Friday, 20 September 2013


Yes, it is true. I am not ashamed to admit it. I am a Grammar Nazi.

It's an unfortunate title that obviously evolved out of deliberately mocking comparisons by the non-grammar inclined, and it's even more unfortunate that this title seems to have stuck and now embeds itself in our vernacular as the only real choice available when self-identifying as someone who gives a shit about not looking like a gerbil with a keyboard when in dialogue over the net. I don't particularly care for it, really I'd consider myself more of a Grammar Socialist, but the spirit behind the title is something I very much stand for, and will now defend to the best of my ability.

I suppose the main reason I'm doing this blog post is because I'm getting a little tired of the trend of anti-intellectualism that I'm noticing more and more on the web. It's always been there as a background noise but lately it's becoming more pervasive. There seems to be this general consensus that learning, intelligence and anything that could be looked upon with jealousy are inherently bad, and I find that worrying. There was a time where education was regarded that way, and everyone was stupid but the unpopular kids. Then the nerds grew up to be Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and geekiness became cool. Now we're slipping back down to the worship of mediocrity, and people who battle to keep the standards high get demonized as self-righteous or snobbish. I want to put a stop to this once and for all.

We Grammar Nazis get a tough rap on the nets, there's no shortage of trolls wearing the title to justify their acting like pricks to people who really don't have it coming. Then there's the Grammar Nazi's Grammar Nazis, the people who incessantly try to correct us on our grammar as some twisted kind of poetic justice, which really only compounds the negative impression we get as it descends into a dictionary battle that just pisses off the bystanders. Then there are the people who try to be Grammar Nazis, but don't actually know basic spelling or grammar (or gerbils in jackboots, as I call them). Those are the worst. The in-fighting between all these groups reinforces this stigmatized impression of us as assholes, making it very difficult to defend yourself, because at some point you end up reasoning with a mob.

When it comes to this topic the Internet can be divided into roughly three groups. Grammar Nazis, gerbils, and people who pretty much know how to spell but find the Grammar Nazis intolerable rather than the gerbils. Of course, this means the deck is stacked against those like myself. On the one hand, everyone who is possessed of even a passable degree of literacy feels a tiny stab in their guts when they see people who for the life of them just can't understand the difference between "there", "they're" or "their". On the other hand... nobody likes a smartass, and everyone likes putting one in their place (even if it means behaving like a far more insufferable smartass in the process).

I can understand it from their point of view. I really can. Grammar Nazis must look somewhat like the obnoxious stereotypical comic book nerds battling one another about the technicalities of what happened in issue #321 of the Spastic Disaster Series, or the square-jawed body-building jocks looking down on those around them for not being as obsessed with the spandex-thonged glistening muscular bodies of their weightlifter idols as they are (in a totally non-homo way of course). The fact is when you have an elective group of people whose lives revolve around a particular speciality, it is justifiable to call them annoying and obnoxious when they spend their time poking at the lay people around them for not also being experts.

But that, right there, is my problem. Good grammar is NOT a speciality skill, it is NOT something that only those who have been educated in a specific way should understand. It's a life-skill, that means it's a basic part of the curriculum which you need to survive in the modern world. As elemental and necessary as knowing how to tie your shoelaces. Yes, it's true there are SOME people who take it to the next level, and snarkily flick verbal beans at one another with derisive, esoteric wit about one another's misuse of ellipses or dangling participials. It's true that not everyone needs to have THAT much knowledge of grammar to survive, but I'm not saying they should. I'm far more concerned with the basics.

I get it though, even with that aside I look like a dick when I go up to someone and point out what they're doing wrong. I mean, come on. Who wouldn't look like a dick doing that? In a vacuum, I freely admit that that just plain sounds like dickish behaviour. But I'd like to ask you for a moment to put aside that reactionary mentality. To take a moment to flush away all your current opinions and thoughts on the matter, and try to view it from a completely objective point of view. As if you'd never encountered anything like it before. Ask yourself... is it really rude to do this? What, exactly, makes it so rude? Bear with me here.

Let's say you're hanging out with a friend, you know, in the real world. That place I am told exists somewhere to the side of my monitor. You're hanging out, you're having fun, trading Pokemon cards or dancing to the Eminem music or whatever hip, young people do these days, and maybe you decide to go do something more entertaining. So naturally you go to the Museum of Historical Scissors. What better way to bond than over some well-preserved flint blades? Now here's the thing, while you're there you keep noticing that your friend pronounces it "sKissors". What do you do?

While I'm sure there are one or two exceptions... there always are (usually offered by people trying to be clever by attempting to derail your point) I expect that most people wouldn't think anything of it. They would simply say "You mean sCissors, right?" or some such statement lacking any negative connotations, to politely correct their friend, and be on their way to enjoy a riveting two hour lecture on the evolution of sheers from basic farming tools. Clearly this is a healthy friendship. When you see someone making a mistake, you HELP them. This is a sensible reaction. It's not only harmless, I'd go so far as to say it is the right thing to do.

People don't spontaneously lose their shit the moment they realised they got a word wrong or misplaced a vowel. It's not the rudest thing in the world to help them see it, and it isn't received as some malicious attack in the outside world. Most of the time the only way you learn a new word or what one you already use really means is by someone else pointing it out for you, so it's actually beneficial to our vocabulary. In fact most sane human beings probably wouldn't even bat an eyelid and, dare I say, might just even be grateful. You see, the truth is it's only on the Internet where we have developed this odd social barrier against fixing problems just to protect the fragile egos of those who may end up experiencing a split-second of feeling stupid.

Are we really so thin-skinned as a generation that we can't handle the simple act of someone pointing out a mistake without it leaving us so traumatized that everyone else must chip in to keep us safe from it? It's not like it's a harmless problem either. We're talking about people who honestly don't know where commas go, how the simplest of words are spelled. Are you going to tell me that education ISN'T a big deal in the modern world? Please. Education is the single factor that stands between the human race that built computers, the Empire state building, internal combustion, the cure for the black plague and the Internet, and the human race whose solution to the problem of "What do I do with all my feces?" was "Let's tip it out the window".

Education. Is. Everything. This isn't just about me not being annoyed by you not knowing how to type or speak, we're talking about communication here, that which separates us from every other animal. People who aren't raised to understand basic English (other languages I'll get to in just a moment) are lacking a fundamental life-skill that is exactingly imperative when it comes to finding employment, being successful, finding a mate who isn't willing to settle for gerbil, and in turn contributes to the domino effect of general enlightenment that will lead to them being an intelligent person with informed political and social opinions. You can't get through life as a sensible human being if you don't even have the most basic tools available to you.

We all have an obligation to look out for one another, and by extension, the future of this race. If someone doesn't know how to operate a door, are you being a dick for holding it open for them? If someone can't work the coffee machine, is helping them some kind of transgression? Might we consider it wrong every time someone stops someone else to say "There's something on your face" or points out that your shoelaces are untied? Should I also feel offended by the instruction manuals in every device I buy, or the store clerk who stops to ask if I need help when I look lost? There are few real world circumstances in which pointing out a mistake someone has made is not usually received as a helpful gesture.

Of course, tone and attitude play a big role in that. "You missed a spot" is seldom heard in a tone bereft of snideness, and perhaps that's a big part of the problem. How do you convey a helpful tone via text? It's all too easy on hearing correction to default to a caustic cadence for the delicate egos of the unhugged, sexually-repressed manchilds in this soft age of bubble-wrapped sharp edges and censorship. Anything remotely critical is immediately turned into an attack, and when graced by the protective anonymity of the 'net which so allures our inner elitists, isn't it also possible that those criticisms are sometimes deliberately spiced with a touch extra subtle mockery? I'd be lying if that wasn't the case, even for me.

Having said that, I honestly don't correct people who I see using poor grammar to be malicious or a jerk, I do it because I care about the horrendous, declining state of education in the modern world. Granted there is a certain karmic satisfaction, but the core goal is to fix a problem, not rejoice in it. I didn't do well at school, at all, and it was a very crappy school, but even I somehow came out of it with an understanding of the difference between "than" and "then". What on Earth is being taught in schools these days that causes so many students to enter the big, wide world with the knowledge of infants? It's like not knowing how to walk, you NEED to know the difference between a comma and an apostrophe.

Now, personally speaking, I reserve my Grammar Nazi powers for the villainous and douchey. Unless it's a shockingly poorly written post with EVERYTHING misspelled, I let it go. Anyone can make typos or slip up and type the wrong word, happens to me all the time. I'm not interested in pointing out obvious mistakes, only correcting people who genuinely don't seem to know they are making them. I generally wait until I see someone who is acting like a douche to someone else but in the process repeatedly messes up, then it's fair game. I use it not only to take them down from their assumed position of power and remind them what humility is, but also to contribute to the education they need to overcome such assholeish behaviour as well.

To be very clear on what kind of context we're talking about here, I'm saying that I won't just walk up to someone and point out that they can't spell. However, if I see someone making racist, bigoted or generally mean-spirited remarks towards someone else, either accusing them of not knowing English while hypocritically misspelling half the words, or simply accusing other people of being "dum" or "stuepid" - that's when I crack my knuckles. Consider it a mechanism of social justice, or a love of irony. It is never really something that comes out of left field though. They always deserve to have the soap box kicked out from under them.

