Meet John Q. Creationist.
John's a moderately successful real estate broker in a medium-size town somewhere in the Midwest. Working in real estate generally keeps him pretty busy, being perpetually on-call, ready to show a house on short notice. John's also a staunch member of his local evangelical church and, to go along with that, he's got a hobby: John's a vocal and well-known supporter of creation science.
Whenever John can arrange it, you can generally find him at the regular public school board meetings, pressing for "equal time" for creationism or something similar. He also teaches a weekly Sunday school class in the subject, and is always ready to give a talk at any of the local high schools. Whenever the topic comes up, you can be sure there's going to be a letter from John to the editor of the local paper, taking a predictable swipe at evolution.
Truth be told, John doesn't actually know a lot of science. Most of the material in his presentations is gleaned from an extensive library of creationist books and pamphlets he's collected over the years, and he's got the routine down pat -- Flood geology, arguments from probability, why "balanced treatment" is a good thing, how evolution is just as much a "religion" as creation science and so on. But among all those creationist apologetics, he definitely has a favourite.
Out of all the arguments he uses, the one he enjoys the most is telling his listeners how science requires "direct observation." "If you can't directly observe it," John will say, "it can't be part of science. Even scientists admit that. So unless you have an eyewitness -- a personal eyewitness to the event -- it can't be part of science. And that's why evolution isn't really science, understand?" Given his typical audience, John is normally pretty popular and everyone loves his material but, even among his fans, there are the occasional reluctant skeptics who aren't quite sure.
"Um, sir," John hears the occasional senior high school student ask, "About this direct observation ... I mean, there's all these fossils and stuff. Doesn't that sort of count as proof? I mean, isn't that kind of evidence in a way?"
"Well," John will answer, in his well-rehearsed manner, "that's not the same thing. You see, if you want to call that evidence, you could only call that indirect evidence. It's there but, as I said, no one actually saw how it got there. Without actual eyewitnesses, without someone directly observing it, then it just isn't science, it's faith." At which point, the student will nod and slowly sit down, but perhaps with just a hint of hesitation, as if there's something about that explanation that bothers him, he just can't put his finger on it.
And John will take a few more questions, thank his audience, accept their applause and accolades and head out, feeling quite pleased with himself for another successful talk. But this time, it's going to be different. This time, John's life is about to get bent in an ugly new direction.
It's a Saturday night and John's just finished another creationist gig at the local community college. It's been a long day and he's just turning down the alley behind his house, driving up to his rear driveway, turning in and ... John notices immediately that his back door is open. That's odd -- he's pretty sure he locked it before he left.
As he pulls in completely, the awful truth becomes obvious. One of the lower window panes in the open door is smashed in. Before his car has even come to a full stop, John is out and running up the back walk, fearing the worst. And the worst is exactly what he finds.
As he pushes the door open further to enter the kitchen, he can see the damage. His microwave is missing. As is his cappuccino machine -- his new cappuccino machine that was on back-order for three months. His heart sinking by the second, John stumbles through the kitchen into the living room to find more of the same.
Stereo system: gone. His beautiful, new plasma screen TV: gone. As are all of his CDs and DVDs, camera equipment, ... all gone. Going from room to room, John can only resign himself to the obvious. He ends up in his bedroom and, in a state of shock, calls the police.
"Hello," he hears, "police department. Sergeant York speaking."
"Hi," mumbles John, "I'd like to report a burglary. My TV, my stereo, all kinds of stuff ... gone. Everything. Can you get someone out here right away?"
"Whoa, slow down," says the good sergeant, "back up a bit. How do you know you've been burglarized? Let's not jump to any conclusions here."
"Well," says John, collecting himself and feeling just a bit irked by the officer's tone of skepticism, "I just got home, the back door was open, the window pane was smashed, and lots of my stuff is missing! So can you send someone out? Maybe they can find some clues as to who did this."
"Well," says the sergeant off-handedly, "did anyone actually see this happen? I mean, do you have any actual eyewitnesses?"
"What?!", yells John. "What do you mean, did anyone actually see this? Of course not! I just got home, my door was smashed in and most of my stuff is gone! No, there were no witnesses! What the hell kind of question is that?!" bellows John in a decidedly un-Christian tone of voice.
"Now, calm down," says the sergeant, "it's like this. Used to be, when we got a call like this, we'd be right out, do stuff like take pictures, dust for fingerprints and all that; scientifically, you know. But -- and here's the funny thing -- turns out that's not science at all. Turns out that, unless you have an eyewitness -- you know, someone who actually saw all this happen -- it's not really science. So, sorry to say, we can't help you out there. I mean, we could come out and poke around but, it not being science and all, it wouldn't really do a whole lot of good."
"Are you serious?!?!" screams John into the phone. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard! There's piles of evidence all over the place! Hell, I'm standing in my bedroom and I can see a fingerprint on my dresser from here! Are you telling me there's nothing you can do with that?!"
"Well," says the sergeant, "sure, that's evidence. But seeing as no one actually saw how it got there, it's only what you'd call "indirect" evidence. So it doesn't really help."
"You're crazy!" John is now seriously losing it, and he can't believe he's having this conversation. "Where in God's name did you get these idiotic ideas?!"
"Oh, my son explained this whole science thing to me. Turns out that, a couple weeks ago, he went to see this local religion creationist guy at his church, and this guy was a right smart fellow -- explained how science works and that how, unless you have a direct witness observation and like that, well, it just isn't science anymore. Once I figured that out, heck, it sure eased up my workload. So, make a long story short, we'd like to help but, science being what it is and all, it would be kind of irresponsible to be passing judgement without any eyewitnesses. I hope you understand."
"I don't believe this," says John, slowly sinking back onto his bed in disbelief, staring at the mountain of "indirect" evidence surrounding him. "You can't be serious. I mean, how can you ...". But John is interrupted by the sound of a car revving suddenly in the alley, followed by a screeching of tires as its engine sound fades into the distance.
John drops the phone and races back downstairs, through the kitchen and out the back door, to find only an empty driveway. In his hurry, he'd completely forgotten to shut off his car and take out the key. Jesus Christ, thinks John, as he walks back into the house, can this get any worse? He picks up the kitchen phone.
"Well," says John, to the sergeant who is still waiting on the line, "I hope you're happy. While we were upstairs talking, someone stole my car. What are you going to do about that?"
"Darn, that's a shame," replies the sergeant. "I don't suppose you got any witnesses, do you?"
BONUS SNARK: You know, I'll just bet some of you are thinking, "Hey, that's not fair. You're deliberately making up dialogue that makes John Q. look like a complete idiot." No, I'm not. I don't have to:
... Now, with equal certainty, a similar group asserts that we can close the book on the subject of the origin of life, even though none of us was there and what’s observable now – or even during Darwin’s time – is only a small fraction of what’s been observable over the history of the earth.
Supporters of creation science already look like morons. They don't need my help.
P.S. And a perky Canadian "G'day, eh?" to new visitors from "Respectful Insolence" and "Skeptico" and "One Good Move", and, yes, I'll have to update my blogroll one of these days.
P.P.S. Oh, and the folks from Pharyngula, too. And, yes, I am making fun of your stupid people. Deal with it.
JEEZUS! I'm used to getting, like, 130 visits a day, not 1200+, fer cryin' out loud! And now that you've all read this piece, the fact that's it's getting a link from the next Tangled Bank is kind of anticlimatic, isn't it? I guess I better write episode two now. Sheesh.