You guys missed a good time last night! Mark F. and Chris M. (of DAM) were also there. Unfortunately they didn't have a large group discussion afterward, but Chris & I ended up staying for quite a while discussing things in small groups. Chris had the filmmaker and a group of 4-6(?) onlookers, and I got the pastor & the host (presumably a leader in the church).
The host & pastor got to hear my spiel that I had been practicing & hoped to use on the whole group. Basically it was as follows:"Thanks to the Novi Church for hosting this event and opening it to the public. I would strongly encourage everyone to investigate this movie's claims on their own. I think you will find that most major religions have accepted evolution over millions of years, based on scientific evidence, and claim it is the tool God used for creating the diversity of life we see today. I think you'll also find that Young Earth Creationism is an extreme fringe movement, and that believing it is akin to past generations holding on to flat-earthism & geocentrism (e.g. the sun revolves around the earth). For a more modern Christian perspective I would highly recommend the book "The Language of God", written by Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins is a scientist & devout Christian who headed the Human Genome Project and currently heads the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins explains the overwhelming evidence for evolution and a multi-billion year old earth/universe, and promotes harmony between religion & modern science.
Lastly, you should know that last week I met with Todd Slisher of the Detroit Science Center, one of the participants in this movie. He was very upset to find that the movie had been completed and released without their knowledge, especially that it had been shown to a paying audience at the Michigan Theater and is being sold on DVD. Mr. Slisher said the project was presented as a 'student piece', and they only agreed to participate 'with the caveat that we approve our piece before any final product was released and with it being removed it if was unacceptable.' As a result the Detroit Science Center is considering legal action against Bright Horizon Pictures."
The host replied to this by explaining that he was an "evolutionist" for many years until he finally "examined the evidence" and found that it actually supported Young Earth Creationism
. He said that recently more & more scientists are switching to Creationism "in droves". Really? I said "I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but I can assure you that's not the case." Thus began the discussion of what the scientific evidence really
says, plus some logical fallacies & other philosophical topics. After fairly successfully refuting their almost every claim, I proposed that in the best interest of the church they consider Dr. Francis' more tenable (amongst believers) position regarding the scientific evidence. In his book, Dr. Francis wonderfully explains the irrefutable evidence (including DNA) that humans & mice had a common ancestor, and that the earth/universe are billions of years old. He then considers two possible explanations - either 1) evolution & an old earth/universe are true (as the execution of God's plan, of course), or 2) that his omniscient God put all this evidence in place to intentionally mislead us, knowing that thoughtful scientists would someday discover it. His conclusion is that a loving, merciful God would not intentionally mislead his children.
In frustration they finally said "You have to ignore all the evidence and just believe the [literal] bible on faith." I said "That's great! You should use that! I think it represents your position perfectly. But please don't try to say that science supports your position because it doesn't." Victory!! Now I'm *really* going to h*ll
As an interesting aside, they both seemed quite entertained by the current existence & claims of the Flat Earth Society & Geocentrism movement ("of course that's crazy"), although they didn't like me paralleling YEC with those groups
. Oddly, the host got hung up on one particular phrase that I said the Flat Earthers use to prove their point - "...the end of the earth..." He got quite agitated & insisted that it's "...the ends
of the earth..." (ends
being plural). I said that I agreed that "ends of the earth" is the phrase commonly-used today, but that I thought the Flat Earthers quoted the bible using the singular "end". He insisted that NOWHERE in the bible does it say "end of the earth", like that might actually prove a flat earth but thank god the bible says "ends" (plural) so it's OK that the earth is round
. For the record, apparently Deuteronomy 13:7 says "from the end of the earth even unto the end of the earth".
The conversation was polite & respectful until the end when he said that schools need to teach Creationism. I calmly pointed out that our founding fathers did not intend the U.S. to be a "Christian nation" and that the constitution provides for separation of church & state. I obviously hit a nerve, as the host vociferously insisted that there is no such thing
as separation of church & state (that's soooo scary
). When I failed to eloquently quote the First Amendment, he told me that I needed to go read the Bible (presumably to resolve the singular/plural "end of the earth" issue
the Constitution. He then laughed in my face, and shaking his head said "Unbelievable!" At that point we just both walked away. Unfortunately I missed out on the two classic rebuttals:
#1) "Have you read the Bible? No? Then you can't not believe it." - Do you believe the Qur'an? ("No!") Have you
read the Qur'an? How can you disbelieve the Qur'an without reading it??
- response "I don't need to read the Qur'an to not believe it, the Bible tells me the truth."
- 2nd rebuttal - I don't need to read the bible to not believe it, science books tell me the truth!
#2) "You need to read & understand the Constitution to understand there's no separate of church & state." - I don't personally need to be an expert on the constitution. The experts on interpreting the Constitution have ruled that there IS
a separation of church & state, and that includes banning religious doctrines (like Creationism/Intelligent Design) from schools, in case after case after case for decades!
It was great to talk to Chris in the parking lot afterward to share the evening's experiences & our debating strategies. His experience w/ the Detroit Grassroots Atheism Project has helped him develop some great arguments/ideas.
Lastly (I promise!), a little icing on the cake. Afterward I saw the host & his wife in the parking lot. His wife (not knowing my role that evening) was really enamored with my motorcycle & stood there talking with me about it for quite some time. All the while her obviously perturbed husband was trying to subtly pull her away, but I was being particularly nice to her & she just kept talking to me
. I can only imagine what he said to her when they got in the car, "That was the atheist jerk blah-blah-blah..."
Sorry for the rambling, but I'm so geeked!