Of course, this just pertains to my use of correction as a form of ridicule, I am less conservative about occasionally offering up a little *you're or *their to nudge someone who clearly never learned these simple distinctions in the right direction. This is with no sour undertones however, and is better judged in terms of that "there's something on your face" helpful mentality. Part of the reason there is no derision intended in these circumstances pertains to my next point, which I'm sure is something most people would immediately (and probably already did) recognize to be a flaw in the Grammar Nazi etiquette.

Language barrier.

It's true that there are many people for whom English is a second or third language, and for such people, it is more than easily forgiveable if they don't happen to have quite as polished a vocabulary as native English speakers. They may well be fluent in their own languages, which is probably a lot more than I could claim to be, so obviously I am far more lenient in such cases. It's usually fairly easy for a trained eye to recognize a non-English speaker when you see one, the ordering of their words, the general phrasing. Obviously I give these people a free pass, even if they are being douches. I am certainly not one of those obnoxious people who take the attitude that if you're going to post on the internet you "must" know English.

It can be hard for some people to tell when they're dealing with someone for whom English isn't their main language, and to be fair some people speak the language so well, it's almost too subtle to notice. If I do call someone out on their grammar and they end up telling me this is the case, I'll happily apologize and congratulate them on how well they do speak it - before continuing to eviscerate whatever stupid shit they were saying to begin with. If you think someone isn't native to the language - let them go, that's a fairly obvious policy (which some people, regrettably, seem to neglect).

Note - I also reserve the same policy for those with disorders that make spelling and grammar more difficult, although being born with a difficulty is no excuse for acquiescence to low standards.

The goal isn't to convert the world to speaking English. I'm just as happy with people doing the same thing I do but in other languages. It's about protecting the fidelity to your chosen language and ensuring its purity, protecting it from misuse and abuse, and taking steps to prevent it from becoming the meaningless gibberish of an idiocracy over the coming generations. I don't think it's wrong to want to prevent that. If we're not going to respect language then why even bother with anything? Why don't we all just make random noises at each other? Because language has a purpose, and if it is to be useful, it needs rules that must be adhered to.

Since I generally remain reticent on other people's English skills until in some kind of conflict with them (and even then, only when they have it coming), it doesn't become a problem until I cross swords with someone, wherein it (hopefully) serves to distil a higher quality of argument from that person, as they attempt to compete not only with my case, but also my speech pattern, and hopefully help encourage them to become smarter. That's not to imply I'm automatically smarter than they are, in fact they may well be far superior to myself, but that's the point. They have to at least be on my level in order to take me down a peg, which is very difficult if they can't really convey their argument due to their own ineptitude.

I mean, not only does it make communication difficult, but it's also reflective of how well-educated you are likely to be in other areas as well, so it simply destroys all credibility. Do you want to look like you don't even know what you're talking about? If I'm debating with someone who can't help but look like they're typing with a turnip, how is anyone supposed to take them seriously? If you're going to stand any chance of disagreeing with people on a matter and not looking like a fool doing so, you'll need to learn to wield the language with some dignity and grace. Best case scenario? They leave, learn how to communicate more effectively, and come back a smarter person for it. I've seen it happen. Hell, it happened to me.

I mentioned that I went to a terrible school earlier. The truth is, while I did walk out of that landfill with a passable understanding of basic grammar, my general spelling skills were lacking, as was my vocabulary. I was never very good at getting across the thoughts and ideas that swam about in my brain soup (which I may be going into greater detail on in a future post...) but the point is, I rose to the challenge. I realised that I wasn't giving the best first impression, and I wanted to be taken seriously. That was one of the first steps on my road to re-education and general self-improvement, and I don't regret it. Sometimes you just have to look like a dumbass in order to recognize that you're not one, and find a way to show it.

Look, I'm not saying I'm a saint, or that there is a complete absence of predatory gratification in what I do, but my core motives are decent. I won't deny that it does make me genuinely angry to see the language getting massacred by idiots, and I won't pretend that I really welcome it when such correction comes my way, whether justified or not. But if you really asked yourself where you wish to stand on this spectrum, from intellectual to gerbil - where would you want to find yourself? You don't leave your house without pants on, you don't try to handle money if you can't count, you don't go to a restaurant and eat your pasta with your bare hands and if you don't want to look like a clown, you don't try to argue with people via text when you can't even spell. There are some things you just need to be able to do.

But are we really "Nazis"? Is this in any way a fair comparison? I don't think it is. There's no censorship implied in telling people to speak properly. There's no social police element to the passive act of simply pointing out the shit someone has tracked in. We have not the power to make you stop talking nonsense, only to ask you not to, and occasionally mock you for not knowing how. What's wrong with respecting the language I speak so much that I care whether or not other people do it justice? To me the English language is beautiful, its rhythms and patterns almost song-like. And if I hear someone butchering a song I like, guess what? I'll point it out. I do understand why this can seem rude, but I don't apologize for doing it.

Grammar Nazis aren't the bad guys, we just care more about you not looking stupid than you do. We give a damn about the shockingly poor state of education in this modern world, and the consequences that can have in every other corner of life. I know many of you hate seeing someone try to one-up someone else, but would you really prefer a world in which no one gets called out on it when they do something wrong? A world with no accountability or standards? Aren't you really just protecting people from the consequences of their stupidity, and thus enabling the stupidity itself? If you stand between a GN and his/her prey, what you're really announcing to the world is that you care less about who is in the wrong than you do about enforcing this egg-shell-laden landscape of social censorship and the insulation from basic education.

So who's really the Nazi?

All I want is to make sure that we're all on a level-playing field. Gerbils who can't spell are at a disadvantage, to say nothing of the validity of their points. You can't defend a position if you can't get three words without making yourself look like a moron. I did use to be a bit more vitriolic in the past, and maybe did it a bit more often, but time mellows, so I do understand the temptation to do so. My advice to other GN's is to hold off until it seems absolutely necessary. Doing this won't win you any friends. At the same time, however, don't let the fragile sensibilities of those around you dictate what you say. When you see an error, it is the duty of every conscionable person to correct it.

It isn't rude to do this, it isn't mean or vulgar or symptomatic of an attention-seeking mind, it's just standing up for the language we are all using as a medium to get across thoughts and feelings. If we abandon that medium, if we let it degrade into something less, something duller, what a travesty that would be. Protecting that language, even if it makes you unpopular, is not only objectively right, it's morally right, and the only place on Earth where people are so sponge-soft that they can't handle such simplistic correction is here on the net, where anonymity not only helps invoke such criticism to begin with, but also grants free licence for those at the receiving end of it to stomp their feet and pout and cry like whiny little babies simply because they, like all of us, dislike being reminded of their own fallibility.

For that small moment of inconvenience over which you flail and flounder like weak-minded little monkeys, you have learned something that you would have found far easier to unlearn had it not been delivered with such pointed barb, and for that you're welcome. You're welcome even though you cry and accuse, for the fact that you know something today that you didn't know yesterday. And should that education snowball, as you look up these words in attempt to disprove my correction, and gradually begin to care about being right, you're welcome for that also. We try to improve the world around us, albeit sometimes with a bit of venom, certainly, because if we don't - who will? Before we were Grammar Nazis we were just "people who know how to spell", we've been around as long as stupidity has, and we're the reason there exist rules to maintain and preserve the language in the first place. You're welcome.

So why am I a Grammar Nazi (or Socialist)? Why not just keep my mouth shut and let people spew whatever nonsense they want? Because I care. I honestly do. I care about people having the skills to improve their intelligence and help them convey good ideas. I care about not letting idiots infect other people with their stupidity. I care about communication and the enormous benefit it has had to our species. If only other people would care half as much as I do about not tarnishing such a valuable tool, maybe we'd all be a little bit better off. But at the end of the day, if you're going to sing my song at me, you better damn well know the melody.

UPDATE: As always, none of my blogs are "finished", and always subject to updating or alteration. I have elected to include in this article a short, hopefully memorable guide on how to be a Grammar Nazi effectively and without douchiness. Not all GN's behave in accordance with these rules, but those who do tend to be of a higher calibre in my opinion.

Edicts of the Grammar Nazi.

Rule 1. Never correct a typo.
Remember, the aim is to educate and improve the knowledge of others. Correcting a mistake serves no purpose and only makes you look like a jackass. When in doubt, phrase your correction as a question; "Did you mean to say X?" or simply leave it alone. The likelihood of it being a misspelling over a typo should be factored into this decision, for example "thier" is more likely to be a typo, whereas "there" used as a possessive pronoun is more likely a case of poor education, and requires swift correction. Let us also agree that this same rule implicitly applies to colloquialisms and slang.

Rule 2. Be as polite and dignified as possible.
That which distinguishes GN's from trolls is our ability to carry out the unenviable task of correcting the belligerent while retaining some class and decorum in doing so. Mock where mocking is necessary, hold back where it is not. Though requiring more restraint, it is objectively better to wait until someone makes a fool of themselves, rather than go out of your way to make a fool of them. Again, never forget, the goal is to improve, not denigrate. When helping someone else with an error, etiquette demands a certain level of patience and approachability.

