email - January 2005

Seminar Email

If people are being taught how to write email to us, they aren’t being taught very well.

There is a popular radio talk-show host who gets calls from people he dubs, “seminar callers.” He says (probably tongue-in-cheek) that these callers have attended a seminar at which they have been taught how to get past the call screener, and told how to embarrass the host once they get on the air. He says it doesn’t work because he can spot a seminar caller immediately.

We get “seminar email” on a regular basis. We can spot it immediately because the format is always the same, straight out of the seminar handbook.

Conspiracy Theory

Since you can’t hear the tone of our voice, we have to come right out and say that we are joking. We don’t really believe there is a conspiracy targeting our web site. We don’t get these emails because of a secret, coordinate effort to discourage us. We believe that we get these similar emails because the people who write them are all suffering from the same, common misunderstanding. Since it is a common misunderstanding, it is worth addressing.

We do recognize, however, that the source of this misunderstanding probably does come (indirectly) from a conspiracy. We are well aware of the National Center for Science Education, whose goal is to censor the public school science curriculum and remove any honest evaluation of the theory of evolution from the textbooks. Their web site is full of information about how to pressure science teachers and school boards into keeping modern science out of the science curriculum, and keep 19th century fables in. Their director, Eugenie C. Scott, is the “go-to-gal” whenever the Public Broadcasting System or network news needs a sound byte to attack creationists.

So, there really is an organized, funded effort to keep evolution in the public school system; but we don’t really think that our seminar emailers are controlled or directed by that organization. We merely think that they have all been misled by the same propaganda, so they all write the same things to us. With that introduction, let’s look at a typical seminar email.

Typical Seminar Email

Subject: Your site
From: "L S"
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2004 11:39:47 -0800

Dear sir,

I just happened upon your web site about science against evolution. I am very disturbed to see someone with such an obvious lack of scientific knowledge trying to prove or disprove anything scientific. If you wish to be credible and actually make sense scientifically I advise you to go to the nearest university and spend the next four or five years studying biology or biochemistry. Then you will actually be able to make sense of what is being reported scientifically and you will understand what it means. Don't get me wrong, your passion and incredible desire to make your religion true are inspiring. But this has no business and you have no business mixing with science until you understand it. You have no knowledge of the workings of nucleic acid base substitutions or any understanding of what scientific theories mean or how they come to be. And yet you have the audacity to attempt to interpret them for your own means. If I used the bible [sic] to prove that all humans are just robot-slaves designed to serve an overlord in menial tasks for eternity that would be my interpretation and probably not something that you would agree with. Would you be happy that I went around the world spreading a message like that, especially if you found out that I had never read the bible [sic] just some people's interpretations of it?

Now to theology. Who do you think you are to say how God has designed and produced this universe and our lives? It is sacrilegious and disrespectful and blasphemous and heretical! You have no right to say what God meant when He said He breathed life into clay to make Adam live. Is the bible [sic] loaded with symbolism or not? Your kind of christianity [sic] is repulsive! Not only do you pick and choose which verses in the bible [sic] you take as literal and which as symbolic based on your own selfish desires and not on God's, but you try to cram such bastardized blasphemy down the throats of all those around you. You are the kind of mindless heathens that burn witches and blow up abortion clinics. But it is not too late. Turn to God and He can make you see. Give up your desire, your thoughts and your feelings to God and He will lead you to the truth.

Science and religion have no reason to be in conflict or connection. Science is just a tool to help understand and exploit the universe. Evolution is a model based on known observations. The word of God is not the bible [sic], it is Christ (Jn1:1). The bible [sic] is just a tool to guide us to the Lord. But you are using it for personal reasons. You are in sin, not the sin that you believe in, but true sin. Sin is missing the mark, not on the right track, wrong. Disobediance [sic] is a word that masters use for their slaves not what God uses for His loved ones. Love God and don't worry about obeying, that will come. And get baptised [sic]and take comunion [sic], the Lord Jesus Christ commanded it and He said if you love Me keep my commandments. This was not given as an option. Start now, you have much to learn. And of course I am a Christian and a scientist if you hadn't guessed.

God bless,

This is obviously a form letter that the writer sends to every creationist web site he can find. The first sentence or two is customized to make it appear that it was written to us, but the body of the text has absolutely no relationship to anything on our web site, so it clearly wasn’t originally written to us. For example, he says,

Not only do you pick and choose which verses in the bible [sic] you take as literal and which as symbolic based on your own selfish desires and not on God's, but you try to cram such bastardized blasphemy down the throats of all those around you.

We don’t quote the Bible at all. The only time we even mention the Bible is when we get email like this, and have to point out that we never quote the Bible.

That’s one way we know this email was written in response to some other web site, and has just been recycled and sent to us. The writer hasn’t bothered to read any of our articles. He is just reacting to what he incorrectly assumes our position is.

Although this email doesn’t really have any relevance to our web site, it does give us insight into the person who wrote the email. Since we get similar email from so many different people, it gives us insight into a representative group of people, and tells us a lot about those people.

