And Now, the Rest of the Story

Yesterday, I posted the text of a speech I delivered at Monday to Greenwood Rotary. Today, I’ll share the rest of the story.

Let me set the stage, however, by being fair and pointing out that (1) the subject of the speech–the importance of science and what it tells us–was the choice of the Chapter President; (2) the program chair, with whom I chatted during the (dreadful) lunch, was not only receptive, but warned me that “a lot” of the members were “really conservative–you should have heard them during the debate over HJR3!” and (3) the average age in the room made me feel young by comparison.

The very first “question”(okay, rebuttal) was from a gentleman who rather patronizingly asked me if I understood the difference between “observational” and historical science. Actually, I do–or at least, I know people who promote that misleading distinction. (One of the most prominent is a website called “Answers in Genesis.”) As one science blog has explained,

AIG is arguing that only scientific results that can be replicated in the lab are “observational science.” Or to put it another way, only those results that we can experience – that impinge on our senses – are scientific results.

By implication, only these verifiable results are “true” science that produces true, certain knowledge. Any other form of scientific reasoning is “historical science,” which is not certain and thus, by implication, crap. At least, it’s crap whenever AIG finds that it doesn’t square with their creationism.

This is weird…. After all, the claims of Christian tradition, including creationism, are not verifiable in the lab.

This “question” put me in something of a bind; I didn’t want to say what I thought, which was essentially “Oh, I see you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid,” so I mumbled my way through a marginally nicer response and moved on to the next questioner, who suggested that science was just as “faith-based” as religion. I begged to differ, refrained from beating my head against the podium, and again moved on.

The entire question and answer period was like that.

The final question was “Even if climate change is real, maybe it’s good. What do you think?” I’d been on my best behavior up to that point, but I sort of snapped. I told him–sweetly–that whether it was good or bad depended on what you thought about Florida being underwater; it is, after all, a state that has caused the country considerable problems. Perhaps losing it would be a good thing.

When the question and answer period was over, a couple of elderly gentlemen did come up to whisper that they agreed with me. But another cornered me, insisting that I needed to review a “fantastic” website that demonstrated clearly just how scientists had sold the “scam” of evolution.

As I was making my break for the door, I smiled weakly at the program director and said “At least I wasn’t tarred and feathered!”

He smiled back and said, “You aren’t out the door yet.”


  1. People who are helping to destroy our country and planet don’t deserve the courtesy or restraint you showed. You should have asked for proof that Jesus wasn’t a gay black man or even that he existed. You should have asked them for observational evidence of the existence of a deity or proof their belief was correct and Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, & Islam are all wrong. Most importantly, you should have asked, if science us faith based, what evidence would sway their beliefs given that those who believe in science are constantly swayed and persuaded by evidence. And I’d ask them how their grandchildren will remember them if their disbelief in global warning is proven wrong.

  2. Like I have said before, We are so screwed. Those stupid old people you described are the REAL Indiana. And the dummies vote.

  3. They are old, however, which is a good thing. Young people today are generally less likely to fall for this b.s. Look how young people feel on the subject of gay marriage. As time passes, the older ones die and younger people who take their places aren’t as likely to be stuck in the same old ruts.

  4. I have great hopes for mental health parity. Maybe the delusional can finally get professional help.

  5. Esse, you can get help if you WANT help. If you ask them if they are miserable or if they have trouble functioning, they would say that they are just fine. Of course, if the civilization goes in the direction they want, billions will die, which will be someone else’s problem.

  6. I am right in line with everything you say in terms of science vs creationism, etc. However, I do feel like it is somewhat unprofessional to accept a speaking engagement from a group that you knew was not going to be as liberal as you, and then use two blogs to call them out as backwards hillbillies. Am I way off base here? Full disclosure, I am a member of the Downtown Indianapolis Rotary Club. We have 400 members and are very diverse in all ways including politics. We wouldn’t tell a speaker what to speak about (it surprises me that they do) and we would also hope that no speaker would take the time to publicly badmouth us after being invited to speak. As I said, I agree with your point of view and I even feel Creationists are backwards hillbillies, this just rubs me the wrong way.

  7. Scott, I think Sheila made a point to not call them out as backwards hillbillies when I think she probably could have. She used no other placeholder than “gentleman” which by my accounts if pretty far off from hillbilly.

    Now, because she noted she wanted to bang her head against the wall? Well what would you feel like if your 30 year old still insisted Santa was real? Sheila, I commend you for speaking with class. I often go back and forth regarding the merits of being civil, which in turn gives these viewpoints a sort of credibility, and just full-blown scathing exercises in truth (as it comes to science, especially). In this day and age I’m starting to think the latter is more influential than the former.

