not let your cattle mate with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; you shall not put on cloth from a mixture of two kinds of material.” I just wonder what the enlightened interpreters of our times–e.g., The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan–do with a passage like that. What metaphor can possibly be read into that? And really, aren’t we beating a dead horse? What reasonable person can go around proclaiming the virtues of the Bible either as a moral code or as any sort of “great literature”?

        To be fair, though, the early books in the Bible make a lot more sense if read as a compendium of laws, instructions, and institutional accretion (with its attendant mythology) around centralized authorities (the priesthood using the books) for really wild, preliterate, stone-and-bronze-age tribes that had to be tamed while building coherent “social capital”.

        1. You left out eating shellfish and pigs among other unclean animals of which there is a long list. IIRC, rabbits are OK but coneys are not or the other way around.

          No tattoos, no wearing jewelry.

          You can’t go into a holy place if you have lost your testicles somewhere.

          Stoning nonvirgin brides to death. IIRC, something like way over 90% of all western brides are “nonvirgin”. Oops, that is the end of the USA.

      2. Not quite.

        The prohibition against wearing mixed fabrics appears in two places.

        In one it just mentions linen and wool. Which were the only two fabrics they had then and there.

        In other place it says not to wear clothes that are made from two kinds of thread.

  20. What a compelling argument. I’m convinced, I’ll just abandon this “science” business from now on.
    Seriously, what a douche nozzle.

  21. Wow! If god existed and was a monkey we all would be better off. He would be too busy eating bananas and screwing instead of committing old testament genocide.

  22. ” in HELP FOR ETERNITY”. Oh, I feel so much better. I thought they had been saying in “Hell” for eternity. And to think I almost joined up just to be sure. That’s a relief.

  23. Does anyone have know what the person meant by “bananas” in “Well I guess you will be without bananas in HELP FOR ETERNITY”? I can’t come up any phonetic transformation that would give a reasonable word in the context.

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