Other Telltale Clues

Seminar email always starts with the assertion that the writer just stumbled onto our site by accident. This simply isn’t true. It is possible to stumble upon a pornographic web site by accident because some of those sites are designed to be found by accident. The most famous is the one whose web address is very similar to “”, so that people trying to get official information from the President’s office will stumble onto it by mistake.

If we wanted people to find us by mistake, we would buy “” (which currently is for sale to the highest bidder), so that people might find us by accident when trying to go to “”.

“” is so different from any other web site name that people don’t accidentally stumble onto our web site. As far as we know, only one person has ever stumbled onto our web site by accident. That person was looking for an article written by Stephen Jay Gould, and found one of our articles discussing something that Stephen Jay Gould had written. He really did stumble onto our site by accident, and wrote an honest letter that was pertinent to what we had written.

On the other hand, the person who wrote the seminar email was actively looking for every anti-evolution web site he could find, and found ours on purpose. Yet he begins the email by claiming, “I just happened upon your web site.” He is dishonest from the very first sentence.

He (just like every other seminar emailer) ends with,

God bless,

Given the tone of the body of the email, we really doubt that he wants God to bless us, and we don’t think he really considers himself to be our friend. Since the email begins with a lie, and ends with a lie, it doesn’t give much credence to everything in between.

When we publish email, we disguise the writer’s name, and don’t include the writer’s email address, because we don’t want to embarrass the writer. We are interested in addressing the issues, not humiliating the person. Since we always disguise the writer’s name, it isn’t obvious to you that the email we receive from sincere people always contains the writer’s real name, but the hate mail, and seminar email, never contains the writer’s real name. On those very rare instances when we do respond to hate mail or seminar email (trolling for more material we can use), the email frequently bounces because the writer has used a bogus email address, too.

The seminar emailer always tries to come across as a friendly Christian, well-schooled in science, who is just trying to help us. The person who wrote the example above advises us to spend four or five years studying biology, as he presumably has. We find it difficult to believe that someone who has spent four or five years in college would make as many spelling errors as he did.

If the seminar emailer really has extensive biological knowledge, and really has read our articles, and found errors in them, he would have told us what those errors are. When we wrote, “Was National Geographic Wrong?” in the November, 2004, newsletter, that’s what we did. We quoted what National Geographic wrote, and exposed the factual errors. We didn’t just say, “Everything in that issue was baloney,” (despite the fact that everything in that issue was baloney ). Actually, there were several more factual errors that wound up on the virtual cutting room floor because we had to keep our “six-page newsletter” down to ten pages. We invite you to compare our essays with his email, and verify that we deal with specific facts, while he just made general, unsubstantiated accusations.

The seminar emailer writes as if his biological expertise is exceeded only by his theological understanding. We doubt that he is really a Christian because we would expect a Christian to capitalize "Bible", and would know how to spell “baptized” and “communion.” It appears to us that he doesn’t really have any first-hand knowledge of Christianity, but believes the usual stupid caricatures of Christianity which appear in the left-wing news media. He appears to be pretending to be a Christian based on what he erroneously thinks Christians believe.

We looked very hard at his email, trying to find anything honest about it. The only thing we really believed was his hate for us. He was trying to control himself, trying to catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but he just could not contain himself.

Make Us Read Your Email

Here is the real seminar on how to get us to read your email. Follow these simple rules.

Don’t use a subject line that looks like spam. Specifically, don’t use “Hi” for a subject line, or leave the subject line blank. Don’t put anything in the subject line that has anything to do with male enhancement drugs, or undressed women or children, or low mortgage rates, or smuggling large amounts of money out of a third-world country. Not only do those emails get deleted automatically, they get put on the junk mail address list, so every subsequent email from that address gets deleted automatically, regardless of subject line or content.

Use the title of the essay you wish to comment upon in the subject line. Not only does that assure us that your email isn’t spam, it also helps us figure out which essay you want to talk about. It is hard for us to respond to “mistakes on your web page” when we don’t know which of the hundreds of articles you are talking about.

Don’t use profanity in the body of the email. Our volume of hate mail dropped significantly when our Internet service provider added some automatic family filtering. We don’t really know what it filters out, but there isn’t any reason for you to swear anyway, is there? Besides, it puts us in an awkward position if we want to print your email. If we put in “expletive deleted” all over it, readers may think you said something worse than you actually said.

Keep religion out of it. We don’t care what your religion is, or what you think our religion is. This is a secular corporation devoted to scientific discussions of the theory of evolution. Religion has no business here.

If you really want to get our attention, make a logical, reasonable, technical argument in favor of the theory of evolution, or point out some specific error that we made in one of our articles. (We realize, of course, that there aren’t really any reasonable technical arguments in favor of evolution, so we do publish unreasonable ones from time to time. )

Feedback is Important

Email is important to us because email, along with stories in the press on a cable news networks, help us judge the evolutionary climate in America. We want to know what you are thinking.

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