A Deeply Seeded Misunderstanding

Whenever I feel listless, a passing depression, I can always go to AiG to inflame my passions (the floweriest way to reaffirm my living, if only to be angry at people purposefully misrepresenting my views, and the views of my peers).

To wit, this article that misses no opportunity to misrepresent the views of a very large swathe of the scientific community. Claiming evolution is a god of the gaps, and claiming that a high school biology professor would be stumped by a question as simple as “How does biology work?” To be fair, that last point may be less a show of weakness in the Theory of Evolution so much as it is a weakness of the public education system in certain regions. That’s neither here nor there, I suppose, just incidental.

To claim evolution is a god of the gaps shows either blatant willful ignorance or malicious intent; no one can live in the 21st century and display such a wild misunderstanding of evolution, and of the scientific field in general (though I recognize that I am being optimistic at best). The author draws frequent parallels to common “god of the gaps” terminology, repeatedly claiming that a professor of microbiology will answer any query regarding evolution with “evolution did it,” an obvious parody of “god did it.”

I recognize that there are many well respected scientists who will say that there was no supernatural agent involved in Creation, as a strong prediction rather than a hypothesis, but it seems even to me that the fairest conversation between the greater scientific community and the Creation science community would start and end with “Why do you fight science? If your God did it, will we not find his fingerprints as we move closer and closer to the answers we seek?”

The Creation Science movement had their hypothesis written for them several hundred years ago, and have decided that there is no room for improvement, studying all evidence through that lens, trying to come to a conclusion that was already written. Science does make hypotheses, and even makes strong predictions, but evidence that does not fit the hypothesis is (ideally) not bent to fit. The hypothesis is modified, and experimentation continues. Humans, of course, will attempt to justify their own hypothesis and bend evidence to make it fit, but that highlights the importance of blind peer review.

I think a fairly pure hypothesis, without the biases on display here, is this: “Life likely began via a natural process of which we are currently unaware.” Now we try to find what the process is. If we find God, then God it is. If we find another process, it is very easy to predict the line of the YEC; God kicked it off. When we find the process that started biology, they will claim God created chemistry as a precursor to biology. If we find out the mechanism of how the first matter formed, we will be told that God created the laws of physics to allow chemistry. When we find out how the laws of physics formed… Well, I don’t know where the goalpost will move to, but I will likely be dead by this time, and smarter people than I will be carrying this debate on.

That is the ultimate weakness of the YEC; the dogged reliance on a bronze age text, and the constantly moving goalposts make it seem almost like children who constantly change the rules to make sure they win. Now we enter territory that is almost quintessentially American; the idea of the flip flopper. No, I am not accusing the YEC to do so, that would be silly.

Evolution is the core of a flip-flopper, and that is not an insult. Based on what you know, you make a call. Then if the information available changes, so does the call. This is not a weakness, this is prudent. If you stand by something in opposition of all evidence, “on principle,” you have erred greatly–and yet, as the documentary “Outfoxed” showed constantly, changing your vote as information changes is apparently shameful to certain demographics in the United States. I believe, truly I do, that young earth creationism has taken root in the United States because of the fertile soil that praises strong predictions, and for some reason demonizes changing your mind. Science seldom makes blind strong predictions; you need evidence. Science is a shifting field, admittedly, because evidence is constantly changing. Scientists are getting better, getting smarter, coming up with ever more ingenious experiments and tests… To compare science in the 21st century to Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species” (as the YEC movement often does) is incredibly disingenuous. We know more than Darwin did, we have better data collection than Darwin did, and as the saying often goes, “we stand on the shoulders of giants.” We do not take Darwin’s work wholesale, we have improved on his ideas, refined the field. We have, to use the American colloquialism, flip flopped–but we did it because the evidence required it of us.

And the fact that the YEC will stand on a single hypothesis against all evidence… That is the true weakness.

There is one line that shows the true misdirection of the AiG writer more clearly than any other. “Evolution makes no useful contribution to scientific and technological advances.”

You see, the YEC will tell you that adaptation, not evolution, is the mechanism that makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics. They will tell you that adaptation, not evolution, at play when a new strain of a deadly virus comes into play.

