Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tall Tales

Did you hear about what happened to Paul Mirecki? He's a professor in the University of Kansas Department of Religious Studies who has been critical of intelligent design. According to Dr. Mirecki, he was beat up on the side of the road by a couple of fundamentalists who were out for blood in revenge for his criticism of ID.

I'm virtually certain he made the whole thing up. Sean Gleeson points out some of the obvious inconsistencies in the story. I'm sure commenters on this blog will be able to spot even more telltale signs of a tall tale.

The plausibility of such stories depends largely upon one's expectations. If you think that most evangelicals are rednecks who will resort to violence at the drop of a hat, then the story may strike you as plausible. (I say "may" because Mirecki has concocted a really lame story.)

Analogous things have happened at evangelical seminaries. For example, last year at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN, a student reported that someone had spray-painted racial hate messages on his pickup. And at Trinity in Deerfield, students began receiving emails filled with racial hatred and threats against blacks. It turned out that both situations were hoaxes. (In the case of the former, the person spray-painted it on his own truck. In the case of the latter, it was an African American student who wanted to leave Trinity.) If one is convinced, however, that there is racial animosity always brewing beneath the surface at evangelical institutions, then one will often accept the initial version of such stories without an appropriate amount of skepticism.

[I fixed the link. Sorry about that.]