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Troy & Kathy Britain
ell first off as the above photo indicates, I'm married. Kathy and I have been together for about twenty five years. I'm not sure how she manages to put up with my constant chatter about evolutionary biology, paleontology and antievolutionism, but she does. To make money I was in the small press printing industry for over twenty five year, however I recently transitioned into the biology adjacent job of insect trapper for the Cooperative Agricultural Support Services Authority (which contracts me out to the California Department of Food and Agriculture). Kathy works for a costume manufacturer.
So how does a one time printer come to be interested in the creation/evolution debate?
Yeah, you guessed it, that's yours truly at about age five dressed up for Halloween (just in case the jack-o-lantern didn't give that away) as a T-rex (Mom made the costume). The point of this photo is to show how I've been interested in dinosaurs and natural history for quite some time, and how my parents encouraged this interest. It wasn't just through Mom making me dino costumes or Dad giving me plastic dinosaurs to play with (though those were some of my favorite toys!). No, every other year or so we would pack-up the family van and go on camping trips all over western North America, visiting such places as the Grand Canyon (see pic of me holding my little sister Kindra), Dinosaur National Monument (Utah), and Yellowstone. This fired my curiosity and sense of awe at the wonders of nature all through my childhood. I also acquired a taste early on for science fiction. Not only was sci-fi fun but it also feed my interest in science.
Unfortunately the general science education I got in public school was pretty pathetic, and I never heard much of anything about evolution in public school. However I read and watched TV documentaries on science, nature, and history and absorbed a fair amount of information over the years but I never got really serious about it, and pretty much took evolution for granted. This was not because I was an atheist (which I wasn't), but rather because I didn't see a conflict between the existence of God and the factuality of evolution. God could have used evolution as his method of creation, and I still feel that there is no necessary conflict between them.
Now, flash forward several years. I moved out on my own, met my future wife, and had a series of different jobs ranging from flipping burgers to driving a forklift at a mobile home factory (I would never buy a mobile home...), none of which were particularly satisfying. Then I got some training in printing (the subject of a shop class I had somewhat enjoyed in high school), and got a job at a mid-sized print shop. Printing is an OK job, somewhat tedious at times, but it certainly beats manual labor or asking if the customer wants fries with their meal. Anyway, once a press is set up and running the operator has time to chat with other press operators, and one day (cir. 1989) I was chatting with a new guy and somehow the subject of evolution came up.
My whole world changed that day.
As it turned out the "new guy" was a Christian fundamentalist and young earth creationist. Beliefs that my fairly liberal Christian upbringing hadn't exposed me to. He said things that flew in the face of everything I'd ever heard or read before. He was so certain and brought up so many things that I began to wonder if there might be something to what he was saying. I started to become concerned about how the scientists could be as messed up as he was saying they were. So I started looking into it, wondering if maybe there might be something to all this "creationism" stuff.
I looked into it all right! I started looking at creationist literature (as I recall Darwin's Enigma (1988) by the late Luther Sunderland was the first creationist book I ever owned, it was given to me by a pastor), and I also started looking the writings of scientists and at their responses to the claims of creationists. And the more I looked into it, the more pissed off I got. Claim after claim made by the creationists turned out to be distortions, half-truths and down right fabrications. Sometime this seemed to be due to innocent ignorance of how science works or of the facts. However, more often it seemed to be willful ignorance and occasionally even to be deliberate distortions of the truth.
I was incensed. These people who espoused a devotion to "Truth", who were supposed to be people of God, had attempted to mislead me. And though I had not fallen for it, many, many others had.
From then on I was hooked on the subject. I became determined not to let the misinformed and/or dishonest claims of creationists to go unanswered. I began reading scientific literature voraciously. I became a regular at the public library, looking for everything I could on the subject of evolution and creationism.
For a couple years I sort of wandered on my own, reading whatever I could find on both creationism and evolutionary biology (Kitcher, Eldredge, Gould, Dawkins etc.). This led me to not only reject creationism as a pseudoscience, but it also fired my skepticism about other claims and popular beliefs. Then, in 1993, I happened to hear an interview of Michael Shermer, of the then newly (re) formed Skeptics Society, and James (The Amazing) Randi on the radio (the Tom Leykis Show). They were on the radio announcing the rebirth of the Skeptics Society and its lecture series to be held at the California Institute of Technology, the first lecture to be by James Randi. Having read one of Randi's books I had come to admire him for his exposure of fraud and fakery, so I made sure to attend this lecture. While I did not join the Skeptics Society that day, my attendance did get me on their mailing list, and a few months later I heard that the Skeptics were going to have an all day seminar on the subject of creationism. Of course I had to go!
I sent in my membership (that way I'd get a discount), and signed up for the seminar. It was there I met my now best friend Don Frack (picture on left is of Don, cetacean paleontologist Dr. Larry Barnes and myself). Don not only had the (anti) creationism bug like I did, but also had an actual academic background in biology (a masters in zoology).
Through him I gained several biologist
friends (mostly entomologists), and learned a LOT more about biology, history of
science, and of course (anti) creationism. He
Finally Don introduced me to computers and used bookstores. My wallet has never been the same.
Once I was "on-line" (early 1995 and largely thanks to Don) I began to spend a lot of time in several discussion forums on CompuServe (the Math/Science, Dinosaur, Religious Issues, and Religion forums) and on the internet in general.
Since then I have become fairly well known as an anti-creationist. I am currently a member of both the Skeptics Society and the National Center for Science Education.