Rule 3. Respect language barriers and disorders.
The goal is not to convert the world to speaking your language, and whatever culture you are a part of is not the only one on the internet. Always think before you attempt to correct. Analyse your subject, observe their sentence structure and try to judge if it seems likely they are not native speakers of the language they are using. Likewise, if you suspect, or are informed that the subject is suffering from a literacy disorder, do the right thing. Walk away. If there is any doubt in your mind that either of these options might be the case, just ask. Sometimes it is preferable to contact them in private to offer your tutelage in an environment free of embarrassment. Remember, though, that such limitations do not grant these people free licence to act like ass-hats.

Rule 4. Pedantry over advanced grammar is best avoided, except in case of serious douchebaggery.
Nothing puts people off more than GN's talking like human dictionaries, throwing out oblique technicalities and archaic rules just to look superior. Reserve this level of grammar correction for the sorts of people who have made themselves a worthy target by attacking or debasing other people first and can't be taken down by simpler means. Note - in case of stupidity, go with the obvious faults first. There's no need to add criticisms which most people might find unfair, especially if there are elementary mistakes already present. That just makes you look like you're piling on. Restraint is an excellent tool of any educator.

Rule 5. Never be afraid to educate.
Do not be intimidated by bullying and the ganging up on you of illiterate internet gerbils. Do not be squashed into silence by the unkempt mobs who sully their own potential with the worship of ignorance. Nothing good ever came from the sort of person who decided the correct thing to do about lacking basic knowledge is to ignore the problem or enable that ignorance in others by ignoring it too out of a misguided sense of politeness. If you care about the state of humanity today, and worry about how it will look tomorrow, do your part now. Sometimes intimidation will battle confidence, but at the end of the day, remember one simple fact - you are literally in the right, and they, the wrong. Is this really a world in which the truth about whether or not something is correct is less important than whether or not we feel a moment of discomfort upon being corrected? SHOULD it be? You decide whether that is the case with your actions.

Of course, the golden rule in all things internet, is know when to walk away. If you let trolls dictate your life, your argument will be as endless as it is ineffectual, and your life will be wasted. Grammar Nazis are a necessary mechanism of the internet (and education in general, when you think about it), and the modern age has developed an ecosystem in which we are truly fundamental.

We teach the lazy schoolkids what they should be learning in class when they are busy insulting people over the internet on their cellphones. We correct the people who simply never bothered to learn, or were unable to, and would, if uncorrected, go on to infect others with their anti-education. People learn by being corrected these days more so than just being informed in the first place. It's our job to be the bad guy who takes care of that.

We're here to help, not to insult. Forget that, and you cease to be a positive force in this inter-connected world, and fail in your duties as an intellectual custodian.

Thanks for your time, and take care.

No gerbils were harmed in the making of this blog.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Evolution: Ignorance Verses Knowledge

I realise I haven't updated in a while, and I wouldn't want to keep all my 0 fans waiting, so while I'm busy compiling future posts I decided to drop this in here. This is the result of a debate I had with a friend who is an evolution denier (and therefore, obviously, a creationist). I originally had no intention of posting it anywhere other than the forum on which we had our discussion, but considering how lacklustre the response I got from him was, the work I put into it is really kind of wasted on him. Might as well do something with it.

To protect his anonymity, my friend will henceforth be referred to as "Jebus".


A few months ago, Jebus posted an article on the main blog of this site, talking about his beliefs with respect to, among other things, evolution. After I read it, I decided to message him and arrange a friendly debate on the matter, as I feel he is the victim and unwitting distributor of profound scientific ignorance and disinformation. I consider this to be a cause worthy of mature debate. We haven't had much time to discuss the matter. This is a continuation of that debate from where we left it off.

For anyone who may be interested, what follows is a summary of each point raised in this debate, in no particular order. I was going to go by my usual point>counterpoint>counter-counterpoint system, but so far as I can tell going back over the conversation, pretty much none of the refutations I made to Jebus's arguments were themselves refuted, outside of simplistic rejections along the lines of 'there's no evidence', repetition of the claim without acknowledging my counterpoints, or simply moving on to another argument. So fuck it, we'll do it live.

I'll be supplying a short description of each argument levied against evolution, a description of what I believe to be the fallacy or logical flaw with the argument, followed by a single (occasionally two) paragraph refutation that hopefully will be more condensed than the one in the chat, but sometimes may be longer. Some will be points he raised in his blog that I might not have had the time to mention to him, others will be straight out of the chat, many were raised multiple times in slightly different ways, but I tried to cover everything as clearly as possible.

This is intended to be a simplified, albeit expanded summary of the debate to make it easier for any onlookers to keep track of how it progressed on a point by point basis, but if it serves to actually continue the debate, that's fine too. Please note this is a highly informal debate, carried out with no moderator and in a relaxed, conversational setting. At the end I will supply my own thoughts on the debate for anyone who is interested, Jebus is invited to do the same.

From the blog: Why are there still monkeys?

Fallacy: non-sequitur.
Asking why are there still monkeys is analogous to asking 'if Europeans colonized America, why are there still Europeans?'. It's a nonsensical question, there is no reason to expect a parental lineage to somehow mysteriously melt away into the ether simply because the child lineage has moved on. This stems from a simple misconception about how evolution works, where one assumes that since we evolved from them, that means they didn't evolve. The truth is they did, there are thousands of new species of monkey, they are simply well adjusted to their environment already, which is why they didn't change as much from their ancestors as our offshoot did. If this example is a little too educationally demanding, then consider a far more simple case. Jebus mentioned briefly how mankind has bred many different breeds of dogs, which by the way is known as 'artificial selection', another selection pressure in, you guessed it, evolution. Either way he acknowledges that this happened, so he probably acknowledges that the 'dog' we first started with was the wolf, which we tamed and then selectively bred through different morphologies. So if dogs came from wolves... why are there still wolves?

From the blog: There are pictures of dinosaurs walking with man.

Fallacy: Appeal to Authority.
I'm assuming he's referring to the Ica stones, which are sold by the natives of the area to tourists for some easy dime. Strangely they never seem to run out of these souvenirs, and their exact origins cannot be confirmed without knowing where the materials used to make them came from, but those that have been dated have been revealed to be decades old at the most, and some young enough that they still contain water. What we have here is someone handing you a hand-painted rock and TELLING you it is thousands of years old, so what would Occam's razor have to say about this? Actually many of the impoverished locals have admitted to making them, but that's beside the point. On top of all that, are we not on a website devoted to the study of the paranormal? If one is to consider that things like psychometry are plausible, why should the retrocognitive visions of an ancient civilization perceiving long-dead animals be a surprise?

This is all academic however, since 'evolution' does not say dinosaurs could not have survived to live with man, in the first place. Yep, you heard that right. Evolution has nothing to say about this, though the FOSSIL RECORD does. That thing that Jebus declares does not exist? Which would mean he is arguing with thin air. An absence of fossils that demonstrates such an overlap does not mean one could not have happened, and if it did, there would be nothing contradictory to evolution about that, although it would be a tall order to explain why we hadn't discovered any evidence of the thousands of generations of dinosaurs that preceded them. I for one would be ecstatic if we discovered they did live together, or even that some had survived to this day. That would be awesome, and nothing to do with any failure on part of evolution. We don't conclude that man and dinosaurs never coexisted because evolution says so, we conclude that because we see no evidence that it happened. Painted rocks notwithstanding.

From the blog: Darwin's deathbed confession

Fallacy: Poisoning the Well, Genetic Fallacy, Ad Hominem
Yeah, I'm sure you've all heard this one before. It's used in these types of debates ad nauseum. Or course people are saying the same about Hitchens now he's dead, and they'll do the same with Dawkins and Randi and so on, hell someone somewhere will probably say the same about me when I go. It's not true, even the most basic research will clearly show you that. You know why I'm so certain? He was *already* a Christian. Though not steadfast and refusing to take biblical history literally, he was raised orthodox. Creationists cannot comprehend the idea that someone would believe in evolution and believe in god, which is why they need to confabulate theories that he 'found' the faith. It doesn't occur to them that he was already a man of faith, because their bias is such that these two things cannot coexist in their minds, and they don't bother to actually research it because, well, if you're already making up facts why would you care? It also goes a long way towards proving that they, themselves, would never accept the theory purely BECAUSE of their faith.

The problem is, I wouldn't care if it WAS true. The belief that a theory's validity is in any way contingent on the beliefs or behaviours of its progenitor is an attitude carried by the unscientifically minded, anyone with any logic will understand that it wouldn't matter even if Darwin was a Muslim Nazi Racist Socialist Communist Jew, it has NOTHING to do with whether or not anything he said was accurate or verifiable. Even if he had renounced Evolution, that STILL wouldn't matter, because what we're talking about is what is true. What is true remains true regardless of how the person who discovers that truth decided to behave, and while this probably sounds pretty obvious, it gets easier to understand why people fail to grasp this simple fact when they regard the world in terms of 'beliefs'. To such people, there are no truths, only abstract constructs they arbitrarily determine to be their own truth, and as such, these truths can be changed based on how many people you get to believe (or disbelieve) in them. That's WHY the value they attach to the truth is so sparse.

