Nancy Pearcey at Niceville, a review

A little more than a week ago, I received an email from Marni Chidsey, a librarian at Okaloosa-Walton College in Niceville, Florida. She heard about a “Beyond Expelled” event that was about to take place in her locale, and the speaker was going to be Nancy Pearcey. Yes, that Nancy Pearcey. Mrs Totaluberdoubleplus Truth herself.

Marni emailed me, PZ Myers, Ken Miller, and a few others asking for advice on how to represent science and reason at the event, and what would be a good question to ask. Nick Matzke helped me out with my question then, so it was time to pay it forward. I sent her a few good proposed questions for her to ask Pearcey, and explained a little background on her arguments and its basic flaws.

Ken Miller sent the both of us a preview of his now-published essay about Expelled and how utterly dishonest it is. Check it out when you have the time. Ken suggested that Marni hand out copies of it if she could, and I asked her to record it if possible. How did it go?

Well, as you can imagine, it’s an event organized around a dishonest crockumentary called Expelled, where science is the big bad Nazi, and innocent religious people, errr, scientists, are being persecuted for not doing science, errr, their religious beliefs. (Gotta keep the story straight) Like Expelled did, this “Beyond Expelled” event advertised itself as a religiously-based event, and issue. Intelligent Design’s days as creationism in a cheap tuxedo were numbered – and now it seems that ID is waltzing around in the split, unbuttoned tatters of its former formalwear. Could have at least gotten it drycleaned.

The event was advertised with this tagline “Why are the views of Intelligent Religious People Dismissed from Public Discourse?” And Nancy Pearcey was mis-labeled as “Dr.” Nancy Pearcey – this was printed in all of their advertising materials as well as reprinted on her own website. To my knowledge, she does not have a doctorate from an accredited institution.

Given the professional image editing (and sheer number of different advertisement formats, pdf, ppt, jpg, foldable brochures, etc) someone should have known her actual level of education – this looks like an intentional fabrication, although we can’t say whether or not Pearcey was aware of it. She or her husband could have just pasted the image without looking at it.

Suffice to say, someone wanted to make her look like more of an expert in the preparation of this event.

I have all of these saved in case they disappear down the memory hole. Here’s the jpeg version for your amusement.

Marni, however, was not amused by Pearcey’s performance. Here is her description of the event:

Thanks so much for all your effort in getting me prepared for the Pearcey presentation! But alas, it was all for naught… I was able to go, but instead of a live question/answer period at the end of the show the audience was instructed to write our questions down on the thoughtfully-provided 3X5 index cards and submit them (!?!). Then the obnoxious Troll who was bedeviling the folks over at the Florida Citizens for Science Blog*** read a few questions to her and she “answered” them. Of course he pre-screened them (although I think they had already been pre-pre-screened by the ushers who had collected them) and so there were no challenging or disagreeable questions. Besides, the audience looked like it had been bused in by the church who co-sponsored the event, so it was a very friendly pro-ID crowd. A guy sitting behind me drove me nuts with his, “yes! yes!” after each Big Point that Pearcey made – think in terms of hearing, “amen!” and “halleluhiah!” and you get the picture.

In all, I wasn’t impressed by any of it. She didn’t turn out to be a good speaker at all: she was neither particularly engaging nor well-spoken. And she told corny jokes. She pulled the “evolution leads to moral degeneracy” BS (rape! bestiality! nazism!), mined a bunch of quotes (poor Shermer, poor Dawkins), confused Stephen Pinker with Peter Singer, puffed up the seeming rationality of her fundamentalist Worldview, then like I said, she talked a bit on the points the audience brought up. Surprisingly, she barely mentioned ID, if I’m remembering correctlly.

Again, thanks for your help – and too, for your support. It’s nice to know there are folks out there who care.

***The troll is John McDonald, Director of Student Ministries, Westminster Presbyterian Church. His church was co-sponsor of the event. He engaged in a long, not-particularly civil interaction with some other posters at the Florida Citizens Blog, which just served to show how almost delusional someone can be when their beliefs are challeneged. Here is his first post. He seemed like a proper tool in person, too, but that could have just been my impression of him.

