Secular Student Alliance hosts discussion on creationism, fake news and science

The Secular Student Alliance at Marshall University hosted a discussion Thursday on creationism, fake news and science denial.

The talk, titled “America in Denial,” was delivered by Dr. Herman L. Mays Jr., a professor of biological sciences at Marshall.

“I’ve always been having a discussion about science denial,” Mays said. “I’ve been interested in evolutionary biology since I was a child, and I grew up in a creationist household.”

Mays said discussions such as this are “more important as they have ever been.”

“People are so vulnerable to believing things that aren’t true, or being lead to beliefs that aren’t based on facts,” Mays said, who described the line of thinking as “dangerous.”

The discussion also assessed the state of “fake news” when observing online articles and blog posts that refute theories of evolution.

“If you don’t know how to assess people’s credibility, you’re going to be gullible, and you can be led to believe almost anything,” Mays said.

Mays also criticized the idea of “alternative facts” as an excuse to refute evidenced claims and follow more controversial beliefs, such as the flat earth theory or climate change denial.

“You have the right to your own opinions, but not a right to your own facts,” Mays said.

“I thought it went extremely well,” Adam Hamby, a psychology student at Marshall and a member of the Secular Student Alliance, said.

Hamby said he would like to have seen more creationists at the event.

“It seemed like the entire audience was made up of people who had already accepted the science,” Hamby said. “I think part of the problem is that people do not want their beliefs to be challenged, even if the science is completely clear.”

Hamby said for the next event he’d like to have Mays engage in a debate with a creationist.

“A good way to get [creationists] here is to give them someone who represents their views,” Hamby said.

Hamby said their goal “isn’t to change everyone’s minds, but to present them with opposing information that’s based on science, evidence and facts.”

“We also want to foster a community for other secular students,” Robert Fuller, a graduate student at Marshall and a member of the Secular Student Alliance, said.

Another theme of Mays’ discussion was that science and religion do not have to be staunch opponents of one another.

“The two work with different fields,” Nick Dietrich, a Japanese major and Secular Student Alliance member, said. “You don’t have to get rid of your religion to love science and believe in evolution.”

“I love talking about this stuff,” Mays said. “I think the more we engage with people who might have a different opinion that we do, the more we can come to understand how the world really is instead of how we pretend it should be.”

Austin Creel can be contacted at [email protected]