Side note: Jebus also stated that Darwin faked his research by 'mixing in the bones of children with the monkeys'. I've been searching for data on this for several days now, and all I can find are re-postings of his own article. Deductively speaking, either Jebus had to have made this up, or he's quoting an extremely obscure (probably creationist) source that did. Again, the belief that evolution stands or falls on Darwin's shoulders betrays a total lack of understanding of the theory. It wasn't even close to validated until modern evolutionary synthesis became a thing, and that was decades after his death. Hell it wasn't even called Evolution when he was alive, he was just studying population mechanics. The most damning evidence against this though is this; at the time Darwin was applying his partner's theory of animal evolution to humans, the data he was working with was animal, this was BEFORE we began discovering human fossils, so what data exactly did he falsify by mixing children bones with it again? He didn't even HAVE (or claim to have) the fossil data Jebus is suggesting he faked. There is no possible way this claim could be correct. This. Is. A. Lie. Read: Origin of Species.

"I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally ... an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind." ~ Darwin

I believe in some types of evolution, such as working out.

Fallacy: General misunderstanding
I went back on forth on whether to include this, since it isn't really an anti-evolution argument, but when first stated in his blog it is used as a qualification tool, to attempt to make it look like he understands evolution before taking it on, thus, while not a statement on anything specific, it bears addressing both as misinformation and to diffuse any possible received claim to authority. Evolution has nothing whatsoever to do with self-improvement within a single human lifetime. You might colloquially say you are 'evolving' yourself, but really this is so far disconnected from the actual fact and theory of evolution that it doesn't even bear mentioning in the same paragraph. It is, however, important to address this, because it demonstrates a critical lack of understanding on just what evolution is and how it works, namely that there are even different 'types' of evolution to begin with. And just so we're clear, evolution also has nothing to do with Abiogenesis, Biogenesis, the Bing Bang or any other Cosmology, God or anything else. Plenty of Evolutionists are Christian.

Which fish became a man?

Fallacy: Loaded Question, Reductio Absurdum.
To stick with my previous example, this is somewhat akin to acknowledging that ancient humans migrated from Africa to the Germanic regions, then eventually to England (as Anglo Saxons) then colonized America, and asking 'Which ancient African human became a modern American?'. Again, this is an incomprehensible question, there is no such thing as a single direct chain of parent to child that ultimately began with one single fish, and somehow remains specific to humans. Was there a single fish at the absolute root of our genetic tree? Of course, likewise there WAS a single African at the root of our ancestral tree, but you can't expect that lineage to be isolated to humans any more than the African lineage would be isolated to a single American.

Why do creationists continuously forget that evolution works through divergent trees all branching out in multiple directions? Human beings are part of the order of Mammals, and ALL Mammals are related to one another, and all descendants of ancient Mammals > Proto Mammals > Reptiles > Amphibians > ancient lobed fish. There isn't 'one' fish that became humans, they became *all* Mammals. What confuses him is this same problem of all those intermediary steps also still existing, owing to the fact that other versions of them also branched forwards, because he still carries the same fallacy from before, of assuming that a parent species can no longer survive if their descendants have migrated and changed. It is incredibly oversimplistic, to the point of risibility to ask which 'one' became a man, especially when this entire process has only just been thoroughly explained to you.

If dinosaurs evolved into chickens, how is that good for survival?

Fallacy: Non-Sequitur
I wasn't sure whether to include this one, as this is supposed to be a summary/expansion of my responses to Jebus, and this was one of the points that got buried under the dozens of other points he was firing at me, thus it could be considered unfair for me to 'have my say' now rather than when I had the chance. For this reason, consider this response to be an optional read, and expunged from whatever scoring system you are going by as you read our debates. Nonetheless I will briefly address it. How is it good for survival? Well, they survived didn't they? Jebus seems to misunderstand evolution as some kind of process of becoming stronger, bigger and objectively 'better', as demonstrated by the last response. As I said, evolution is about survival, if being big is not a boon to survival (requiring extra food to support larger mass, finding it harder to breath due to there being lower oxygen levels now, which is actually the reason we don't find land animals that big anymore, etc) then becoming smaller is the advantage to survival. When you stop looking at evolution as some kind of race to a non-existent finish line, it begins to make a lot more sense. It's JUST about adaptation.

If evolution is true: Rape would be moral.

Fallacy: Appeal to emotion
If you're confused about where this one came from, don't be. This was neither in the blog nor our documented debate, but rather something Jebus said to me the instant I approached him to proposition this debate. Since it's not part of the official debate, feel free to ignore this one. I forget the other arguments he made at the time but this one stuck in my mind because of the simplicity of its refutation. He is actually quite correct - although not 'moral', since morality is a concept invented by us to encourage certain behaviours of which this is NOT one, it is fair to say that rape would be 'advantageous' to evolution. Indeed it is likely the case that we ALL exist as a result of one of our ancestors forcing themselves upon their mate. The mistake Jebus is making here is the simple inversion between reason and meaning, logic and desirability. In an ideal world, I would also love for there to be no killing in nature, but it is still necessary for animals to eat one another. How much or little we condone something has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not that thing exists, and however immoral rape may be, that has nothing to do with the mechanics of evolution. If you don't like it, I suppose the one to complain to would be god. It was evidently his idea, after all.

This study says an ancient diet should be good for us, it is not.

Fallacy: Appeal to Authority, Strawman.
It's rare that someone appeals to an unspecified authority in defence of an argument they don't even agree with. Understandably, the problem here is that I cannot be expected to just agree with everyone that Jebus *claims* was an evolutionist and defend their stupid claims, we're not all under the same umbrella. Suffice to say, though, Jebus made it very clear with his examples that humans need protein in addition to the berries and other sources of carbohydrates. He seems to think that I should think that this is in contradiction with evolution - but the simple fact is, humans are omnivores. Why should this surprise me? Animals become omnivores when they don't necessarily have a consistent diet, sometimes you can only get access to berries, sometimes meat. You take what you can get, so we adapted to everything we can get. What seems to confuse him is that to exist at absolute optimal standards we need a very specific diet, the problem here is not only is that not impossible for a wild human, but no one ever said that we WERE living at optimal standards. Modern human society has helped us develop to a potential we might never have reached in the wild.

Ancient humans lived over 300 years.

Fallacy: Appeal to Ignorance, just being plain wrong.
This is another one that falls under the category of 'WHOOSH, right over my head'. I didn't notice that Jebus said this at the time because he was just firing so many points at me occasionally I missed a couple during the three seconds it takes me to type a response (I type very fast, which goes to show how exuberant Jebus was being at the time). Nonetheless, this is yet another example of 'It's not true, but even if it was it wouldn't have anything to do with evolution'. Supercentenarian myths are a classic staple of the religious apologist, in this case most likely inspired by the Bible, due to its many extravagant claims about the ages of the characters in those stories. For centuries now people have tried to prove that humans could really live that long under the mistaken assumption that it would prove their religion is true. The figure '300', apart from being a kickass movie, most likely stems from Lucian, an ancient historian and satirist who recalled stories about various myths, including that of an ancient Chinese people who lived that long.

Never has there been fossils found to that effect, and if there were it would have been the most awesome discovery ever and we would all have heard about it on the news. This is again a case of Jebus propagating a myth and not actually understanding where it originated. That said, as I already mentioned, even if ancient humans could live that long, it wouldn't disprove anything in Evolution. Or has it escaped his attention that there exist animals today that are immortal? Somehow science failed to cover that evidence up too. Evolution doesn't 'say' how long anything should live, if anything did it would be general biology, and it is quite possible we evolved shorter lifespan as a survival mechanism even if we had once been capable of such long life. I suspect Jebus would find that difficult to understand, because he still believes that evolution must be a progression towards some kind of clear enhancement, when in truth it's just about survival and proliferation. If young people breed quickly and old people hold a society back (maybe during migration, etc) guess what's going to happen?

There is no fossil record/there aren't enough fossils

Fallacy: Self-imposed ignorance.
It's difficult to glean what his actual position is on that as he seemed to make a couple of excusatory steps back, does he think there is no fossil record at all, at least one that demonstrates evolution? Is he expecting the fossil record to be some single ominous warehouse filled with every fossil ever collected? Does he really not understand that fossils belong in museums and research institutes? Or does he accept all the above but simply find it a little bit lacking? Well to make such a judgement he would require a degree of qualification he obviously lacks, he's not in a position to understand or decide what should be where, the taxonomical data involved in making such a call is staggering, there is more information than a single person could process in an entire lifetime, which is why we HAVE research organizations who ARE qualified for this.

I understand him not being able to access and process all that information - but to say there are no substantive fossil records is beyond absurd. I will however add one small caveat to this, something that also frustrated me when I was first educating myself on evolution. The internet is sorely lacking a single, user-friendly database compiling every possible phylogeny and palaeontology archive. I believe such a thing would be immensely helpful for school education, and I know some people lobbying to get something like that set up. As it stands, you have to actually go to the websites of the universities and research institutes (most of which specialise in just one or two types of animal) and sift through the images by hand in a very counterintuitive way. It's not really set up to be user-friendly to the layman, because the people who use these databases are not lay people. There really needs to be a resource that compiles all this data and presents it an expandable tree covering every single genus past and present. I can understand his difficulties in finding the evidence, it takes a lot of tedious effort, but the data IS there, and there, is no, excuse, for, claiming, you looked, and didn't find it.

