Darwin Was Wrong, Part 3: Friday Night
[In Part 1, I told you how I discovered that a lunatic creationist organization called Logos Research Associates was planning to put on a significant “scientific” seminar called Darwin Was Wrong. Since I hadn’t had a good laugh in quite a while, I decided to go.
In Part 2, I told you about my phone conversation with one of the organizers, who assured me that this wasn’t some Bible sermon. “Oh no!”, he said. “This is all about the science!“]
On Friday, November 13th, at 6:10 PM, I was standing outside my hotel in Santa Ana, California. I was waiting for the taxi to arrive and take me to church. I was mentally prepared to enter this den of iquity. I had my gear, too: notebook, two pens, seminar flyer, and cell phone (for calling a taxi or 911, depending on how urgently I needed evacuation).
I was running a little behind schedule. The “seminar” was due to start at 6:30. I had counted on waiting 20 minutes for the taxi and the ride itself being 10 minutes. I had waffled in my hotel room a little too long. Do I take my camera or don’t I? I mean if it’s a real, honest-to-God (*snicker*) seminar, then I should be able to take photographs. Of course if it’s just a cheesy sermon, it’s probably rude to be taking snapshots in the middle of praising Jesus.
I eventually decided to leave the camera in the hotel room. That decision, it would turn out, was prescient. (Foreshadowing: The sign of good literature!)
I had also taken time to remind myself how to behave and what to say. I had to keep my usual scoffing and sneering and chortling and pointing and snarking and deriding to a minimum. My goal wasn’t to try to convince anyone there that they were wrong. (My goal was also to try to avoid being thrown out!) I had to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. If spoken to, I would have to be as vague and non-committal as possible. I was a spy, after all, and spies don’t blow their cover.
I had come to learn. No, not learn about why “Darwin was wrong”. I already knew that Darwin was wrong about some things. That’s actually irrelevant. Darwin could have believed that there were little green men with Xerox machines inside every cell in the body, and that’s how inheritance was transmitted. What’s relevant is that the modern theory of evolution, with 150 years of unrefuted data behind it, explains the development of species better than anything else.
Nor had I come to learn what logical fallacies and misinformation the creationists believed. I spend a lot of time reading creationist propaganda. I thought I had seen all of their arguments, so I wasn’t expecting anything new. (Actually, they did surprise me with one or two new ones, which we’ll get to in future articles).
The reason I was there was to learn about the fundies themselves. This is the anthropologist in me. I wanted to get inside their heads. I wanted to understand what makes them tick (Actually, the ticking might be the bomb they have strapped around their waist. Look around you. If you’re near an abortion clinic, RUN!!).
I could have just watched this seminar on the web, but that would have only given me a narrow window onto the stage. I needed to be there. I needed to see all of the people in attendance. I needed to overhear what they were saying to each other. I needed to absorb the atmosphere and the crowd sentiment to see how well the manure being pitched on stage was being eaten up by the coprophiles in the audience.
So there I was, standing outside the hotel, waiting for the taxi. Despite this being Friday night, the cab arrived fairly quickly (this was the only time that ever occurred). We made good time, and the taxi dropped me off at the church at 6:35 PM.
Most of the churches I’ve been to have been big, imposing buildings. That’s what I was expecting. That’s not what I got. This thing was like a flat turd on a prairie. It was one story with a relatively flat roof. Interestingly, three sides were almost completely glass. You could easily see inside and view all the happenings from a safe distance. They also had a screen on one window, and onto this they projected a video image of the stage (or pulpit or altar or whatever they call those things). They were also piping the audio outside via speakers somewhere. This allowed anybody on the outside to see and hear the sermons inside. Are they hoping Dracula will stop by, and since he can’t enter a holy building, he can comfortably watch from the outside? (Or maybe it’s just for overflow crowds.)
As I walked toward the church from the parking lot, I surveyed the scene. This was really easy, since I could see everything that was going on inside. This was my last chance! Run!! Don’t go inside! They’ll inject their spores inside of you and use your body as the incubator!
I could see that the church was fairly full. A couple of “musicians” were onstage, and they were singing about Jesus. That sure is a peculiar choice of entertainment for a “scientific seminar”!
Out front were a bunch of tables, which were piled high with all sorts of books, DVDs, magazines, and pamphlets. A bunch of people were standing around them, looking the stuff over. I decided to ignore those for the moment. I knew there would be time later to buy all the science-laden material I could afford. (Just so I don’t keep you in suspense: Despite my desire to load up, I couldn’t find anything on those tables that had any science in it!)
I stepped into the foyer and looked around. I really expected to see some sign-in tables. Even fake seminars like to capture your name and address. I was prepared to give them the address of a strip joint in San Francisco. All I saw were more people milling about, plus two inner doors leading to the main church hall. Each door was manned by a
bouncer usher, who was passing out seminar flyers.
The Jesus music was louder now. Here I was. Among them. Most of the seats were filled. With them. I was seriously outnumbered. I swallowed hard, took a pamphlet from the usher, and stepped through the door.