How far should we go in indulging the advocacy of nonsense?

I’ve recently watched some videos of interviews with Flat Earth advocates. I’ve also investigated flat-earth discussion forums. I’m absolutely amazed at how much evidence they can so casually ignore and to what extreme lengths they can go in generating alternative explanations and imaginative conspiracy theories.

Many flat-earthers actually believe that governments around the world spend vast sums of money on naval fleets and ground troops which protect the “ice wall” at the circular edge of the flat world—so that no curious person will discover the truth about Antarctica! I’ve yet to have any flat-earther offer a sensible explanation as to why any nation would have such a vested interest in hiding the “truth” of a flat earth and would spend so much taxpayer money on keeping this alleged secret. So I’m prone to ask: At what point does a crazy, evidence-ignoring personal opinion represent a delusional break from reality and even serious mental illness?

TRIGGER WARNING: Perhaps what follows should relegate this topic to a semi-private discussion thread???

I agree with the objectives of Peaceful Science. Peaceful is good. Yet, looking back at my own trek out of my church background in youth earthism and anti-evolutionism (and even global floodism), it was the not-so-peaceful people who hit me hard with the abundant evidence and with the absurdity of my own positions who helped me most! (They certainly got my attention to where I took a very critical look at my “creation science” advocacy.) Am I just a rare exception or do we humans in general sometimes need a swift kick in the rear to realize just how wrong we are when we are stuck in our Dunning-Kruger delusions?

I well remember when a faculty colleague told me in no uncertain terms that a famous Young Earth Creationist ministry leader and anti-evolution debater of the 1960’s was a blatant liar and con-man. Whether those latter labels were truly accurate is another topic for another time—because for now I’m focusing on how those stark accusations so greatly helped me at the time. He got my attention. His willingness to be abrasive helped me get honest with myself about the hypocrisy and self-contradictions I personally witnessed in observing various “creation science” heroes.

Was I the exception? When should we politely educate and when should we rebuke? I’m thankful that I was rebuked sufficiently (and even ridiculed) to where I got serious about questioning my positions.

Where do we draw the boundaries?


Possibly at the point at which we become thought police?


I would agree that people should be free to think what they wish. But my thread OP question is how much we should indulge the aggressive advocacy of nonsense.

For example, if someone happens to hold the opinion that childhood vaccinations against pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, and polio are unwarranted, that is their freedom of thought to which they are entitled. On the other hand, if such a person makes a living actively opposing the vaccination of children and works hard to scare parents into denying their children such health protections, that’s another matter. They are gravely harming other people. Fears of “thought police” shouldn’t get in the way of recognizing the threat they pose to public health—especially for those who can’t get vaccinated and who must depend upon herd immunity.

Of course, we could cite countless other examples.


Are you suggesting we should eliminate enforced doctrinal statements for churches and educational institutions?

1 Like

Yes - it’s just that pesky freedom of speech impediment, or we’d soon have the vaccine-deniers and the flat-earthers banged up. How to decide which of the countless other examples should be allowed to continue, that’s the problem. :slightly_smiling_face:

I know - we get Sam Harris to decide scientifically what’s good for people and what’s bad, and then we have an objective criterion on which to suppress them for the greater good.


I’m all for that “not-so-peaceful” approach. But it only works when I am having a discussion with somebody whom I know well, and where there is already some degree of mutual trust between us. If I try that on somebody else, then that will probably only reinforce their idea that there is a global conspiracy opposed to them.

1 Like

I know just what you mean. It’s a wonder I haven’t got a persecution complex, what with the whole world being against me.


Touche’!! Good one and funny… I think that, in defense of doctrinal statements, they appear everywhere. Not as dictates that enforce what one should believe, but rather as statement that identify those who believe in the statements as members of an affinity group. No one is telling Christians of a particular denomination that they must believe (a la, the thought police) their credal statement, but rather belief in the credal statement is associated with one who claims membership in the denomination.


@jongarvey – “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too !” “Send out the monkeys!”

1 Like

@AllenWitmerMiller, at Peaceful Science we are not looking for cheap and counterfeit peace, as if “Minnesota nice” and “politeness” and “reducing conflict” are the end goal.

We seek quite the opposite. We believe that entering into dialogue means entering into conflict. We see here all the time that engaging real issues increases conflict in the short term. True dialogue exposes error, dishonesty and immorality. Those committed to error, dishonesty, or immorality will ferociously despise us and work hard to create conflict here. These things stand in the way of peace.

Seeking peace requires entering into conflict. We enter in, because the conflict of honest dialogue is the only way to clean house.

I will point out too that we need not agree to ultimately find peace. We do have to be honest. When dishonesty is is discerned, it should be directly called into account. @jammycakes has the right idea: The 10 Best Evidences for a Young Earth. If you watch me, also, I am constantly pressing on people to see what they understand. If they have the wrong internal view, they are not dishonest, and just confused and might respond to education. However, at times true motives are revealed in dialogue, and and we should directly press people to be honest.

I’m very driven by viritue ethics here.

YECs need not answer for Ken Ham, AIG, or Nathanel Jeansons. They do, however, have to answer for themselves.

ID proponents need not answer for DI, Axe, Behe, or others. I’m increasingly annoyed by blanked defenses of ID. They do, however, have to answer for themselves.

TE/EC need not answer for BioLogos, Venema, Lamaroux, or Deb Haarsma. They do, however, have to answer for themselves.

Each person has a different level of comprehension, and we can and should expect them to be truthful to their honest understanding. If they are close minded, I expect honesty here too.

As should be obvious @AllenWitmerMiller, this is not an easy cheap peace. It will create a great deal of conflict. It is, however, built on a fair standard that does not require agreement.

1 Like

No. We will not indulge it. We will engage it, hoping to find common ground. If this proves impossible, because of unwillingness on their part, we will suspend people.

@AllenWitmerMiller if you feel specific people should be banned, after trying to engage them, please make your case to the @moderators in a PM.

I was not necessarily referring to anybody specific, nor even anyone on Peaceful Science. I was speaking generically after years of participating on various forums and reading origins-ministry websites which all too often drift into total nonsense. Drawing boundaries of meaningful engagement—especially when nonsense is advocated in our local churches—involves complicated interpersonal dynamics.

1 Like

IMO it is necessary for that rebuke/criticism to come from a position of respect and trust. If I do nothing but heap insults on a person they will disregard anything I say. But if I have some common ground with that person, there is cause for them to consider what I say.

We should not accept lies.

Most commonly we see religious questions posed as scientific arguments (ie: evidence for a global flood), and if I make a scientific counter-arguement then I am wrong because it is not a scientific claim in the first place. I made that mistake too many times.

The correct response is to call out religious arguments as theology. If that person goes on to make scientific claims about their theology, THEN I can criticize thier science, or even ridicule their science, and make them defend it*. This works by pointing out contradictions in their scientific beliefs, without directly attacking their religion.
It wasn’t until I started hanging out with TE/EC people online and learned more about the basis of YEC thought, that I really caught-on to this approach. It requires some patience, but is very effective.

  • and the typical YEC will always make scientific claims if you let them talk long enough.