Why can we still not digest wheat?

Fallacy: Non-sequitur, Special Pleading.
I didn't bring up the issue of whether his numbers were correct on this because I am not informed enough on the topic, but given his other arguments hinted at things I know to be false (anti-vaccination arguments and such) and given his extremely confident, yet wrong, retelling of what evolution is, I am not overly confident in his source fidelity. Either way, even if we assume that ALL humans are wheat intolerant, why should we be able to digest it? The time our species has spent eating wheat is a drop in the bucket on an evolutionary timescale. Sure we've gotten a little taller, a bit smarter etc, but major changes such as an overhaul of our digestive system take MUCH longer than that. I believe this only doesn't make sense to him became he simply fails to understand that either the planet or the species is even that old, so he assumes that if evolution happens it must have to happen a lot quicker. Again, holding a theory he doesn't believe in accountable to standards that he, not its proponents, demand it should meet. HE decided the earth is young, and now somehow we all have to bend to that baseless assertion. On top of that, repeatedly stating that we have difficulty digesting wheat, if true, is a serious hole in the 'we were created to farm' theory, and puts a serious onus on the failure of the imagination of whoever created us specifically to eat farmed wheat, don't you think?

It's 'only a theory'

Fallacy: Appeal to Ignorance, Strawman, Equivocation, Mind Projection, Nirvana Fallacy, False Statement (and so many more).
Boy, don't get me started. It's a particularly annoying, unscratchable itch that plagues every rationalist that this argument still exists and is still used so frequently despite its thundering stupidity. To be fair, Jebus only used it in passing, but it's still a very important topic to address. People have this idea that theory means 'unproven', when in truth it doesn't. Let me be completely clear so there can be no confusion: THEORY HAS A DIFFERENT MEANING IN SCIENCE. A hypothesis can ONLY reach the status of Theory if it has met its burden of proof against thorough, rigorous peer review and empiric methodology. There is no such thing as a classification that is higher than Theory in science, it is the highest status a Hypothesis can obtain. Likewise, there is no such thing as '100% proof' in science, because unlike a belief system, science is built on a foundational understanding that even if it is incredibly unlikely, anything and anyone can be wrong. Rather than sticking to our views in spite of this, we simply admit it from the getgo, and remain vigilant in case that is the case. In other words, the absolute pinnacle standard of open-mindedness is built-in. Facts are not superior to theories, they are simply points of data. A fact is the observation, the Theory is the attempt to explain it.

From the blog and the debate: We never found the missing link.

Fallacy: No fallacy here, just a simple, and understandable misconception.
The phrase 'missing link' has been ingrained in our consciousness for decades, so often used in the same sentence as evolution that it's very easy to become convinced the two concepts must be intrinsically linked. This phrase made its first rounds in the Geological sciences, as a term for a suspected link between two Geologic timescales, and was later borrowed in a passing statement (either BY Darwin or in reference to him, I forget) referring to certain orders of ancient Ape that we had yet to find to fill in some of the gaps in the fossil record. Of course, this was a very long time ago, Palaeontology was in its infancy and we didn't have even a fraction of the fossils we now have. Why this phrase has become so tenaciously attached to things like 'sasquatch' sightings and evolution debate is just one of those memetic mysteries that we'll never solve. Suffice to say, in evolutionary terms, there is no such concept as a 'missing link', it's a nonsensical term, it doesn't make sense even as an idea. Every single animal is, by definition, transitional. The claim that scientists keep reporting to have 'found' the missing link only to be proved wrong is something you only seem to hear from creationists. It's quite amazing to me that all these creationists have managed to debunk these highly public claims, yet I've never seen those claims ever get MADE by the evolutionists themselves.

Evolutionists think birds developed one wing at a time, making life harder for them during the early stages.

Fallacy: There is no specific fallacy here, only a failure to understand the basic mechanics of evolution.
They do not think that. At all. Nobody does.

Can you really picture a fish evolving into a human?

Fallacy: Appeal to Ignorance.
Firstly, yes I can. Because when you fully understand how something works it is not at all hard to comprehend it, to me at least. Secondly, the inability of someone to imagine something happening has no bearing on whether or not such a thing is possible or even plausible. If science decided what was true based on how easily we could wrap our minds around it Quantum Mechanics would have never progressed beyond the early proposal stage. Look, I cannot imagine how they erected the Golden Gate Bridge, it seems like a brobdingnagian task to me, totally beyond my scope of understanding. For me to run around saying this is proof that it was made by aliens or something would be quite absurd. Things happen that are beyond our intuitive understanding all the time, which is why we HAVE the scientific method, to slowly interpret the evidence and *learn* to see beyond the primitive, easily awe-inspired instincts of our fallacy-prone minds.

Giant fossils!

Fallacy: Argument from Authority, Appeal to Ignorance.
When I first suggested that these images were hoaxes, Jebus's sardonic reaction was basically 'what, all of them?' as if a large number of pictures somehow adds more validity. Let me tell you something - I used to believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Passionately. I loved fantasizing about watching the surface of that lake, waiting to catch a glimpse of the extraordinary. Until I learned about the 'Surgeon's Hoax', the first ever picture of the monster (in the form that we now recognize) that essentially sparked the legend. Duke Wetherell created the image, using a toy boat and a sculpture. This image, formed in the shape of a Plesiosaur, became the officially recognized face of Nessie in all sightings from that point on. As it happens he had been sent to investigate a local urban legend which was ITSELF the product of another hoax, where the editor of a 1933 article, Francesco Gasparin had exaggerated a local story about a strange fish. Both of these hoaxes were admitted to by their perpetrators. There were some already existing obscure myths (actually about the River Ness, not the Loch) but that was common for its era, the point is, the Plesiosaur image was invented.

Do you know what it means when the first example of a series of sightings turns out to be a hoax? It automatically discredits all future sightings. Because what are the chances that an ACTUAL, undiscovered Plesiosaur happens to live in the same lake where someone up and invented the idea of one being there? And guess what? The very first 'giant bones' picture came from... an online competition to create inventive photoshop images, as confirmed by Snopes. Look, it was sad for me to let go of my Nessie fantasy, but I did, because that's what the evidence tells me. When that first photo of giant bones being excavated made its rounds on the internet, the religious nuts latched onto it as some kind of Nephilim nonsense, and obviously started creating their own versions of the same hoax. Is this really surprising? Isn't it actually something you'd EXPECT to happen? It would be stupidly naive to pretend otherwise, we're all smarter than that.

As I clearly explained to Jebus, however, there really is no reason that this would count against evolution, even if it WERE real, because evolution does not 'state' that such things cannot, or did not happen. For evidence of this one need look no further than the relatively recent 'hobbit' discovery. Does Jebus really believe that the discovery of giant fossils would be covered up in some grand conspiracy because it would somehow topple evolution, yet the discovery of miniature humans somehow would not? Contrary to his implications, THIS discovery had absolutely no negative impact on evolution, and in fact was wholeheartedly embraced once it was confirmed to not be a hoax. Why? Because evolution PREDICTS different breeds forming in different geographic locations, and a new sub-species of human, little OR big, is nothing more than a perfect example of that. Yet again, this is nothing more than a lack of understanding on what evolution is.

(Besides, a simple understanding of the square cube law makes it pragmatically impossible for giant humans to exist.)

No one has ever seen evolution happening in real time.

Fallacy: False Statement
Of course it's also true that even if we hadn't, that wouldn't count as evidence against evolution, the notion that we can't understand things without directly witnessing them is absurd and would castrate scientific progress if taken seriously - but if I put too many more 'appeal to ignorance' labels it's going to unfairly make Jebus look like a one trick pony. Or is that horse? Either way, the only mistake Jebus made here is believing what other people have told him, although that does seem to be a trend. I did explain to him in the debate that the pharmaceutical industry is dependent on evolutionary study, viruses and bacteria keep evolving which is why we need to stay on top of them. But even putting that aside we have ring species, pesticide research, real time studies of fruit fly evolution, same with finches and many, many, MANY more examples of observed modern speciation. It's just not possible to deny this and remain credible. And how is all this possible? Because evolution doesn't have so much to do with time as generations, Jebus is incorrect in stating unequivocally that evolution must take millions of years. If you have an animal that can go through many generations very quickly under harsh selection pressures, then that's the equivalent of millions of years in our terms. It really depends on the life-form.

So we can study these things happening without much difficulty, and none of this is in an effort to 'prove' evolution, because it's not a controversial subject outside of the sensationalistic media, the genetic evidence alone is more than enough to prove evolution, never mind the fossil record on top of that. We study these things to LEARN about evolution. Even if we didn't have this evidence, or even if, as Jebus contends, there exists no fossil record, the strongest evidence in favour of evolution is genetics. The very same methods that let you trace your ancestral lineage using those 'who am I' websites and such is also used to trace the genetic relationship between different animals. We can literally SEE that we are genetically related to this species and that and track the evolving generations recorded in our own genes. Yes, sometimes the claimed nature of that relationship changes, but this is due to the addition of MORE information, not the sudden collapse of the entire scientific method. New data REFINES our understanding of the truth. A system that rejects new information that contradicts already established facts wouldn't be called science so much as... religion?

Scientists have lots of different theories!

