September 03, 2007

Creationist Creeps and Stalkers

As much as I write about Creationists, I admit gladly that I never receive any of their rantings in the mail. I've seen their books and am painfully aware of the nonsense they spew over the Internet, but that's it. I've often thought of the fun I could have were I to sign up for one of their mailing lists, but this will remain a fantasy and for very good reason. There are a lot of potentially dangerous creeps among those people; there are threatening fanatics and looming lunatics aplenty.

As readers will note from the list of blogs to their right, one of the blogs I follow is Scientia Natura: Evolution and Rationality. The author of said blog is Shalini, a fellow biologist and an even more outspoken critic of the superstitious nonsense that is Creationism than I and, more to the point, with a larger readership than Hyphoid Logic gets, I'm sure. That combination of vocal criticism and readership attracts some unwanted attention, and this has most recently manifested in the form of someone subscribing her, without her consent, to a mailing list under the dominion of the Institute for Creation Research. I'm not talking about email here; someone got her snail-mail address and signed her up.

...a cretin reader of mine has apparently decided that signing me up for some Retard-Certified devotionals for an imaginary friend will save me from an imaginary hell. Despite having a good laugh at the poor, clueless theistard's time-wasting buffoonery of a proselytizing technique, it is indeed unnerving that those kooks have tracked me down so fast.

I've been in Pittsburgh for all of two weeks and at least one theistard has already discovered my mailing address. Should I start wearing a disguise around the city, too?


Clearly, this is intended to be a veiled threat, or at least designed to make Shalini uncomfortable. I sincerely doubt that this stalker thinks that having a bunch of ICR propaganda mailed to her is going to make her change her views — but the stalker might think that putting the Fear-O-Gawd into her might shut her up.

This is reminiscent of another recent incident that of Michael Korn, a Creationist nutjob who took it upon himself to slip threatening letters under the doors of University of Colorado biologists and then fled to North Carolina when the police wanted to ask him a few questions.
...In the last year, a series of threatening letters and e-mails -- the most recent referring to "killing the enemies of Christian society" -- were sent to several professors at the biology department in Boulder...

At first, professors considered the letters a nuisance, but the most recent threats were delivered after business hours when the biology building was closed, and police were called. The letters were slipped under professors' doors in envelopes sealed with tape and decorated with skull and crossbones...


We know that Korn landed, at least for some period of time, in North Carolina because after he fled from questioning he started emailing creepy notes to biology professor and science blogger PZ Myers from an IP address traced to a community college in that state. In said email, however, Korn intimated that he was near Myers' home and could get at him if he so desired. North Carolina, of course, is the same state to which fundamentalist bomber Eric Rudolph fled and hid for years, sheltered by sympathetic extremists there, until his arrest in Murphy, NC. So not only is there a bona fide Creato-terrorist out there, there's also a network of people likely to be supporting him.

This is exactly why I don't even use my real name on this blog. In case anyone hadn't already figured it out yet, "Mike O'Risal" is a pun on the term mycorrhizal. It would be potentially setting myself up for the kind of attention that Shalini and PZ Myers have received if I revealed my true identity, as it were. Even the photograph used in my profile has been altered to the point that I doubt anyone who didn't already know me could recognize me in the street based on it.

It may seem to some that I'm being a bit paranoid, and perhaps I am. I would submit, though, that just because nobody has blown up a research laboratory or, to my knowledge, an evolutionary biologist's home, that doesn't mean that this won't ever happen, or even that it's unlikely to occur at some point in the near future. Having seen some of the venom that's been unleashed against biologists and being aware of the succession of harassment incidents that have already occurred, I think it better to be safe than sorry. It allows me to raise the points that I wish to raise without placing too much risk on the people I care about, on my colleagues and on myself. It is indeed a strange world that we inhabit now that any of us should have to concern ourselves with such things. I advocate violence against no one, and as far as I have seen neither do Shalini or Myers. I doubt that any of the scientists at the University of Colorado did, either. In the minds of the fanatics, though, merely revealing the mechanistic nature of life through explanations that don't require divine intervention is itself interpreted as an act of violence against their deity who, for some reason, needs its supplicants to intervene on its behalf to stop us.

These are indeed unfortunate times. I don't even know if anyone in law enforcement is looking for Korn these days; I haven't heard a word about that since he fled Colorado in July. That alone would leave me feeling uneasy for all of the biologists out there. The fact that there are a whole bunch of creeps and stalkers, little Korns, and perhaps a few future Eric Rudolphs makes it even worse.

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