Friday, August 14, 2020

#2370: Barret Vanlandingham

Rev. Barret Vanlandingham of the Fort Gibson Church of Christ is a fundamentalist and a young-earth creationist, who is unafraid to parrot all the standard creationist canards or to display his utter lack of grasp of science or how science works. Commenting on the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, for instance, Vanlandingham pretended to be startled that Nye dismisses the Genesis Flood as the myth it is, for as Vanlandingham sees it, there is “vast amounts of evidence in favor of a worldwide flood”, mostly because he doesn’t seem to understand what evidence is (here is Vanlandingham further discussing what he thinks about evidence, brilliantly supporting our assessment). Among his purported evidence is the claim that “every major culture around the world has reported a worldwide flood” (utter nonsense) and the fact that trilobite fossils have been discovered all sorts of places, something that science, apparently, is not able to explain but the Bible is (it really isn’t). Equally importantly, for Vanlandingham, is the absence of evidence for evolution; for instance, “there is no fossil evidence that one species or animal ever became a different species” because Vanlandingham simply dismisses that massive amount of evidence. The conclusion, of course, is that Big Bang and evolution are just as much articles of faith as the Biblical account, since there is no evidence and “[s]cience says that for something to be believable, you have to be able to measure it and repeat the experiment,” which is a completely expected misunderstanding from your typical creationist who has no idea how science is supposed to work.* Vanlandingham’s conclusion, of course, is that “the Bible has never been proven wrong, on anything” (here’s a brief list) but actually “been very helpful in discoveries related to all areas of science” (here is a list). That’s the conclusion you will be able to draw when you can, by assertion, just dismiss the evidence you don’t like, and use your own imagination and wishful thinking to generate the evidence you want to have. “Delusion” is the common term for the process. 

Diagnosis: Creationist with a creationist’s standard complete and utter lack of understanding of what science is and what the point of science could possible be. Not a big player in the religious fundie anti-science brigade, perhaps, but nonsensical enough to merit an entry.


*Short explanation: The whole point of science is to gain knowledge of that which goes beyond direct observation because it is e.g. too far away in time or space, too general (laws are universal; what’s observable are particular instances) or has to do with cause and effect (correlations are directly observable; causality is not). But the crucial characteristic of science is that we test these hypothesis about the unobserved against their observable conseqeunces! The Big Bang is unobservable, but its effects are not, and by observing whether the predictions we derive from the Big Bang hypothesis hold or not, we confirm or disconfirm that hypothesis. And it is of course a standard requirement on scientific experiments and observations that they be repeatable. But now the fundamental and utterly idiotic misunderstanding systematically made by creationist morons like Ken Ham and Barret Vanlandingham should be obvious: It is the observations – the ones we test our hypotheses against – that need to be repeatable and measurable, not the state of affairs described by the hypotheses! Failure to recognize this point reveals not only a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific method (distinguishing hypotheses from observations) but a fundamental misunderstanding of the very point of science (to gain knowledge about the unobservable). 

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