You can go check out the horrible arguments that John McDonald makes at the Florida Citizens for Science blog, but I have to warn you – they are incredibly inane. Beyond “mutations only decrease information” – he’s saying that if your thoughts are coded in chemical reactions then you can never know if anything is true or not. Oh yeah, and life is meaningless. On the nut scale he sounds like a sack of soggy walnuts.

I feel sorry for people that believe that stuff, Pearcey included. Her standard lecture, corny jokes and all, is an exercise in denying science, in more ways than one. The whole argument that “if we evolved then our thoughts are just chemical reactions and there is no truth” is based on the false notion that there exists no possible way of verifying what you think in your head. No possible way to align your model of the universe, of an atom, or anything else in-between with the real versions of those things. There is. It’s called science.

Apparently, the Beyond Expelled presentation that Pearcey gave borrowed another page from the book of Expelled – and Expelled dissenting opinions from the event. Marni came prepared with questions – but had to write them down on a card that was easily dis-carded. Thus, they can put on a presentation that will confirm the beliefs of those bused in from the WPC and other congregations, and irk those who disagree. No Intelligence Allowed, apparently!

You can read a one-sided article about the event, which contains a video clip of her. I Think Therefore I Blog also posted two commentaries about the event.

There’s more. Marni grabbed an audio recording of the event, and is working on getting it to me in some form or another. When I can get it online, I’ll have a listen, and add it to the Mindcast Extras.

Also, Thanks Marni Chidsey for taking the time, doing the research, and helping us all out. It will be good to know what exactly the IDists are saying in their public speaking engagements, because tactics are changing and creationism is evolving, again.

Also coming up, I’ll post some of my suggested questions and a few more thoughts about Nancy Pearcey’s argument. I have a recording of her I have not yet published demonstrating that in her world-view analysis, her own worldview falls short, and needs to go back to the drawing board.

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Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar researching citrus genetics at UC Riverside.

7 thoughts on “Nancy Pearcey at Niceville, a review”

  1. Hello everyone, its me, John McDonald, Director of Student Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church. I would like to thank Marni Chidsey for informing others about this event. And we will get that question answered. By the way, Nancy Pearcey was awarded an honorary doctorate from Philadelphia Biblical University on May 5, 2007. Check it out at http://www.pearceyreport.com/archives/2007/04/nancy_pearcey_t.php
    We will have a video of the event on our church website hopefully very soon. http://www.wpc-pca.com.
    I have enjoyed the blog over at the FCS, but I am not impressed by the almost complete lack of worldview knowledge evident in the posts of those belonging to the FCS or sympathetic with their cause. Besides, they get most of their ad hominems from PZ Myers. Epistemologically, they can’t even get off the ground and seem to avoid the word “Hume” at all costs.
    With the success of Beyond Expelled, WPC plans to present annual worldview conferences.

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  2. Hi John,

    By the way, your posts at FCS display a complete lack of knowledge about science, the scientific process, and our knowledge of biology. For instance, mutations can indeed increase “genetic information,” ignoring the fact that the definition of information used by creationists such as Pearcey and Dembski, etc, leads to contradictions.

    I don’t avoid the word “Hume,” in fact, Hume has made many worthwhile contributions to philosophy.

    Since you are here, would you care to answer why you and Nancy Pearcey see fit to misrepresent both evolution and philosophical materialism? Evolution is not a worldview, it is a well-supported scientific theory that explains the diversity of life on this planet. Your caricatures of philosophical materialism are way off – you’re talking more about post-modernism than philosophical materialism. For someone who claims to have a breadth of “world view knowledge” you don’t seem to be able to make that distinction.

    Thanks for the link about her honorary degree. An honorary degree is not the same thing as an earned degree, and in most cases does not give you the right to refer to yourself as Dr. Soandso. Typically, it is not a Ph.D but a different degree abbreviation, such as Hon.D. – I can find no indication that it is a Ph.D. in any of the articles about it. I wonder, if she’s had this degree for a year why doesn’t her website display it as her title? Heck, it doesn’t even include mention of this in her bio. Unless she has an earned degree in her field, I won’t refer to her as Dr. Pearcey, because it does injustice to those who actually finished grad school.

