There’s a new guy in town for the fundamentalist evangelicals. His name is Bryan Fischer and he has a gig with American Family Radio. If the fundagelicals you know have become rabidly homophobic lately and shrieking about fisting (in other words, they know more about gay sex than you do and think you want to hear about it for hours while you’re trapped in a car together), you might be able to trace their current mental state back to Bryan Fischer.
Jane Meyer wrote a profile on Fischer for the New Yorker for its July-August edition. Unfortunately, the New Yorker wants money to read past the abstract, which is a shame because it’s not in my budget. But you can get the abridged version from an interview that Meyer did with Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
Fischer is pretty awful from what I’ve been able to find on him. To make matters worse, he’s a Stanford graduate. Given his views on evolution and AIDS, it’s a little disconcerting to say the least. It sounds to me like he’s manipulating his audience to make money or it could be Stanford wasn’t that picky back when Fischer applied. But the fact that he’s a graduate of a prestigious school is problematic because it gives Fischer a kind of authority. He’s seen what the elitists have to offer, he’s even been considered one of them, and he’s rejected it. This is part of his schtick.
See his argument against evolution if you want to know how he works. He knows his audience and knows they like absolute certainty. All he has to do to knock evolution down is skillfully use language to imply that there is nothing certain about a theory. And he’s right. A theory is just a theory until something better comes along. But science doesn’t stick with theories that have no evidence to back them up. A theory is an interpretation of evidence. The evidence is real. The theory is just a working model. Fischer knows this because he is very precise with his words in this argument. But he appears to think his audience is as dumb as a box of rocks.
My own personal view on this is that you can believe in creationism if you want but you’re better off not trying to argue with those of us who understand and accept evolution. There’s nothing you can possibly say that would make us change our minds because your arguments don’t make any damn sense. The person you are trying to convince is yourself. The rest of us are perfectly content and have peace of mind with evolution. We are not tormented by uncertainty. (And here’s some handy advice for religious people who are trying to convert non-believers.)
Homophobia is not his only fault. His views on women are so extreme that his ultra fundamentalist church kicked him out. Anyway, keep an ear out for this blowhard because he knows what he’s doing and he makes Glenn Beck look like an amateur.
Speaking of the gullible, the AARP has a post about why people fall for those incredible Nigerian scam emails. Wouldn’t it be better for the scam artist to use a more believable story? Nope. It turns out the beauty of the scam is that it is so outlandish:
Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical,” writes study author Cormac Herley. “Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage…By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible, the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select.”
“The scam involves an initial email campaign which has almost zero cost per recipient,” notes Herley’s study. “Only when potential victims respond does the labor-intensive and costly effort of following up by email (and sometimes phone) begin.” So the scammers want only the unshakeably clueless to respond; they don’t want to waste time on people who are going to get wise after the gang’s invested hours of one-on-one contact. It’s not exactly what they may teach at business school, but it makes dollars and sense: For the best chance of closing a deal, focus on customers most likely to buy (into a lie, in this case).
But why specifically mention Nigeria? “A less outlandish wording that did not mention Nigeria would almost certainly gather more total responses…but would yield lower overall profit,” notes Herley. That’s because respondents would include more people who would ultimately yield not a single dollar.
Bryan Fischer operates along these lines as well.