On the Origin of Take Thats: An Interview with Take That Darwin

by @TakeThatGMOs and @TakeThatDarwin

What inspired you to start, what gave you the idea of making a Twitter account and RTing creationists?

I’d been posting on creation/evolution discussion boards like CARM and Christian Forums since I was twelve years old, but, when I first discovered Twitter, I had no intention of creating an account that revolved around that topic. I’ve had a few accounts, in fact, including one about synopses of Sliders episodes that never existed (don’t ask) and a “fake facts”-style account that basically ripped off John Hodgman’s shtick.

While running that latter account, I happened to do a search for “why are there still monkeys.” As a joke, you see. And I was positively floored by how many people were asking that very question — “The Question,” as it were — in the apparent belief that it was a pretty good argument against evolution. So I started a new Twitter account to chronicle my terrible findings.

Can you talk about how you started and what you did to get noticed?

When I first started the account it was done purely to amuse myself; I had no real desire to get noticed. I’d just retweet some people who wanted to know why monkeys still exist, and maybe post a few image macros and pictures of church signs I’d discovered saying the same thing. I didn’t do any commentary, didn’t crack any jokes, didn’t post any image macros or comments of my own devising. It was just my personal dumping grounds for people who wanted to know why we’ve still got monkeys.

However, the comedic potential soon became apparent. I started poking a little fun at The Question and the sorts of people who ask it. Turns out that a couple of decades arguing with creationists about evolution have left me with a surplus of capital-O Opinions on the topic, and when I started to voice those opinions and have exchanges with other people who were, like me, flabbergasted that The Question was so popular, folks began to follow my account out of morbid curiosity.

I’ve also gotten the occasional popularity boost out of celebrities, like Robin Ince, Dominic Monaghan, and Joe Rogan, who like me share a fascination with the flaming thirty-car pileup that is creationism.

How do you find these people that you find and what kind of interactions do you have with them other than RTing?

It’s amazing, really, how predictable creationists can be in some ways and how spectacularly unpredictable they can be in others. One way in which they’re predictable is the phrasing of The Question. With a few keyword combinations — “evolved monkeys,” “evolution apes,” and so on — I can reliably discover one or two dozen people per day who are pretty sure evolution means monkeys shouldn’t exist. I also do some other searches to discover related but unique forms of stupidity, like kids who’re complaining that they’re being forced to learn about evolution in their science classes.

For the sake of my own sanity I don’t generally mix it up with the creationists I retweet, although if I think they’ve got a simple misconception that can be corrected quickly, or if they ask me a direct question, I’ll respond. If they ask me a question that isn’t in good faith, I will respond with withering sarcasm such as can flay their very souls.

Why Twitter specifically, did you consider other platforms too?

Oh, I’ll occasionally scour Facebook, YouTube, and the comments sections of news sites to find more creationist stuff, but it’s always to show off on Twitter, where I find the bulk of the creationist silliness. There’s just something very immediate about Twitter that causes people to cheerfully reveal their innermost feelings about things they probably shouldn’t have innermost feelings about.

That said, I was recently invited by Black Mudpuppy of the webcomic of the same name to contribute to a YouTube project called “Darwin’s Finches,” so we’ll see where that goes.

How did the idea spread to other fields of pseudoscience?

Because — and this is something I’ve commented on before — people are rarely just one sort of crazy. If you’ve already accepted that the entire scientific community is engaged a conspiracy of unprecedented proportions to promote evolution, then what else are those sneaky bastards up to? Perhaps, while they’re hiding the Nephilim skeletons and carving feathers into dinosaur fossils, they might dabble in inventing chemtrails, filling vaccines with autism, or faking the Moon landing.

While my interest mainly lies in creationism, I find it fun to point out some of the other wacky things creationists often find themselves believing. And folks like you, seeing the rich veins of crazy I’ve tapped and having discovered their own sets of searches that turn up other sorts of crazy, have created accounts similar to mine that speak to your own interests. Turns out there’s plenty of crazy out there to share.

How did you come up with the name ‘TakeThatDarwin’? Did you consider it could be confusing for some?