  8. I do understand Scott’s point; however, I was sandbagged. I was asked specifically to share a perspective that the person making the request had to know would be attacked. I didn’t assume that–just because it was Greenwood–the people in the room would be anti-science, and I was not told that my remarks would be viewed as controversial. Perhaps it was less than gracious of me to share my experience–if so, I’m sorry.

  9. Sheila’s comments were on individual perspectives rather than club worthiness. The club president is to be congratulated for offering programs with diverse content including hot topics and for scheduling such engaging speakers.

  10. Sic ’em, Sheila! You were set up–sandbagged, if you will. You handled their lop-sided, half-baked information with dignity and respect. It is likely that more than one or two agreed with you–not that they were obliged to. Perhaps even more were thinking the same thing but wouldn’t let their peers know it.

    AIG may work for some (‘lots’ it seems lately) and that’s OK–for them. It’s really dark where they are.

    During a recent chat with friends in Middle Tennessee, the subject was that really big sinkhole in The Villages, FL. There’ve been others here and there (KY with all those classic Corvettes–Oy!). I said something like, ‘Well, fracking is fracking,’ and a dear friend of some 50 years shot back, “Oh, you liberals would say that….” Because it was a lovely gathering for a 70th birthday and I love these people, I let it go. I didn’t want to let it go. In fact, the Florida incident in which two homes could have fallen into the sinkhole, one after the other, could have involved seawater undercutting the limestone/coral upon which the area is set. Florida is at risk–we understand that.

    But, I digress. We choose our battles. I’m just sorry that they threw you to the lions, er Rotary. You and Daniel both survived the ordeal.

    Just remember that ‘it’s really dark where they are,’ and get on the computer to google some Neil deGrasse Tyson words of real wisdom to set things aright.

  11. Sheila, what about “Greenwood Rotary Club” did you not understand? Thanks for stating to fight the good fight!

  12. Scott, I believe you are way off base. Sheila did a public service here in reporting how an organization responded to a requested presentation on the dangers of ignoring science. Sheila, you did good as you usually do. Please don’t be dissuaded by an intellectual lynch mob.

    We’ve already had one Dark Ages. I for one don’t care for another. I’m all for enlightenment, and finding out how the Greenwood Rotary reacts to logic and reason is enlightening. Depressing, predictable and sad, yes, but enlightening.

  13. It’s important to understand that the Rotary Club knew what they were in for beforehand. Sheila has a long standing, and even prominent, history with the ACLU. She has published in a variety of settings. She teaches at IUPUI, not as some shrinking violet, but whose opinions are known. They knew exactly who they were inviting and they had a pretty good idea what she was going to say. They knew she was not about to say, “I’ve seen the light, and I’m a total creationist, who thinks climate science is bunk and would like to beat up the downtrodden”.

  14. Many years ago I watched one of the Televangelists lecturing his flock on Evolution and the “True Age” of the earth. The “True Age” was around 10,000 years old according to Rev Young Earth. Now he knew enough to know about the speed of light and the concept of a “Light Year.” He understood Science had determined some objects we can see in the Night Sky are several million light years away. He also knew Science had determined through powerful telescopes – radio and visual there were even more distant objects – billions of light years distant from the earth. He dismissed the science of the speed of light. He called it the devils work. That is the devil was up his usual tricks of deceiving us.

    Science according to Rev. Young Earth was either a useful dupe for the devil or complicit allies of the Devil for challenging the Biblical Young Earth. I do not suppose Rev Young Earth ever considered that he relies on the constant speed of Light, Radio and TV Waves to operate Cell Phones, Land Lines and GPS.

    Science does offer course corrections. A good example was the “Plitdown Man” which was supposedly a missing link – Science proved it was a forgery and hoax.

  15. When someone talks “Creationism”, he’s talking about religion, not science. Now, if that’s what he wants to talk about, we have to remember that among religious people, a minority of folks are into young-earth “Creationism”. The serious scholars–Christian and Jewish–view Genesis as a polemic metaphor, similar to poetry. Almost all religious people believe that Genesis was written for us, but not to us, for example, so you have to view it from the eyes and perspective of someone 3300 years ago. If someone insists on taking Genesis literally, the scholars would call that “bad exegesis”, or lousy, sloppy and lazy interpretation of the text. It’s a shame that all religious folks have been tarred with the same brush, but the louder a person is, the more people think that he/she represents everyone. There are many intelligent and thoughtful religious people who distance themselves from this kind of nonsense.

  16. . . . and that “really old” skeleton, the so-called “missing link,” which turned out to be a forgery was the P-i-l-t-d-o-w-n Man. . . not the Plitdown Man.

  17. Thanks Betty for the correction – see science does work!! My Dyslexia strikes again.

  18. They walk among us. And, they vote. That’s the scary thing! Kudos to you, Sheila, for telling them like it is. I totally disagree with Scott. You have every right to say what you think. And, personally, I think you did a fantastic job!

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