Friday, October 11, 2019

#2252: David Shormann

David Shormann is a Texas-based young-earth creationist, president of the “Dive into Math” program, and homeschooling activist with a PhD in marine chemistry. Though a biblical literalist who “believe a biblical framework provides us with the most rational interpretation of the past,” Shormann is according to himself also “a natural history researcher”, and claims that science confirms a literal reading of Genesis. Shormann claims to like science. He doesn’t have the faintest clue what science is or how it works, of course. He doesn’t really like science. According to Shormann, “[t]reating Earth history as just that, history, I can find physical and written testimony that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And just as most of us have no problem believing Jesus Christ was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago, we should have no problem believing there were about 4,000 years from the Beginning to Christ’s birth. Studying natural history can be an interesting, fun, and adventure-filled pursuit, but it is not real science, and shouldn’t be treated like it is.” Just like history isn’t a science (Shormann explicitly claims that history isn’t science, a standard, utterly delusional talking point pushed by Answers in Genesis; it’s easier for them to assert this as an assumption, since they can then go post-modern relativist and claim that their own preferred creationist narrative is just a “different interpretation”. The idea of testing hypotheses about the past through their predictions about current observables, entirely parallell to how one tests, say, laws of nature, has evidently not crossed his mind – empirical evidence: how the *** does it work?

Shormann’s name was brought to some attention in 2011, when he – despite because of his dislike of science and public schools – was appointed by Barbara Cargill to the science review panel that should evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the Texas Board of Education for use in Texas public schools. In that role, Shormann was given ample opportunity to display his belligerent incompetence. His view of biology textbooks is worth quoting at some length: “Also, in the 21st century, high school and college biology textbooks are becoming bloated monsters. Something has to go to make room for teaching 21st Century advances in biology, including epigenetics and bioinformatics. Many chapters have way too many pages devoted to speculative historical claims about origins, dogmatically asserting only one interpretation (evolutionism). A pro-science person would want to reduce or remove the history to make room for 21st Century science. An anti-science person would reject the 21st Century science in favor of page after page about origins. Ask the atheist which they would choose to include in an already oversized biology textbook, new science or history? If they would rather keep the history, then they are anti-science, which contradicts their claims of being pro-science.” 

As for Shormann’s argument that humans and dinosaurs coexisted? “The fossil record shows many things lived at the same time as extinct dinosaurs, including extant (meaning still alive) starfish and coelacanths. Apparently, the so-called freethoughts activists say we’re lying about the human-dino coexistence thing because we have yet to uncover a fossil of a human riding a dinosaur while holding a coelacanth that ate a starfish. Unless this fossil grouping is found, then atheists will claim the Bible is a book of lies and Christians who believe it are liars. Therefore, since freethoughts activists apparently never lie, and possess a perfect understanding of history, we can trust them over God’s word! And if we don’t buy into their belief that freethoughts activists are the source of historical truth instead of God, they will make laws to suppress our skepticism. Of course, I’m joking here, but are the atheists? Unfortunately, I don’t think so.” The fact that there are no species of Mesozoic starfish or coelacanths still extant is not the biggest problem with Shormann’s “reasoning” here. Note also the conflation between scientific biology and atheist activism, a recurring feature of Shormann’s, uh, thought. In 2013, he protested an event held at the Houston Museum of Natural History called “Answers In Science: What On Earth Do We Know?” that criticized creationism. That they criticized creationism means, Shormann declared, that the museum is engaging in bigotry: “Not only are they attacking Christianity, they are attacking one man in particular, Ken Ham. It is un-American to support such religious intolerance and false claims that Christians are ‘anti-science’.” The word “criticism” apparently doesn’t exist in Shormann’s vocabulary.

The screaming bald eagle cover and title of Shormann’s book The Exchange of Truth: Liberating the World from the Lie of Evolution nicely sums up his brand of jingoistic science denial.

Shormann is also a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s silly petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism – without having any expertise on evolution, of course; there is a correlation here.

Diagnosis: Flaming creationist and belligerent anti-scientist – not that he would be able to distinguish science from stream-of-consciousness rant if his life depended on it. But althoughhe is  a crazy fanatic, he is also Texas-based, and being a lunatic denialist is no obstacle to achieving the power to influence science and educational policy in Texas, quite the reverse, it seems. 


  1. Dang, you really are an idiot G.D., i thought you would have since enough to know that true science is inductive reasoning, not deductive. See for deductive anyone can say anything and it can be a valid point, but it's not always true. but inductive is observation, with facts. If you want to argue that we can't prove that the bible is real without using eve=idence from the bible, then prove that it isn't true, without deductive reasoning. The burden of proof is on you. Because since the beginning the bible has been said to be true, so if you disagree you must show how it's false.

    1. Of all the idiotic comments I have seen, this one is close to being the most helpless.

      First, you evidently don't have the faintest clue what deductive or inductive reasoning is, or what the distinction could possibly be. You really should read a book. I'll give you the exam question right away, though: A common way of distinguishing deductive from inductive inferences is doing so by invoking the monotonicity property of inferences. Explain what that means, and discuss whether that's a good way of drawing the distinction (especially in light of Bayesian updates, epistemic logics and the probability calculus).

      Second, Shormann's failure is understanding the basic dynamics of scientific testing of hypotheses against observation: You start with a hypothesis about something non-observed or non-observable, then you derive predictions from that hypothesis about observable consequences (i.e., if this hypothesis about the non-observed is true, what would be the observable consequences today?). Then you check whether those consequences obtain. If they do, you have confirmed your hypothesis; if they don't, you have disconfirmed it. (And then you can note the famous and familiar point that given this schema, disconfirmation by observation is a deductive process and confirmation an inductive one - you know, the point that Popper took as his point of departure when he argued that science only needs deductive reasoning).

      And the point is that this schema draws no distinction between "historical" and "observational" sciences or Shormann's delusions. The Big Bang is not observable, but the Big Bang hypothesis has observable consequences that we use to test it, and which have provided staggering confirmation. Similarly with, say, all laws of physics or all hypotheses about causal relations, regardless of your field (which are not observable either). The hypothesis that the Earth was created in seven days (with organisms appearing just a few days after creation) and the hypothesis that there has been a global flood, for instance, also have a plethora of observable consequences. But these consequences don't obtain, which means that these hypotheses have been profoundly refuted.

      Third, you evidently don't understand burden of proof. If I claim that "Bears are really aliens, and that is true", the burden of proof isn't on others to disprove it! If you think a claim is true, you have to provide the evidence.