Fallacy: Appeal to Ignorance; god of the gaps, Inflation of Conflict.
Even just summarizing the flaws in this mindset would take far more than the one or two paragraph limit I have assigned myself, but at the same time this attitude is so prevalent, particularly among spiritualists, and particularly at AS, that something needs to be said. I will be writing a full article to address this at a later time, if anyone is interested. To give you the short version though; the tendency for specialists to argue and come to conflicting conclusions is easy to judge to be a failure of modern science when you're looking at it from the wrong viewpoint. When you judge things in terms of 'facts' it seems silly that everyone has a different opinion, only one thing can be true, right? But at the same time you understand that anyone can also be wrong.

The point is, the scientific method factors that in, and excludes what you think of as fact from the process entirely. There are NO proclamations of total truth, unlike religious ideologies. As I mentioned previously, there's no such thing as a 100% proven theory, so everyone is always fighting to prove everyone else wrong, this process acts like a massive filter, killing off easily disproved theories and only allowing the more solid ones to survive because there are no weaknesses to attack. That's why science is superior to belief systems that depend on presupposition and refuse to budge even when proved wrong. Debate is a GOOD thing, it keeps us honest. Saying that we can't even claim to understand the truth because people disagree is asinine, using this as a vehicle to then suggest that these disagreements prove that everyone is wrong, even more so.

The crux of the debate, and the most pertinent flaw in Jebus 's logic, in my opinion, came down to this:

Me asking 'Do you understand that my example demonstrated Speciation?'
And his reply, 'No I believe it demonstrated adaption.'

Or... y'know, 'adaptation' as we old-fashioned folk like to say...

Ok, so Jebus has no problem with the idea that visually, humans can change drastically given enough time and enough selection pressures. I basically walked him through a morphological tree such as we would find in a cladistic progression of fossils, by presenting this to him one step at a time he didn't actually notice where evolution happened - because it's not a thing that just happens, it's a process. He had no problem with the idea of one group of humanity becoming short, and the other tall and nimble. So if size is not a problem, there's really no reason to assume one of the two groups could become tall of neck, but short everywhere else. The mechanics are the same.

Likewise, he accepts that skin colour can change significantly, as he himself explained. Given the right selection pressures, we can change colour - and there's no reason to assume that given a huge period of time, this would be limited to varying shades of beige or brown - we COULD become purple, or bright green given enough time, if it was necessary. By the same logic we can safely presume that he would have nothing against the idea of us developing thicker coats of body hair until it becomes fur. If that fur grows in thicker and harder, little by little, over hundreds of generations, we get quills. That's what quills are, just very thick hair.

He also accepted the digestion argument, that one of the two groups could adapt to digest something poisonous - that's a MAJOR overhaul of the digestive system, if we can change that much internally, theoretically we could become practically anything, certainly we can adapt to eat anything or take on drastic new shapes. The teeth, and by proxy face/bone structure would also have to adapt depending on what we eat, which in turn can alter the cranial cavity effecting our intelligence - but if we can change size drastically, and that same exact mechanism can change teeth, this should also be no problem for Jebus  .

He understood that everything from body shape, to speed (and by extension, muscle structure) to pigmentation and internal construction can drastically change given time. Each of the steps in my example are merely logical extensions of the specific evolutionary laws that Jebus conceded could happen as we built our more subtle example. I could keep going, but this should be sufficient to demonstrate my key point: Using a 'type' of evolution that Jebus agrees with we have extrapolated a possible future in which two breeds of humanity have respectively evolved into a big, purple, giraffe-necked creature that eats tree bark, and a tiny, porcupine-quilled lime green scavenger that can run very fast.

But remember... evolution isn't real.

Now of course he might object to this extrapolation, but at which point would he draw the line? Where is the cut off point between hairs and quills? Tallness and slightly taller neck? When does pink stop being pink and become something closer to lavender, then purple? Like I said, evolution is a process, it's the end result that creationists can't bring themselves to accept because it SEEMS so extreme. If they are walked through it one step at a time though, there's nothing to complain about. It's when you go into evolution EXPECTING nonsense born from that expectation of extremeness, like birds giving birth to dolphins that your brain locks up, because that's not what actual evolution even proposes. You won't find the things you object to about evolution when you really look at it, because no one ever said they were there.

Historically, evolution has nearly always been opposed by religious people, and always by religious people who don't understand what evolution actually says, and have no interest in actually learning. As Jebus and I reached this impasse all he could still object to was Speciation, which is purely a genetic phenomenon which wasn't even fully understood until recently even by the experts. Is he really planting his flag there? Obviously, not being Geneticists, neither of us understand anywhere near enough about genes to even begin to comprehend the kind of science that goes into studying such things. But let's be real here, did Jebus really join this debate because he found the idea of genetic incompatibility between two ridiculously different, but distantly related creatures to be so outlandish that it alone could topple the entire theory of evolution? No.

Never mind the fact that my example was simply a blown-up representation of an already observed evolutionary phenomenon known as ring species, in which a species that becomes geographically divided will evolve separately to the point where the end products become genetically incompatible with each other, and most certainly is observed in real time - in other words a macrocosm of evolution in action. Hell, let's be honest here, he didn't even know what Speciation was until I explained it to him, and even if he had done he wouldn't have understood it. I don't fully understand it all and I've actually studied it, it is a complex science that requires special training to interpret, does Jebus honestly claim to know more than those experts who do so?

He fell back on Speciation because it was the only unknown factor still left on the table, and as such, it was the only place left for him to plant his flag. I engineered the debate that way intentionally, to demonstrate that when push comes to shove, evolution deniers will agree with every single step of evolution when it is clearly explained to them but will then still refuse to admit that evolution can happen. Speciation is something that takes place at a level that neither of us understand well enough to credibly object to, so to do so is nothing more than a final, bigass appeal to ignorance. I don't understand how genes work, thus - evolution is a lie. Even if genetic research DID indicate this and he saw that data, he wouldn't be able to comprehend it in order to explain to anyone WHY it indicates as such, so don't tell me that's how you came to the conclusion, Jebus. It isn't.

But let's take off our debating hats and put on the thinking caps for a moment here. Speciation is a huge part of evolution, yes, but it is not the end all be all of it. Even if there weren't countless studies that show it happening in real time, and more fossil and genetic records than I could copy paste in a million years, what we're really arguing about here is can animals CHANGE through adaptation over time, that's what evolution IS, that's ALL it is, and clearly, there is no valid way to oppose it. Jebus admitted that this can happen, and that's simply what evolution IS. In order words, he's not objecting to the process, he's objecting to the WORD. Is it so bad to concede that maybe we got here through a process of nature's wrath forging us into better survivors? I would think someone who holds self-betterment in such high regard wouldn't find something like this all that awful.

Looking back over my summary of this debate you may begin to notice a pattern - literally every single one of Jebus's arguments ultimately stemmed from a misconception or lack of understanding on how evolution works. Go ahead, look again. A dictionary could have argued each point he raised into submission. He didn't know what the theory was (or even what a theory is), he didn't know what it means or how it is supposed to work, he didn't know what Darwin really believed despite thinking he did, or what Darwin attempted to prove despite feeling qualified to say it was faked, he didn't know what proves evolution right, what would prove evolution wrong or what evolution actually predicts, he didn't know what evolutionists think or don't think, and when he thought he did he was wrong, and when I clearly explained an example of evolution in action he simply said 'oh well yeah of course I agree with THAT kind of evolution' which is what every single other evolution denier does when put in the same situation - because they think they already know what evolution is, and they are wrong.

There aren't different 'types' of evolution, the difference between macro and micro is just a question of time, not size, not severity of the changes, not wishy-washy gut feelings like a religion would offer - it's just a temporal classification. To argue otherwise is to say that the scientists are wrong in how they are using a term for which they invented the meaning. The problem is this was a presupposition argument from the getgo. Jebus came to it with his mind already made up, and to a lesser extent you could say I did too, though only because I knew how the debate was going to turn out. The difference is the reasoning behind it, however. I accept the theory of evolution as the best explanation for the diversity of life (and unlike Jebus , I already knew that's all it is supposed to be) because when I was ready to decide - I researched it. At THAT time I was not presuppositional, had it failed to hold my attention I would not have accepted it. Can Jebus say the same?

Everything Jebus said about evolution is what hardcore propagandising creationists SAY evolution is supposed to be about, so despite his proclamations to the contrary, it is clear to me that he has only observed anti-evolution arguments from anti-evolution sources in order to develop his opinions. He has a very clear understanding of what he thinks evolution should be, and when he sees evidence that contradicts that view he quite rightly decides the theory is invalid. Which is a justifiable reaction, but the problem is he's attacking a parody of evolution, not the real thing. Everything he points to as evidence against evolution is something that (ACTUAL) evolution would actually PREDICT should happen or otherwise fits perfectly in line with it, EVEN when it is an outright fraud, because the hoaxers didn't understand what they were trying to prove wrong in order to fabricate the right sort of evidence. Of course, by his own reasoning this should mean he would now be willing to concede to evolution's validity. He's open-minded, right?

