I was chatting with the owner and another customer at the gun range Saturday night. They were complaining about how bad TV programming is. One of them mentioned the History channel and that he wasn't impressed with How the Earth Was Made (or something like that.) Since I have been unimpressed by the scholarship on HC anyway and found that particular show to be unnecessarily dramatic and sensationalist, I was preparing to agree. Then he dropped the Creationist bomb. He says the scientists weren't there. He says he doesn't know if we believe in the Bible, but a whale skeleton in a desert is what one would expect from the flood.

How does one respond to such a mountain of bullshit served in one steaming mass? I said fossils were not made during human history.

The owner then said he doubted science because weather forcasts were sometimes inaccurate (he said about half the time which is an overstatement.) I pointed out that predicting what a dynamic system was going to do at a specific time and place exactly is hard because it is so narrow. Not just clouds or sun, but clouds or actual precipitation and whether that precipitation is snow, sleet or rain and exactly how much for this specific zip code. That's a tall order. Geologists deal with vast events happening over millions of years.

I feel like I really should have stood up for science. The problem was that I tend to be literal-minded and was thinking of responses on his specific point--that show on HC not being very good and the whale skeleton--and not on his general idea about the bible as a source of information. Frankly, suddenly being in the middle of that conversation caused a bit of anxiety on my part too.

What I should have said was, "Well I will accept the conclusions of those who actually study the evidence--and it is extensive--over the guesses of a late bronze age society who thought the Middle East was the whole world."

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Do these people actually think for themselves or do they just regurgitate the same garbage other people have been telling them?
Same garbage. The goal for the religious mind is not to find the truth, but rather to protect ones belief system from any challenges. I don't need to explain how violent this has been known to get. These regurgitated non-answers are not intended to be true answers, but only verbal fly swatters to stamp out doubts.
What I always wonder is how did the penguins get there and how did Noah know to put them back at the south pole? How did two of every variety of kangaroo manage to get to Palestine? Would that not have required several generations of 'roos while they traveled? And what about the 10,000 or so varieties of beetles? And what did he feed them all for all that time? And why doesn't "god's word" mention any of these weird animals?
I think the most aggravating part of dealing with creationist thinking in social situations is that often entire areas of scientific research and understanding are disregarded with simplistic statements like 'scientists weren't there.' The problem with arguing with these people is that in order to argue, you first have to go through a whole bunch of explanation about what science is, how science works, what science pertains to, and then you have to address the specific area of science that the person is disregarding. In casual conversation this is both tiring and often a waste of time since creationists 'don't trust science' anyway.
The quick response to "Scientists weren't there" is "neither were you". Go from there.
It's the 'go from there' that I find tiring and ultimately futile.

In those cases, when the "scientists weren't there" is brought, I prefer to take inspiration in The God Delusion where Dawkins uses a crime example.

When a crime is commited without eye witness, sometimes is still possible to know exactly what happened, because there are clues, thumbprints, evidence, etc, even when the Police "were not there", nor the juror, judge, lawyers, etc.

If the argument of "Scientists weren't there" would be enough, then all crimes should go unpunished, because we would have to take the witness testimony as true, even if there are contradictions.

That's it exactly. One remark implies ignorance of train-loads of background.
Why didn't you stand up for science?
I was caught off guard and frankly did not know where to begin. If I had a ready-made talking-point like he had, I would have used it. If in the unlikely event this happens again, I will say, "I would rather believe what scientists who thanklessly labor to find things out over a bronze age fantasy that has already been proven to be wrong on so many other things."

Or, I could have recognized the futility of arguing with a stone.
Depending on how much of a fundie he is, you could've asked how we know that a meteorite killed the dinosaurs since no one was there to see it. Of course if he is too busy trying to make everything fit the Bible, then that one wouldn't work. You could borrow a version of Dawkins' scene of the crime analogy. Ask how a person can commit a crime, have no one be there to see it, and still be found guilty of said crime. The second he mentions evidence, you have an opening.
"You weren't there."

No court trial would ever be resolved if that were the standard because the jurors weren't there!

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