I apologize for my long absence from Skepchick. After some nagging from Rebecca at a recent Skepchick get-together in Boston, I’ve decided to start blogging again on a regular basis! Now that I’ve survived MIT Differential Equations and my PhD qualifying exam, I really don’t have much of an excuse anymore. So, in the coming months you can look forward to many geological tidbits, tirades, and tantalizations as well as some musings on life, the universe, & everything. There will also be some boring descriptions of the daily life of a graduate student and some less-boring descriptions of the fieldwork I will be doing as part of my graduate studies. I will be heading to Oman (near Saudi Arabia) for a month in January to do mapping and collect samples for my PhD thesis, so stay tuned!
Now, you’re probably wondering about the somewhat strange title of this post. It’s true: I am back, and I am also in the 2008 book by Dirk Smillie titled Falwell, Inc.. That’s right: I am quoted on pages 179-180 of this book. I was completely unaware of my quotation in this book untilÂ I was googling myself randomly Â I was looking for an important reference earlier this evening. Apparently, Smillie was also using google when searching for information for his book. The quotation that he used was from a Skepchick post I made in February 2007 titled Young Earth Creationists are NOT Geologists, a post in which I ranted about how much I dislike Dr. Marcus Ross, a professor of geology at Liberty University, a conservative Christian college founded by Jerry Falwell. Dr. Ross is a young Earth creationist who believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old. My quotation was included as evidence that “geology students at other universities have it in for Ross, too.” Prior to my quotation, Smillie discusses how some geologists at Rhode Island University (Dr. Ross’s alma mater) believe that his diploma should be revoked, “one even suggested he be stoned to death with tribolytes.” I heartily agree (though I’d recommend trilobites, I’m not sure what a tribolyte is), and I’m honored that I was included as a skeptical voice in Smillie’s book. I am actually very impressed at how Smillie used my quotation in his book. He edited the blog post nicely, taking a sensible snapshot of my words without losing any of the meaning. If anything, he made my disorderly rantings more organized and straightforward. I have yet to read the entire book (though I guess now I’ll be ordering a copy!), but so far I’m pleasantly surprised by Smillie’s neutral tone. And happy that the Skepchick blog is actually read and has made it into print!Â
Apparently, Dr. Ross is now aware of my post as well. His defense?
“Earning a PhD does not mean believing in everything it stands for.”
Actually, earning a PhD in geology isn’t about belief at all. Scientists don’t “believe” that the Earth is millions of year old. Instead, they use evidence (isotopes, cooling models, rates of various processes) to place reasonable bounds on the age of the Earth and work to refine their knowledge. However, there is excellent evidence (with appropriate error bars) that the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old.Â
“It’s incredible that people feel personally attacked by my mere existence.”
No, I’m not personally attacked by your mere existence. Shocked by it, yes. Willing to defend geology and science, yes. Wondering if Liberty College also teaches that the sun revolves around the Earth and that there are four elements (Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire), yes. But I’m not too worried about your existence as a geology teacher at Liberty. Just don’t apply for a job here at MIT or Woods Hole anytime soon– because, trust me, you are definitely not qualified for the position. Even if you do have a PhD in geological belief.