The difference between us is that I would drop evolution like a hot stone tomorrow if I saw convincing evidence against it, because it's irrelevant to me. It isn't somehow important to my beliefs or my character that I evolved from lesser primates, it's an irrelevancy. But when you include personal beliefs, that's exactly what things get - personal. Jebus wants to believe he was created - and I understand that. Even if evolution were a direct contradiction to this, which it isn't, he should still be willing to accept what is right in front of him. He may claim he would change his views too, but there is ample evidence out there and somehow through all of his 'research' he still came out of it failing to understand even the most basic principles of evolution. Does anyone here *really* believe he took an open-minded, scholarly look at evolution? I don't say this to tease him, I say it to encourage him. Jebus is actually a very rational person, he just needs to realise that by his own standards, he's better than this.

You want to say there are no fossils? Go to a museum. You want to say there aren't ENOUGH fossils? Well how many is enough? Will creationists only be satisfied when every single animal that ever died has been recovered? It's amazing the fossil record is as extensive as it is considering how incredibly rare the process of fossilization actually is. You want to know which fishes were our ancestors? Go to a research institute, look at a phylogeny cladogram, pick any single image from any evolutionary stage in any tree, find out what its name is, then Google it to see if there are fossils of it. Chances are, there are some. Within a matter of hours you could be AT the museum or university where one of those exact fossils is being held and see it right under your own nose. Anyone who says they have looked at the records and found them lacking is either lying about having done the research or simply lying to themselves. When you refuse to look for evidence, you will always find the evidence lacking. The thing is, you have to actually do the work.

Look, I have no problem with someone announcing they won't accept something because it contradicts their faith-driven biases, I could even respect such a person. At least that is consistent - at least it is honest. What I find troublesome is someone pretending that's not the case when they know it is, because that shows me that they know it's wrong to do that in order to feel the need to LIE. It means they understand that their bias undermines their argument and they find that troubling enough to want to deny it, but they're going to just sweep all that under the carpet and do it anyway. It doesn't bother me if you want to say evolution isn't real because your religious text says so - but if that's the case, come out and actually SAY that, rather than just insisting you've done all the legwork and came to this conclusion the scientific way. If you can't bring yourself to do that, that should tell you something about the nature of what is really inside that text.

I started my conversation with Jebus with a very simple, yet very significant concession. A caveat upon which this whole thing rests. Evolution is not in contradiction with creation(ism). I believe I have sufficiently explained why that is, so I won't just sit here repeating myself, but suffice to say, there's no reason to assume otherwise in the first place. There's obviously no syllogistic problem here, if god COULD create all species fully formed then he COULD also create the process of evolution, so it's not like we're outreaching ourselves. Maybe it detracts from one's sense of 'specialness' to accept that they are just one rung in a ladder? But if it's god's plan, why complain?

Consider Heaven. Religious people accept the mortal existence while believing in the promise of heaven, yet never seem to think to ask 'why not just put me right there?' And if you proposition them about that, they'll just say god has his reasons, a plan, mysterious way, that life in the mortal coil is somehow necessary to his workings. Maybe this is a staging area to prepare us for something mind-blowing, maybe it's the journey through life that we really need to experience, maybe it's all just a big test. They'll accept all these possibilities, yet they won't extend that same logic to evolution. If this slow, mortal existence is somehow necessary, why must we embellish it further, and crap all over that amazing design by suggesting it should have been even more incredible?

Maybe evolution WAS necessary for his plans? Maybe, rather than simply handing us the finished product, much like he didn't deliver us straight to heaven, he wanted us to get there on our own? Weathering the harsh winds of nature to sculpt ourselves into something unique, something special, something that, much like a child growing into a man, can come from within without just needing to be a product of the coding he puts in our brains? Surely any parent here can understand the value of that? Is it so hard to conceive that maybe your god had a plan that even YOU can't immediately understand? Would it not be arrogant to dictate that if you can't grasp what he's up to, then you obviously know better? Better than nature? Better than the truth?

The evidence for evolution (and I use that phrase laughingly because by this point it can't really be considered evidence in the same way that pouring a bucket of paint over a canvas can't be called a painting), is so pronounced that no one can disagree with evolution and remain intellectually credible at the same time. I have proved this quite clearly with Jebus, and with many other people before him. People always have lots of arguments to make, but to do so, at some point, they always have to compromise their integrity. Whether it's the sharpshooter fallacy of trying to overwhelm your opponents with twenty different arguments ranging from evolution to vaccines to conspiracies and the age of the earth, or repeatedly pretending not to understand something that was just clearly explained to you. Somewhere, at some point, you always have to cross that line, because you cannot defend an incorrect belief without at some point having to lower the bar.

You know, it's funny. Every time I debate a creationist they say they have already debated/won debates with X number of evolutionists, and yet they always seem surprised by the most basic explanations and arguments put to them as if they never heard them before. Are my arguments unique? Hardly, my friends and sources that have had these same debates with creationists number in the hundreds and somehow they all get the same reaction every single time. The talking points of the creationists always seem to be a carbon copy of other articles or questionable personalities, with no care taken to fact-check any of the claims being made. On the other side of the coin, it's standard practise if not structurally imperative for skeptics to fact-check before even attempting debate. That's why I'm informed on what anti-evolutionists think and rarely encounter a new argument, whereas the people I debate with have no clue what evolutionists think. Why is there this disconnect between the standards each side adheres to?

Religion speaks a lot about humility. It seems to be a very important virtue to the faithful. I am not religious, or particularly humble, but I've never had to pretend I already understand a topic I don't in order to defend it in a debate. I've never needed to look at only one side of an argument and then insist I've looked at both, purely so I can look more credible without just being credible. And when I make my mind up about something, I actually do the research first. I'm not accusing Jebus of lying, he's one of my oldest friends and I respect him, but I also know the kinds of mental gymnastics people can do to convince themselves of whatever they want when pressured, even without realising it, especially when strong beliefs are involved. It would take a very humble man to be capable of admitting this when someone clearly demonstrated it for them. Whether or not Jebus is being honest with himself and us about how willing he truly is to change is something only he can know.

And of course, his god.

All I can say with confidence is that Jebus is very clearly wrong, and I struggle to understand why he wouldn't be able to see it given how obvious and simple this is. It's possible his faith is just that strong, to the extent where it overwhelms judgement, but I think more of him than that. Logic would suggest that by this point he would have to understand that he is wrong, and to assume otherwise would be doing him and his intelligence a disservice. I refuse to judge him to be that simple. He is more than intelligent enough to realise after all of this that he came into this topic with the wrong mindset and a badly misinformed idea of what evolution is supposed to be. Whether or not he chooses to recognize this is between him and his conscience. As a friend, I trust him to do the right thing.


Why I instigated this debate.

If I'm known for anything at this site, it's for my proclivity for argument - but several things have always been consistent in my debating etiquette. Firstly and foremost. I never flame until flamed. If you can keep a civil tongue, you'll never invoke my ire (those that do quickly learn it was a mistake) and we can continue to have a civil, enlightened conversation that actually leads somewhere productive. That was the case with this debate, so there's proof that it works. Secondly, I almost never actually initiate a debate, usually I enter into one already raging, add my two cents, and if someone chooses to engage me I don't hold back. Sometimes I'll poke at an argument already being made, but that's usually in the interest of keeping the debate balanced. I'm kind of a devil's advocate by nature. [Insert Christianity pun.]

I also tend to keep my personal views out of it. Often it is the case that I am arguing against a position I actually hold, or in favour of one I have no real opinion on. I do this to challenge myself as well as others, but also so I can laugh at the inevitable accusations of bias made by people who have no clue what my true feelings are. In this case, clearly my actual views are on the table, as was necessary to properly pursue this matter. However, while I am unapologetically a great lover of debate, it always remains observable that I don't, under normal circumstances, go out of my way to actively seek it out. I wait for the heat to come to me.

There are very few things that I take so seriously, that I consider so important that I am willing to compromise my personal rules or preferences in the way that I did here, and enter into a situation that I would otherwise not be inclined to enter, such as challenging a friend to a debate on a topic that could, if it went ugly, ruin a valued friendship. There are very few reasons so important to me that I would find myself not content to simply observe, but to actually challenge, beyond my own comfort zones, what is being said. One of those things is education.

I take education extremely seriously, because I have watched this great civilization we have built slowly spiral towards idiocracy, and I can't bear it. I was educated at a school that gave me a brilliant and in-depth wealth of incorrect facts, and had to make a fool out of myself many, many times in order to tease out the propaganda I had been instilled with. I was lucky to not be born to a religious family, so I didn't have to contend with further anti-education on top of this, but the long and short of it is I barely learned a single damn thing in school, and had to basically re-educate myself once I discovered the internet. That took a long time, and a lot of hard work. More than almost anyone would understand.

It's easy to dismiss whoever you are debating with as just set in their ways, and undoubtedly I will be facing such accusations now, as I always have... but my views on god have gone from non-believer, to believer, back to non-believer based on how convincing the arguments put to me were, my position with respect to the paranormal has jumped all over the board and there are some scientific hypotheses and biases that I spend a great deal of time battling because they are flat out wrong, and most embarrassingly I was once a proponent of the 9/11 conspiracy hypothesis, and even ran around praising 'Loose Change', until a good friend educated me on the mistakes and fallacies therein.

