Why I Quit Arguing With Creationists

Casey Luskin has once again proven that he is not capable of honestly addressing the evidence of evolution. Instead, he consistently mangles the evidence in pursuit of his goal (which, apparently, is to cast doubt on evolution by whatever means possible). In the process, he conveniently ignores or actively obscures conflicting evidence that does not fit his chosen narrative.

The latest example of Casey's apparent* dishonesty was dissected by Troy Britain in this brilliant post. Go read it and see for yourself. Fortunately, Casey opened up comments, so I'm sure he'll be addressing the criticism his post has generated. Here's the comment that I left:
Casey quotes: "And indeed, Tianyulong doesn't have true pennaceous feathers. It has long filaments, very similar to what have been called 'protofeathers' or, more non-committally, 'dinofuzz.' These filaments ... are also found in a range of other theropods that lack definitive feathers, such as the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx, the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus and the basal tyrannosauroid Dilong." As pointed out by Troy Britain on his blog, the original quote has been edited to remove some additional detail (emphasis added): "And indeed, Tianyulong doesn’t have true pennaceous feathers. It has long filaments, very similar to what have been called 'protofeathers' or, more non-committally, 'dinofuzz.' These filaments **ARE EVIDENT IN SOME THEROPODS SUCH AS CAUDIPTERYX THAT HAVE TRUE PENNACEOUS FEATHERS, BUT** are also found in a range of other theropods that lack definitive feathers, such as the basal coelurosaur Sinosauropteryx, the therizinosauroid Beipiaosaurus and the basal tyrannosauroid Dilong." The missing part of the quote shows that both "dinofuzz" and true birdlike feathers are known to have existed simultaneously in the anatomy of other dinosaurs. Evidence like this is important when discussing the evolutionary origin of feathers. After all, if a dinosaur had BOTH long filaments AND pennaceous feathers, it points to the possibility that the structures ARE actually related. Why did you remove such an important detail, Casey?
The truth is, I have no confidence whatsoever that my comment will be posted. Casey Luskin's track record of refusing to respond to criticism is already quite well-established. And that, my friends, is why I quit arguing with Creationists. *Added in edit: It's impossible to know exactly why Casey altered those quotes. His explanation was that the parts he removed were irrelevant, so I've added the word "apparent" to make clear that it merely appears dishonest.

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6 Responses to “Why I Quit Arguing With Creationists”

  1. Jamal Wills says:

    Looks like he took your advice and restored the paragraph. He also claims that CAUDIPTERYX is a really bird and not a dinosaur.

  2. Jeremy Mohn says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Jamal.

    Here’s my response to Casey’s update:

    Thanks for responding, Casey. However, you seem to have missed my point entirely.

    The important point is that Caudipteryx had BOTH filaments and pennaceous feathers. The simultaneous existence of these structures in the anatomy of any organism from the Cretaceous is consistent with the idea that birds (which are characterized by pennaceous feathers) are a subset of dinosaurs (which are known to have possessed filaments). It makes very little difference whether Caudipteryx is classified as a dinosaur or as a bird.

    In other words, Caudipteryx is entirely relevant to a discussion of Sciurumimus. They both exhibited the filaments known as “dinofuzz”–the very topic of your post!

    Unfortunately, your original post omitted that important detail. I’m guessing the reason that your post generated such a heated response is because your omission seemed all too convenient.

    I am willing to accept your explanation for the original omission, even though I disagree with your assertion about the irrelevancy of Caudipteryx. But if you really wanted to exclude Caudipteryx from comparison with Sciurumimus, you could have done so in your original post. Why needlessly open yourself up to criticism by intentionally removing the middle of a sentence? I have a guess as to what the answer might be, but I will keep it to myself.

    Surely you can understand why people get angry with you about this kind of stuff.

    We’ll see if he responds. For now, I am reminded of Hanlon’s Razor:

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

  3. Jeremy Mohn says:

    By the way, I am quite aware of the irony of the title of this post.

  4. Jeremy Mohn says:

    Since comments are now closed on that post, I am forced to respond to Casey’s last post through email. Here’s what I wrote:

    Dear Casey-

    I noticed that comments are now closed on your “Dinofuzz” post at EN&V. That’s unfortunate, because you said several things in your last comment that were incorrect. Please allow me to correct the record.

    1. You said that you are not interested in making assumptions, and yet you wrote this at the very top of your post:

    See below for an update about the quote from Witmer’s paper, “Fuzzy origins for feathers,” on Caudipteryx, a fossil (which was a bird, not a dinosaur) that did have true pennaceous feathers.