    Since you seemed to have been involved in the organization of this event, care to answer why you set it up so that the questions could be pre-screened, thus there were no critical questions asked? Isn’t controlling the dialogue to give the illusion of agreement fundamentally dishonest?

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  3. Karl, it is true that evolution is not to be completely equated with philosophical materialism, but you guys go much further than just holding to the scientific theory of evolution. You are philosophical materialists/secular humanists. But to be consistent, secular humanism/philosophical materialism would have to move toward Nihilism. The plausibility structure of your worldview requires it. Also, one of the greatest contributions Hume made to philosophy was destroying empiricism, the epistemological system on which your worlview rests. Hume was consistent with his empiricism, and you should be too. BTW, you did just refer to Nancy Pearcey as Dr. Pearcey, please see above. But it would be nice for you to refer to her even as Mrs., since you often like to refer to her as many other derogatory things. Now for your final question, my interaction with the FCS and information we received alerting us to a possible protest by the ACLU led us to utilize a written question format. The FCS blog was a great indicator that many of those adhering to a Darwinian worldview would not be able to hold back their sarcastic, uncivil, and derogatory attitudes during an open question and answer time. The ushers were to collect the written questions. They were not given any instructions to screen questions but simply to hand them to me. I didn’t have time to screen questions, I simply read them as they were given to me. The way the cards were collected was completely random without any direct intervention (just the way evolutionists like it). I can’t help that the critical question card didn’t appear near the top of the stack. We hope to post all questions with answers in the near future on our website, so we certainly are not trying to avoid any “critical” questions.

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  4. John,

    I disagree with your assessment of philosophical materialism. You haven’t provided any reasons why materialism necessitates nihilism, nor do I agree that Hume “destroyed” empiricism. Your understanding of philosophy seems to be at the level of a mere powerpoint slide prepared by someone else. You keep repeating “Hume destroyed X”, “Kant saved Y” without showing any understanding of any of it. (See KCS thread)

    Also, the mangling of philosophies you are accomplishing shows you really don’t understand what you are talking about. Secular Humanism is not the same thing as philosophical materialism. One is a philosophy with regard to moral beliefs, the other, a position on the existence of the supernatural.

    With regard to titles, don’t be silly. I didn’t refer to her as “Dr. Pearcey,” if you read what I wrote you will notice that the pronoun “her” referred to Pearcey, and the words “Dr. Pearcey” was set in opposition to that. Finally, referring to authors by their last name alone is common practice in academia – the prefix “Mrs.” is entirely unnecessary. If you want to nitpick, pick something worth nitpicking.

    I encourage everyone to read John’s comments in the FCS thread. In it, you’ll find gems like these:

    I find it funny that everything you say is produced by a chemical reaction in your brain, and that you as a person have not contributed anything here because you lack the power of intentionality. You are just matter in motion, with a little bit of electricity. Why do I even argue with a pile of dirt like you?

    I see you have never studied Worldview concepts, or Axiology. That is ok. I will teach you.

    You are a pile of dirt according to your worldview.

    That’st right, run and hide behind Dawkins and Eugenie Scott. They will protect you. What? Not used to being challenged? Well get used to it. You evolutionary charlatons have seen the last of your campaign of lies.

    Brango: Please tell me you were not one of those flaming homosexual male cheerleaders in college, right??? Let me guess, you are probably really female. Either way, that cheer was gay. jk

    Yes, tell us about uncivil behavior.

    This is in addition to the scores of taunts and tongue-sticking-out that he put in his comments. He is, of course, a troll, as evidenced by his rapacious posting, bolstered by the following comment of his:

    Yes, please make me EXPELLED and you will make me a martyr.

    Yep, a troll. Ladies and Gentlemen, please don’t feed the trolls. I’ll respond to him if and only if he makes a substantive argument.
    *Chuckling to myself* He’s even a Young-Earth Creationist! No wonder he likes Nancy Pearcey!

    Dude, I’m a Young Earth Creationist. I like ID, but I don’t necessarily place myself in the ID camp. Get it?

    Oh yeah, I get it. Nuts.

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  5. Karl, it is not very practical to show how Hume destroyed empiricism or how Kant tried to save science from Hume’s critique all in the space of a mere blog. But if you really really want me to let’s designate a blog for this.