I don't base my views on what feels nice or would be cool if it were true, nobody should. I don't go by what my social groups favour or what would give me a higher sense of belonging - I base them on where the evidence leads, what arguments make sense, are as close to objective as possible, and are not ultimately fuelled by bias of any kind. I don't accept that truth is a matter of belief, and I won't compromise my rationality by clinging to something that feels nice rather than opening my eyes and taking steps to avoid the snake-pits.

If I learn that something I hold true seems to be false, I will change. And if I am presented with a good argument, I will concede it. I don't believe in conspiracies because such things are not a matter of belief, they are a matter of knowledge. I KNOW there have been, are, and will be conspiracies that corrupt our cultures, many of them religious in origin, so when I hear someone telling me that vaccines give you autism or evolution is a lie, I'm going to actually look into it and study both sides of the argument before making my mind up. So if I disagree with a conspiracy theory, you can usually bet I've done a lot more research on it than you have.

Clearly not everyone can or is willing to do so, and that's a big problem. The internet is a huge resource for information, but also misinformation and disinformation. Given the inadequate and descending state of modern education I am seriously concerned for the next generation. It's true that with each generation we get smarter, assimilating more and more data at earlier ages, but this is raw potential, not a guarantee. If we can learn anything from America (and I say this in the nicest possible way while not compromising my honesty) it's the incredible damage that poor education can do. The US is like a giant social experiment where we locked a bunch of children in a room without education and tried to see how badly we could fuck up an entire culture. The results have been disastrous.

This is why, when I see a source of misinformation on the internet, in a medium where it may come to influence many people's opinions (including naive young people who haven't yet developed the faculties to understand a faulty argument or dubious sourcing) it is my imperative to attack it, and is one of the only few reasons I will ever step up and actually seek a debate, crossing whatever lines are necessary. In such circumstances, it doesn't matter to me if it's a friend, a family member or a complete stranger, if people are spouting incorrect facts and presenting them as valid, it is an obligation that befalls any conscionable person to do something about it, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Yes, that includes people who don't share my views, because when you challenge the actual facts with your propaganda, the worst possible result is we have a dialogue, and THAT is valuable under any circumstances, even if only for you.

The freedom of the internet grants us a licence to say whatever we want from our own soap boxes, but it also imbues us with responsibilities. Over the years I have been engaged projects and thought experiments that in some cases people took a lot further than I was intending them to go, and I have come to understand that that was wrong. At the time I was at best working from sources that could not be independently verified, so even if my hypotheses were correct there was no way to know (although I never present such things as fact). The problem with beliefs is they are a part of your identity, and just like coming out as gay or even gaining a new religion, there is a huge overflowing well of need to share this part of yourself with other people, more than enough that it can supersede rationality. It is very easy to lose sight of the potential damage those views could be doing to the emotionally vulnerable or susceptible around you.

Sometimes what we recognize to be truth changes, but if one is coming at a topic from a position of already wanting it to be true, even if they are actually correct, that's no way to figure it out, leaving open the possibility that you may be wrong. And while you may feel like you are merely exercising your right to defend your own belief, you could in fact be harming people by exposing them to confidently stated lies which you will only discover to be lies much later on. Having a dialogue about it is fine, like I said, that's what we should be seeking, but if deep down you know that you only believe something because not believing it would feel distasteful to you, it is indecent and dishonest to proselytise that viewpoint to other people until you are confident within yourself that you really have understood the facts and challenged your own preconceptions to the point where you can honestly say you have earned the right to believe as you do.

That's what I do with every single piece of knowledge I acquire, and it's exhausting, hard work, stressful, annoying and inconvenient. But it is also necessary. If truth is to be respected, if the geniuses of tomorrow are to be given their golden tickets, we must not smother the world with pretty fictions and what-ifs and pleasant-sounding ideas about what might be if only life were a poem. By all means, expose everyone to every viewpoint, but do not shy away from discussion, do not be afraid to challenge something you disagree with, and always do so with an open mind and a civil tongue. Although it may not have gone anywhere too productive for the two of us, Jebus and I were able to have a calm, respectful conversation on this matter, and it is my hope that at the very least it will be educational to the onlookers.

Just remember, your words effect other people. Everything you say and do adds ripples and waves to the thought processes of everyone around you. You don't live in a vacuum where incorrect beliefs only harm you. Good ideas can be infectious, but bad reasoning is insidious. Are you really so confident, so steadfastly certain in your views that you are willing to permanently instil those notions in the developing minds of people who, given the right exposure to true knowledge, may one day become a guiding light of this wonderful race? If so - be ready to defend it, and be willing to hold your hands up and admit, with dignity, when you can't.

As always in this sort of debate I have already supplied ample sourcing for every claim I have been forced to make in the debunking of the unsourced claims of my opposition, but I have plenty more material to offer. If anyone here is interested in further learning on this topic, there are several resources you might want to consider, I generally prefer to first learn in video format then research the sources cited in the videos afterwards, so there are many video series I can recommend that will generally show you both sides of the argument and clear, properly-sourced, indisputable proof why the anti-evolution side is wrong.

AronRa is perhaps the best resource I have ever been able to find, this first series deals specifically with evolution, explaining how it works and debunking the deniers' claims.
Falsifying Phylogeny

And this is more generally about the claims of creationism, including evolution.
Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism

This series is by Thunderf00t, a man I don't particularly like or agree with on many issues, but his science is still indisputable. Clearly the title of his series is inflammatory, as is often his tone, so if you're easily offended maybe just skip this one. It is an informative series however.
Why do People Laugh at Creationists?

These series' are by Potholer54, one of my favourite Youtube content makers who combines intense research, immaculate sourcing and logical arguments to put forth a case that you simply can't deny without just sticking your fingers in your ears and going lalalala. Unfortunately many of these playlists are currently empty due to the fact that his account was recently hacked by creationists and they deleted all of his work, he is in the process of trying to get them restored so hopefully someone reading this will get the chance to experience it soon.
Our origins made easy - Potholer
How to confuse a Creationist - Potholer
Creationist fails - Potholer

He also tackles the climate change issue and those playlists seem to remain relatively untouched, so there's something else that might interest you. Youtube is an excellent resource for things like this, but there's a lot of propaganda and disinformation as well, just remember to check the sources of every claim made in order to determine who is being most truthful.

Lastly, if you want some secular sources for reliable data on this matter, I recommend and I wait until now to mention these resources as it could be seen as biased to invoke them during the actual debate. I trust Jebus will also respect that idea, and present his own evidence citing actual scientific studies like I did, not people who got their PhD in the post from creationist universities. It's better to keep things neutral or this will just descend into "my guy is truer than your guy".

My friends, evolution is an amazing, beautiful fact of nature. Yes it is entirely the product of how the laws of physics randomly balance out, just like fire. But that immaculate arrangement of laws and natural processes all aligning in such an exquisitely perfect way as to give rise to something that, entirely of its own volition, can crawl its way up to the point of sentience and morality and the creation of beauty, is as awe-inspiring and divine as any miracle. To say that we absolutely must have been created in this form in this eleventh hour of a 14 billion year old pressure cooker is to cheapen that miracle in more ways than I could begin to identify. If god is real he is an artist, and if I, an atheist can respect his masterpiece as it really is, why wouldn't you?

In closing - I understand that to theists, Atheists are often regarded as crass and hostile, again not that this is a topic that has anything to do with Atheism, but if at any time I seem arrogant in my certainty that you are wrong or forceful in my insistence in trying to make you see it, Jebus, understand the reason why. It is not that I don't respect your views. It is that I respect you. I wouldn't try to debate with someone I thought too stupid to understand me, believe me I've been down that road so many times I wore it down. I try to show you your error because I believe in your capacity for reason and rational thinking to the extent that I am willing to try to push past your beliefs and give you the chance to recognize what the facts are telling you.

But most importantly, education is the fulcrum upon which enlightenment turns. I'm never afraid to be proved wrong, because to me it is a good thing. I always want to keep learning, that drives my entire existence, a journey for self-betterment. I think you and I share that in common.

In the interest of fairness I'll leave the last word to a recent, randomly selected creationist I happen to have crossed paths with (this is not Jebus):

'We can't even solve our problem with debt or find a cure for cancer or AIDS, yet we know for a fact that the earth started out as a Big Bang and evolved. It's all a theory (logical guess), you can't be sure unless you go back in time before earth was created.'

A gentleman and a scholar.

Thanks for hearing me.

(Please note: This entire post is intended to be read to the sound of this music track.)


If anyone is interested, his response to all this can be summarised (and I use the word loosely, as it was really jut a couple of paragraphs) as "you're stupid and you hate religion", complete with a few made-up examples of what I allegedly "do" in my pursuit of hating religion. Really, the blasé dismissal, without refutation, of every single point I made was the worst move he could have made, as it not only pissed me off, but essentially made him look like someone who just knows he doesn't have a leg to stand on, and doesn't even care - which is why I no longer particularly care about keeping the article private.

He's an alright guy, he just doesn't want to learn things which he fears will challenge his beliefs. Don't hate on him, but at the same time, don't let scientific ignorance remain unchallenged. I hope someone somewhere finds this content mildly useful. I am working on future posts so this is really just a placeholder. I'll keep it here though for posterity. If anyone wants to see the original chat debate that can be added to the article.