    The claim that Caudipteryx is a secondarily flightless bird is something that you know is highly contentious and therefore not appropriate to assert as a fact. And yet, you are apparently quite comfortable with assuming it to be true.

    In addition, you yourself are guilty of assuming evolution is true every time you have asserted that Caudipteryx is a secondarily flightless bird. How else did Caudipteryx become “secondarily flightless” unless it EVOLVED from a flighted ancestor? If you truly accept the minority view that many of the maniraptoran theropods are the descendants of birds (which are, in turn, the descendants of earlier archosaurs, not dinosaurs), then you are asserting that a very large amount of convergent evolution took place in order to make those creatures virtually indistinguishable from dinosaurs. Frankly, I am amazed by your willingness to accept such a high level of convergent evolution, given that you normally dispute such claims in other contexts. I’m guessing this is because it allows you to maintain the possibility that birds and dinosaurs were separately created? This is what I was referring to when I said that your choice of counter-arguments seems…interesting.

    Whatever your reasons for doing so, claiming that you are not interested in making assumptions while you are clearly making assumptions only serves to highlight the inconsistency of your arguments. It certainly does nothing to contribute to a civil conversation. Do you agree?

    2. You misrepresented my argument about the possible intermediate nature of the filaments on Caudipteryx by calling it “circular reasoning.” I was surprised by this, especially considering the fact that you wrote a recent EN&V post defending ID against the charge of “circular reasoning.”

    I will repeat what I said before: Let’s not play games, Casey. We can’t consider evolutionary questions without the a priori assumption of evolution. In other words, we can’t evaluate an evolutionary claim without assuming that evolution has occurred and then asking ourselves what we would expect to observe if that were the case. This is exactly what I did when I used evolutionary theory to put forth a testable hypothesis that could explain the origin of the integumentary structures found on Caudipteryx. My hypothesis employed the same type of “uniformitarian-based” reasoning that you are willing to utilize in support of ID. I am confident that you know the difference between “circular reasoning” and the scientific method. And yet, you misrepresented my argument without allowing me to respond. Misrepresenting your opponent’s argument does not contribute to a civil conversation. Do you agree?

    3. You falsely accused me of claiming that you did not put forth a testable hypothesis about Caudipteryx being a bird. Actually, I acknowledged your claim that Caudipteryx might be a secondarily flightless bird. What I said was that you have not put forth a testable hypothesis for the origin of feathers. A person desiring to have a civil conversation should not make false accusations. Such behavior is particularly egregious when the falsely accused person is not allowed to respond. Do you agree?

    4. You accused me of making “unfortunate sneers and insinuations” about your motives. The only thing that is unfortunate is that your assertion is not backed up by any examples. Unless you point out the particular language that was offensive to you, I do not appreciate such blanket assertions. For the record, I have specifically avoided using any language that could be considered disrespectful or contemptuous on EN&V because I am well aware of your strict civility policy. Making blanket accusations of inappropriate behavior without providing any supporting evidence does not contribute to a civil conversation. Do you agree?

    5. You accused me of personally attacking you with my closing remark about “fuzzy thinking.” What I wrote was a frank assessment of the seemingly contradictory nature of your overall argument. I was referring to the apparent disconnect between your rejection of the evolution of birds from dinosaurs and your promotion of an alternative explanation that would itself require a huge amount of evolutionary modification. That was not a “personal attack.” It was a sincere (albeit somewhat harsh) criticism. The deliberate miscategorization of sincere criticism as a personal attack does not contribute to a civil discussion. Do you agree?

    Civility in public discourse involves much more than just being polite and avoiding snarkiness. It also involves the courtesy of representing your opponent’s arguments fairly and accurately. You might feel like you are exhibiting civility by being polite and saying that you “harbor no ill will” towards me. Sadly, by making these false accusations against me in a forum where I am no longer allowed to respond, you have demonstrated the very opposite of civility.

    I will admit that I have not always been charitable towards you in other forums, including my own blog. But, as I have shown here, you have earned your reputation through your uncivil behavior. It’s time to stop hiding behind the veil of “civility” and start taking responsibility for your own actions.

    ~Jeremy

  5. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams says:

    Ah, Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy . . . you keep assuming the best about people!

  6. Jeremy Mohn says:

    You’re right, Cheryl. I have this horrible tendency to make the same mistake over and over and over again.

    But don’t worry. Casey has responded. You’ll be glad to know that he forgives me.

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