A sincere apology to Joe Cienkowski

OK, Joe, we had a million laughs and all, but seriously, it’s over now.

For those who don’t follow my twitter feed, I should explain. I probably stepped out of line a little with Joe back there, in an attempt to get him to crack under the pressure. The fact is, Joe, you’re either crazy or happy or both, so good luck to ya! Seriously. Whatever gets you through the day.

Truth is, we know you’re sincere in some of the things you say about science and religion. But you need to realise there are thousands of people, religious and non-religious alike, who’ve heard all your one-way arguments before. You need to find a more sophisticated tract than reiterating a few Ken Ham bullet points from some YouTube seminar if you’re going to stand a hope of selling any books.

This shouldn’t read as an attack, by the way, I’m genuinely sorry if the whole thing of changing my Avatar to a sign of the cross pissed you off. You are, I’m sure, a perfectly personable chap so long as you’re not asked about your views on evolution and if you weren’t a billion miles away I’d pop round and buy you a beer, even if just because you tried at least to give as good as you got—which you totally didn’t manage to achieve—but if you’ll swallow your pride for a second and take some honest advice, I think I might be able to help you figure out a few ways in which you might do better with another twitter atheist sometime in the future.

First up, when you say to someone you can irrefutably prove something and then tout your book, it sends the exact opposite message I think you think it does. What you need to do instead is formulate a series of stock answers, to generic questions, publish them on your blog and ask for comments from a wide variety of people. Then, when you get a bit of push-back from some loud-mouth godless, burn in hell heathen like me, all you have to do is send them a link to the topic you’ve covered in the past, so they can see where you are in your understanding of the given subject.

Also, a general tip on blogging, always turn comment approval off. If someone wants to post hate speech or you’re frightened someone might say something you don’t like, stop blogging and do something else. This is the internet, not real life.

So, for example, if you want to engage someone on, say, Ernst Haeckel’s embryo drawings, don’t immediately presume whoever you’re telling doesn’t already know what you’re referring to, just because you’ve only just found out about it yourself. Truth is, Ernst Haeckel is in the top 5 most commonly used arguments we hear every day. It’s also one of the most throughly well debunked stories in the history of science.

Haeckel didn’t fake the drawings, he sketched predictions of what he thought the embryo might look like when the technology to view them in-vitro would be eventually invented. But every time he gets used as an example of ‘frauds in evolution’ in the anti-evolution textbooks you’ve been reading, this is only ever mentioned in response to the sheer number of times creationists have had this fact explained to them, despite that they continually bring it up.

Furthermore, the assertion which usually follows, that Darwin therefore used ‘false embryo drawings’ is also complete nonsense, because Darwin published both his books before Haeckel and used only two drawings of an embryo in each one—none of which were drawn by Haeckel.

Then there’s the presumption you make, in common with every other creationist on the block, that non-theists are completely in the dark as to what you believe—and if we only knew what you believed we too would be saved just like you. This is rarely the case. Most atheists either used to be religious too or have thought about Christian scripture in the historical context far more than most Christians. That’s also why many of the twitter people you encounter with negative comments know exactly from whence the realm you believe numinous experiences do stem.

It is a fact, no doubt, that millions of people have transformational experiences they can’t explain all the time. But not being able to explain something means just that. You don’t explain the unexplainable with your beliefs, you explain them with empiricism and by the principal of Occam’s razor.

500 years before the sermon on the mount, Confucius said, “do unto others as you would have them do to you” and that remains as true today as it was then—so once again I do apologies if my attempts to goad you into submission went too far. But hopefully you’re beginning to learn that twitter isn’t a dumping ground for your opinions, it’s a jumping off point to lots of other kinds of information and interests and I think if you allow yourself to read some of the following links, you might have a better appreciation of why so many of us find it just as insulting as you do, when our world-views are brought into question by people who appear to misunderstand them as profoundly as you do of mine.

On the evidence for evolution:
Clair Patterson: Radiometric dating

Observations of evolution

Lines of evidence: The science of evolution:

Transitional fossils:

Various biological taxonomies:

On non-religion:
Why I Am Not A Christian, by Bertrand Russell:

God the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor Stenger

And one for luck:
In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, by David Yallop

Sir David Attenborough, Evolution explained In 5½ Minutes:


5 comments on “A sincere apology to Joe Cienkowski

  1. Pingback: All about Joe Cienkowski « How good is that?

  2. Jim,

    I reckon you are in danger of receiving a lawsuit for abusing someone with a learning disability here!
    Some of us have what is called among engineers, “mechanical aptitude”, that uncanny ability to “see” how something works without having to see the blueprints or take it apart. To look at a refrigerator in a shop and without using a tape measure know whether it will fit in the space between your cooker hob and your sink.
    Do you know what I’m getting at here? This is one of those people without that ability, the ability to “see” to “understand” with the very least amount of information. You could smother Joe (abuse again) by the shovel full and he would still not understand your viewpoint. To me & you arguing is something on which you embark with the full knowledge that if your point is proven false then you will have to graciously back down, admit defeat, yet learn from the experience. Joe will not, CANNOT, do this! Some peoples brains due to faulty genetics are not capable of logical, rational thought processes and this is what you are dealing with here.
    The only thing you can do is wear him down until he gets bored and hope that he’ll go away. I actually feel quite sorry for Joe because he is missing so much wonder by being so incredibly blinkered. I guess Christians aren’t worried about climate change because they think that God will jump in and save the day. Can’t see him letting good old planet earth go to waste after putting so much time and effort into creating it! It would destroy billions of his Christian followers too. Maybe he’s having a bet with all the other gods, false or otherwise, over whether or not we destroy ourselves hehehe! On the other hand creating another planet would be child’s play to such an all powerful deity! Look at the ones he practiced on like Saturn and Jupiter! I’ve gone off topic and for my next trick I’m a ghost……….

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more on feeling bad for people who can’t join the dots, but it hasn’t stopped him figuring out how to spam twitter with blatant falsehoods, proclaimed on my behalf—and on behalf of all right thinking people. It’s turning a blind eye to these people that’s got us where we are now and if there is any such thing as personal responsibility I see my infinitesimally tiny stand against just one more creationist as at least doing something at least to try and change his mind—even if only for a second.

  4. Russ,
    Re your point about xitans not giving a hoot about any planetary issues, this is the case. I was at a wedding in 1985, and seated next to a friend of the family’s… I forget how the conversation stared at all but this fellow – Ralph was his name – stated quite frankly that recycling was unnecessary because god was coming to destroy the earth an everything on it – after the xitans left, of course – so that recycling was actually unchristian as it second-guessed god’s intentions.

    I was gobsmacked – and I really thought he was joking until he became quite angry when I laughed and challenged him.

    This is something these people believe; that ‘god’ is going to destroy his ‘creation’ after he/he/it picks off the (144,000?) chosen…. Care of the planet is futile and non-christian.

    The whole thing is to weird for words

  5. Please, guys, have mercy. One who can’t join the dots will not when reading the Bible either. I’d bet this Ralph had never read Revelation, because he had tried once but he couldn’t understand it. OK, I understand, there are also those who can’t join the dots but teach it. Actually, they are not “the Christians” but a part of it. Luckily there are Christians who do it better. For a start, check out “Revelation – four views” on amazon.com (there are more than one of such).

    @Jim: Just for the sake of precision, Confucius’ saying is in the negative form, called the “Silver Rule”. Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule

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