A young Charles Darwin has absolutely no idea what the hell high schoolers in 2015 will think about him. "I bet they'll like me," he says, optimistically.
A young Charles Darwin has absolutely no idea what the hell high schoolers in 2015 will think about him. “I bet they’ll like me,” he says, optimistically.

Deliberately so! When I started this account I was concerned that many creationists, seeing that I’d retweeted them, would instantly block me. I chose a more ambiguous username so they’d pause before hitting that block button, possibly thinking that I’m on their side. That’s why I can’t be upset at non-creationists who assume I’m a creationist. I invited it on myself. That said, I went through a few names for this account before settling on “Take That Darwin,” including “WhyStillMonkeys” and “Y R There Monkeys???” I think history will vindicate me for my ultimate decision here.

As far as why I named this account “Take That Darwin,” I find it fascinating how creationists have placed Darwin on a pedestal. A pedestal covered in goat skulls, spikes, and fire, sure, but they deify the man in much the same way that they deify the figure of Satan. When creationists argue against evolution, they’re arguing against a soft-spoken Victorian-era naturalist whom they view as a legitimate threat to the supremacy of an omnipotent being. And that is hilarious.

What is the specific purpose of the account?

Although I didn’t have a purpose beyond amusing myself when I started this account, I’ve developed a sort of three-pronged mission statement:

  • To reveal how embarrassingly stupid our species can be;
  • To inspire people, including myself, to try as hard as we can to avoid displaying the sort of stupidity I showcase; and
  • To provoke a few laughs along the way.

Some use my account as a sort of dispatcher service for people who want to correct creationists’ misconceptions about science, and that’s fine. But it’s not something I can actually condone, because it puts good people in contact with some really awful people. No, the main goal here is to examine how we’re all vulnerable to sloppy thinking shortcuts.

What are some of the most notable moments in your 3 years doing this? 

I have seen some things, let me tell you. I’ve seen things so surreal they make Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” look like a VCR repair manual from 1988. I’ve drunk-livetweeted the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate. I’ve discovered Animal Planet’s mermaid mockumentaries and the many, many folks who were unaware they’re fictional. I’ve met some great people — too many to mention — and also some really remarkably terrible people. I’ve discovered that people who dislike homosexuality can’t help but use the phrase “shoving it down our throats,” which is something you just can’t make up. I’ve appeared on a number of podcasts, including Herd Mentality, the Imaginary Friends Show, and Breaking Bio. I’ve had some fun.

I’ve also explored the frontiers of alcohol tolerance.

How do you recommend others help in educating the public?

You know the old saying about horses, and water, and drinking? The best we can do for creationists is to make sure that information is available. You can’t browbeat people into accepting science. Just gently guide them toward the sources, earnestly answer questions that were asked in earnest, and understand that, in most cases, creationism is something that happened to these people.

That said, it is absolutely not anyone’s responsibility to cure creationism. The only time, I feel, when we’re obligated to speak out against creationism is when creationists are trying to use their social and political clout to hurt others, which, okay, yes, happens pretty goddamned often.

What do you have set in mind for the future of your account and others and possible expansion to other areas?

To quote Heath Ledger’s Joker, do I look like a guy with a plan? Oh, I’ve got dreams — paleontologist Trevor Valle has suggested a meetup he calls Take That Vegas, and I’ve got a semiautobiographical novel in what might be generously called the early stages — but I’m basically at the mercy of my addiction here. To ask me where I see my account going is like asking a junkie where he sees his heroin habit going in a few years.

I’ve been delighted that what was formerly a goofball hobby of mine has gained so much traction. But I’m just as curious about where this train will stop as anyone else. The only thing I can be certain of is that we’ll all have headaches when we get there.

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3 thoughts on “On the Origin of Take Thats: An Interview with Take That Darwin

  1. joober June 2, 2015 / 5:48 pm

    As someone who follows TakeThatDarwin on Twitter, thanks for finding the hilarious crazies and trying to expose them to a modicum of reason and science. Oh, and ridicule, let’s not forget the ridicule.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Frey December 24, 2015 / 12:53 am

    Live also follows these account and I find they use pseudo science to defend proven false narratives. Odd.

    Like

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