Adaptation is evolution, and I still can’t even begin to understand how the mind of anyone can so fully ignore the very idea of evolution that they are completely blind to the fact that they admit that evolution is the mechanism by which every living thing operates.

The only part they disagree with, it seems to me, is where it all started. As science moves closer and closer to the answer to that question, it is only a matter of time until we watch them pick up the goalpost and move it again. And again. And again.

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Arguing Against Invisible Opponents

A lot of the animosity that exists right now between Atheists and the Christian sects in North America is just poorly aimed propaganda that causes undue inflammation and fighting.

To say something similarly obvious to the previous statement, water is wet.

That being said, despite it being obvious, Christians and Atheists keep fighting in the public arena and it is truly bothersome–especially when they show they are self aware, but do it anyway. That is a topic for another day, I fear; the point I am making here is that too many people don’t understand what they are fighting–a grave breach of Sun Tsu’s Art of War. Know your enemy as you know yourself.

I am given to rhetoric, but I want any Christian reading this to know that I don’t truly consider them an enemy–but in debate, I think, it is more important that you understand your opponent’s side than it is that you understand your own in many cases.

I have not had a conversation with a Christian who actually understands (or cares to understand) what exactly it means to be an atheist; to the most evangelical, the very idea of understanding an atheist is somewhat absurd, and that is a problem (Romans 1:18-23 and all that). Conversely, the issue with atheists is that many of our side generalize all Christianity as backwards thinking (at least, the most vocal members do), or those that admit much of Christianity is net positive still think of most Christians as “the enemy.” (Ominous music plays.)

The thing is, in most cases (please note the wording, I did not say “in all cases”), atheists are not debating Christians and Christians are not debating atheists. Both sides are debating their own idea of the other side, and not listening to each other (though, admittedly, no one is ignoring the rest of the world as well as the modern US YEC movement is ignoring literally any dissenting voice). It makes me sad when I read something like this.

This Christian, in a nation that is VASTLY majority Christian, seems to feel that she is truly persecuted, and that Fox News is her only place of safety and trust. To quote, “Roger Ailes’s Fox News has succeeded in no small part because he doesn’t treat Christians as though they’re Darwin’s missing link.” No, Ms Author, Fox News does not treat Christianity like a missing link–Fox News treats Christianity like the only link. You might think this positive, and Fox News’ viewership numbers would certainly corroborate that, but the issue is that ignoring minorities is kind of similar to persecuting them in the exact same way you feel persecuted. But it’s ok, I suppose, for Christians to persecute those evil atheists who murder babies; after all, Christians are the majority, therefore persecution is TOTALLY ok, so long as it is pointed at the minority.

Where have I heard that idea before? Eh, I’m sure it’s not overly important.

Another article by the same author advocates teaching Intelligent Design in schools, due to the fact that ID is not Creationism with a God, it is just the hypothesis that the universe was created by an intelligence that may or may not be God, therefore, TOTALLY NOT RELIGIOUS. The article was written in 2005 and ID was fairly young at the time, so I almost gave the disingenuity of the article a pass before I recalled that the author was still citing that article in her current works. To claim that ID is totally free from Christian (or other) religious influence is an outright fabrication these days, or any day, really.

You know what, though? I am fully aware of the irony of what I am about to say, but I don’t have many people I know who would fill the gap of evangelical Christian…

I feel like we could solve the issue much more easily if we would stop posting Op-Eds and blog posts and actually… You know… Spoke with each other. I mean, it might be crazy, but it could work (maybe) even better than shooting blindly at where we think the other person is.

“But what about the Nye vs Ham debate, and other debates?!”

Those aren’t conversations. Nye and Ham worked within the rules of the debate to completely ignore each other in favor of trying to convert a straw man to their side; that is kind of how debates work. To be fair, that is kind of how they are supposed to work–but they aren’t exactly the right tool.

I don’t know, sometimes I just wish I could sit with a strong evangelical Christian and have a conversation. I have in the past, but I was too immature to use it for the opportunity it truly was at the time. I think I could have a better, less adversarial conversation if I tried again today. If only my younger years (like… At least a year or two ago!) hadn’t poisoned the well, so to speak.