Saturday, January 23, 2010

Creationist Inanity

I've long switched from accepting the delusion of wishful thinking to the reality of science, but I'm still subscribed to the creationist propaganda machine Answers In Genesis's weekly newsletter. It provides me with at least a good chuckle now and then, but as time goes on it just gets more absurd. So, for my own enjoyment, I'd like to go through it piece by piece and show just how shallow their arguments are.

"Evolution requires death. At its core, Darwin’s postulate appeals to the power of death to remove those less able to survive so that the “more fit” can take their place. Natural selection, in this Darwinian sense, toils mindlessly on, removing individuals, populations, and even entire species. Whether something—or someone—lives or suffers, Darwinism offers only the cold machinations of time and death. Anything more would require existential purpose, after all, and that cannot be allowed."

It's interesting how creationists always use the term "Darwinism" as a pejorative, as though everything we know now relies on what Charles Darwin thought 150 years ago. Nonetheless, assuming for the moment that the term is synonymous with "evolutionary theory," we'll move on. Life requires death. Even in the so-called perfect Garden of Eden, you still have animals that require meat to survive (aka carnivores). Thus, no matter how you slice it, death is just a part of the world. The laws of nature and the laws of physics don't see anything special about death - it's just how the world operates. You may personally see death in a negative light due to your metaphysical perceptions or beliefs, but that doesn't change what is or should be. Everything that happens in this world is the result of "cold machinations of time" - it's just a fact. And who ever said that purpose is or isn't a part of evolutionary theory? Is there a purpose to stars forming and exploding in space, especially ones outside our short range of view? If not, then why should we assume anything more about the natural laws that operate on our small planet?

"Evolution, in an atheistic worldview, is morally neutral. When tragedies strike, evolution cannot tell us something is detrimental. Death, after all, can neither be untimely or tragic, since death is the means by which “progress” is made."

Another creationist assumption - that evolution is solely a part of an atheistic worldview. There are millions of Christians that do believe in the fact of evolution (and it isn't required for atheism either, just for future reference). Is it a tragedy when an ape, fox, or mosquito dies due to natural (or unnatural) causes? Progress happens when animals are born with more advantageous traits, not when living animals die.

"If we take the idea of “survival of the fittest” to its logical conclusion, it seems almost absurd for anyone who accepts the story of evolution to think of death as being the enemy. Whether through human actions, animal attacks, or natural disasters, what value can we attach to those lives if they are nothing more than “stardust” after billions of years?"

It depends who's putting value on the lives. Value is, after all, a human conception and not a physical variable. But again, it's not the death that is useful to evolution but the appearance of more useful traits that are passed along to new members of the population. To answer the rhetorical question, it depends what lives we're talking about. I don't, for example, place any value to the lives of bedbugs, mosquitoes, tomatoes, potatoes, or fish. I place a value on human lives and the lives of animals that I deem worthy for personal or societal reasons.

"In fact, the consistent atheist could even rejoice that nature has eliminated competitors for resources with the death of those unable to survive such events. Of course, few, if any, rational humans would hold this viewpoint, and atheism certainly doesn’t remove compassion. However, this is the ultimate fruit of Darwin’s anti-God philosophy: no death can be bad according to evolution."

They could rejoice. Or they might not. Whether people do or not has nothing to do with their views on a god. There is some beauty to be had in nature, but there is also some ugliness. I wish that viruses could be wiped out, that poisonous plants that could kill me would wither away, and that any animal that tries to attack me would drop dead as I punch it in the face, but nature doesn't care what I want. Atheism doesn't remove compassion because atheism is simply the lack of a belief in God - nothing more, nothing less. Darwin didn't have an anti-God philosophy any more than Galileo did when he discovered that the sun didn't revolve around the earth. It may contradict a literal interpretation of the Genesis story/ies in chapters 1 and 2, but that would at most make it an anti-God philosophy, not an anti-god one. Death can be good or bad, and it's especially bad in the case of my death.

This four-paragraph blurb is nothing more than an equivocating appeal to consequence and it even fails at that. Creationists are desperate to push their agendas on anyone willing to listen, but there's a reason nobody takes them seriously. That obvious reason is because the pseudo-science crap being shoveled out by the bagful at their website and museum is demonstrably wrong and is understood to be by anyone with a basic understanding of what evolutionary theory actually says. It's hard to believe that an organization like AiG continues to exist in an era where scientific information is so readily available to anyone willing to spend a few minutes reading. It's either ignorance or selective trust, but there's one thing I've always noticed about the informed - you can either be a Creationist or honest, pick one.

If you disagree, by all means leave me a comment.


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