Skeptics conference-goers hear sessions on creation/evolution, fact-checking, and more

Libby Cowgill saw a list of 22 questions that creationists wrote to people who believe in evolution being passed around on the Internet. So, she began to ask her students and other people she knew to send in their questions about evolution for her to answer.

Libby Cowgill spoke about evolution and intelligent design in the classroom at SASHA Con on Saturday, March 15, 2014. FAVS photo by Heather Adams

Libby Cowgill spoke about evolution and intelligent design in the classroom at SASHA Con on Saturday, March 15, 2014. FAVS photo by Heather Adams

Cowgill, an assistant professor in the anthropology department at MU, was one of the featured speakers this weekend at SASHA Con, a conference put on by MU SASHA (Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics).

When she spoke at the conference, she shared some of these questions, and how she answered them.

Here’s a glimpse:

Q: If evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible), why then is evolution taught as fact?

A: Cowgill said this is a misunderstanding of the word “theory.” “Theory” is a hypothesis tested over and over again that hasn’t been proven wrong.

Q: Because science by definition is a “theory,” why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?

A: Cowgill said that just because one person says two plus two equals four and other person says two plus two equals six, the answer is not five. She said this is confusing what science is.

Q: If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?

A: Cowgill said this has nothing to do with evolution, and that evolution does not try to explain the origin of life.

Q: Are creationism and evolution incompatible?

A: Cowgill said these two things are not incompatible, and that a lot of people believe in both.

Another conference session: Fact-checking with Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta spoke about the importance of fact checking at SASHA Con on Saturday, March 15, 2014. FAVS photo by Heather Adams.

Hemant Mehta spoke about the importance of fact checking at SASHA Con on Saturday, March 15, 2014. FAVS photo by Heather Adams.

At another conference session, Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist talked about the importance of fact-checking things before you post them or re-post them online. The facts and proof from primary sources are usually more interesting than what was posted originally, he said.

He gave the example of questioning a fire safety policy at Pensacola Christian College.

He had read online that before leaving a burning building, the girls had to be in “proper” attire. So he sent the school an email.

They responded, “Yes, we ask the girls if they can to grab knee length shorts or a skirt to quickly change in to.”

Mehta wrote back and asked for clarification – why wasn’t the priority just to get out of the burning building?

The college responded by saying that yes, the priority would be to get out as quickly as possible – but since the closets are by the doors, it would be possible to be modest on the way out, and even a robe would be fine.

This exchange of emails, Mehta said, was actually more interesting than what he originally saw on the Internet – and it provided proof of what was actually going on.

He told his audience that fact-checking and following-up should be a daily part of everyone’s lives.

Read more about the conference

Heather Adams

About Heather Adams

Heather Adams is a junior at MU. She is majoring in convergence journalism and religious studies. She's been reporting for Columbia Faith & Values as an intern since the site was launched, and she served as an intern in summer 2013. Now, she volunteers as a reporter and also helps with site marketing and community engagement.

Leave a Reply