    FCS QUOTATION HALL OF FAME – JUST LOOK AT THESE INCREDIBLY CIVIL AND GRACIOUS QUOTES FROM THE FINE FOLKS OVER AT FCS:

    “I’d say that my world view is far more plausible than sitting around waiting for a 2000-year-old zombie to return.”

    MY PERSONAL FAVORITE:

    “…we all become aware of what a dark-age witch-burning relic you are with the ideas that you are pushing. Your kind of faith is a degenerate disease.

    “It always amazes me (although I suppose it shouldn’t) that people who believe in talking snakes, flying men, talking donkeys, giants, unicorns, 200+ year old men, corpses coming back to life, a 6k year old universe, and innumerable other irrational things written down in a book of Bronze Age goatherder stories can think that they have “The Truth” which trumps the whole of scientific knowledge based on real-world observation. Oh, and then act like arrogant prigs, offering up nothing but the same, tired old cannards and strawmen.”

    “Scorn is richly deserved for the likes of you.”

    “I’m calling bullshit on this one.”

    “Listen, idiot (yes, ad hominem here because you grow so very, very tiresome), do not presume to know what we do or do not think, feel, whatever. I don’t give two flying figs what any philosopher says. Their opinion has as much value and bearing on me, my life, and the lives of those I care about as your dribblings.”

    “Don’t you DARE to presume I have no moral compass or emotions because I don’t believe in an invisible man in the sky, you pretentious, arrogant nitwit! >:(”

    ‘Ahh, just ignore the guy. He’s a preacher at a backwater, irrelevant fringe church, knows absolutely zero real science, and is hung up on “chemical reactions”, which phrase he seems to think is important somehow…”

    “I don’t know if I can read another of his posts without attempting to reach through the screen and strangle him.”

    “As soon as someone does, like Churchy McChurch here, he’s free game for ridicule.”

    ““Dr.” Sarfati is a moron.”

    AND THE FAMOUS CHEER – NOW FOLKS, IT DOESNT GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS:

    “Oh, and let’s see if I can get some cheerleading going for you here… c’mon everybody, chant it with me…

    Go Team I-D Creationism,
    They’re Okay With Isolationism,
    Go Team I-D Creationism,
    They Don’t Do Nonparticipationism!”

    As you can see, these fine folks love ad hominem. When they get a little of their own medicine, they begin to pout. The Reformers often used sarcasm, and so I also have sprinkled some here and there, but nothing to the extent the FCS guys have done to defend their precious evolution and blaspheme the God of Heaven.

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  6. Yes, John, I’ve read the same comments of theirs. But you cannot claim the higher ground when you consider your own denigrating comments. That’s hypocritical. Plus, I might add, the zombie quote was funny. That being said, your pattern of posts was specifically designed to elicit the kinds of personal attacks that you are claiming to be bothered by. Maybe you haven’t spent long on the internet, but you are exhibiting classic trollish behavior. You visited the blog, immediately calling them dirt and displaying your huge misunderstandings about evolution – few people have the patience for that. If you have specific questions or criticisms of evolution that are not based on a caricature, I’ll freely address them on my blog – part of my mission is to educate.

    One of the caricatures that you seem to uphold about people who support and defend evolution is that they’re all atheists. Given that roughly half of this country accept evolution, and there’s somewhere around 8-12% nonreligious, that means that a good 40% or so are both religious and accept evolution. Many religious scientists are vociferous defenders of evolution and constantly debunk creationism in all of its forms. Ken Miller, linked in my post above, will give any religious person a run for their money on how evolution is compatible with their faith. Evolution does not make is impossible to believe in absolute morality for the religious, nor does it lead to nihilism for the nonreligious. Pearcey’s “critiques” of philosophical materialism are ill-formed critiques of post-modernism, at best. Criticisms of materialism based on “your beliefs are just chemical reactions – they can’t be true!” are about as correct as claiming that “data on computers is just magnetic states and electrical potentials – they can’t be considered true!” Science allows us to do that.

    There’s no need to designate a whole blog to the Hume/Kant issue. All one needs is a specific post. I’m giving you the opportunity to express yourself on this blog post, so give it your best shot.

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