What do the Creationists want with you?


’Christians’ show­ing the love. Photo (cc) Jordan Thevenow-Harrison

Ed Darrell has set a tough prob­lem. How do you solve the Texan edu­ca­tion crisis? If you haven’t been fol­low­ing this, the Texas Education Authority has forced an employee to resign because she sent round details of a talk debunk­ing Intelligent Design. The TEA has stated it’s neut­ral on whether or not chil­dren should have good edu­ca­tion. It’s the latest round of what, in the­ory, is the argu­ment between Science and Intelligent Design. It isn’t really. Everyone knows that Intelligent Design is second-rate Creationism. However I don’t think the argu­ment is between Science and Creationism either. If it was then the debate would be as dead as phlogiston.

Even the pre­tence of a debate plays into the Creationists’ hands. This allows them to frame the argu­ment as Science against Christianity. Yet if you look at the argu­ments it’s clear that this isn’t about Science. It’s about power. It won’t be power over sci­ent­ists — they’re con­strained by real­ity. It’s power over Christians that’s the issue. Answers in Genesis is quite open about this. Creation mat­ters because it’s about evangelism.

That has to be a prob­lem, because it’s not evan­gel­ism to gen­eric Christianity. There are no gen­eric Christians. There are Orthodox Christians, Catholics and vari­ous minor sects. In the case of AiG it’s evan­gel­ism for a very spe­cific fun­da­ment­al­ist form of Christianity. They state:

The 66 books of the Bible are the writ­ten Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerr­ant through­out. Its asser­tions are fac­tu­ally true in all the ori­ginal auto­graphs. It is the supreme author­ity in everything it teaches.

Yes, accord­ing AiG, the Sun doesn’t cause day­light and could come out at night if God thought it would be use­ful. There’s a lot said about the inerr­ancy of the Bible. Sadly there’s noth­ing about the fal­lib­il­ity of those who read it. Now you may be infal­lible and know the mind of God. Congratulations if this is the case, but it makes you part of a minor­ity. A few minutes con­ver­sa­tion will reveal that most other people don’t have the clar­ity of under­stand­ing that you do.

Indeed, a lot of Christians accept they don’t have all the answers. Most of the com­mit­ted Christians I’ve met are as hon­est, decent and char­it­able as any­one else. Their reac­tion to the uni­verse is one of awe and humil­ity rather than cer­tainty. I think they make a mis­take nam­ing that awe ‘God’, but they seem to con­sider the mind of God unknow­able. When Creationists take the label ‘Christians’ for them­selves they pre­sume to speak on behalf of these people. That reveals amaz­ing arrog­ance, but they have it in good sup­ply.

So how do you debate these people? I strongly sus­pect you can’t debate them with sci­entific or his­tor­ical facts. You can’t debate them using basic logic. They’ve been immunised.

The way I would choose to debate this is to tackle what the cre­ation­ists plan to do if they win. See the place Sherri Shepherd makes for people who think dates in BC refer to the time before Christ? That is the same space she has for people who don’t share her spe­cific off­shoot of Christianity. Will tran­sub­stan­ti­ation be taught as fact in Chemistry? It has exactly the same amount of evid­ence as Creationism, so if not why not? It’s not a frivol­ous ques­tion. What Catholics call Christ’s blood, the sec­u­lar law of Ireland calls alco­hol, and it could lead to drink-driving. It’s not just a gen­eric God that’s being put into classes, exactly whose God is it? What role will this God have in the local gov­ern­ment and in the law?

The Creationists know exactly what role their God will have in Texas. They know how they plan to deal with any­one who doesn’t share their view of God. The real debate is about who will be allowed to ques­tion Authority in Texas. There’s noth­ing spe­cial about sci­ent­ists, it just hap­pens that they’re at the top of the list as their jobs are based on ques­tion­ing Authority. The best response for sci­ent­ists to cre­ation­ists is to make clear that sci­entific debate is impossible because cre­ation­ists have noth­ing to debate with.

Despite the claims of cre­ation­ists and the wishes of some athe­ists, Darwin didn’t prove that God didn’t exist, but what he did do was show that God was not neces­sary to explain the vari­ety of life. That opens up a lot of ques­tions. Darwin showed that everything could be ques­tioned, includ­ing the reas­ons for the exist­ence of everything liv­ing. He showed that the world was not static and there was no neces­sity to believe in a world where the places of rich and poor were divinely ordained. Despite the recent attempts of an actor front­ing a titanic ‘exposé’ of evol­u­tion to smear him, he opposed slavery. His work has polit­ical implic­a­tions. It requires a ques­tion­ing atti­tude, and that’s not accept­able to people who don’t want to be ques­tioned. That’s why they offer noth­ing to ques­tion and that’s why they want to encour­age chil­dren to know when to stop ask­ing awk­ward questions.

If you know what the Creationists want with you, you’ll know why Darwin matters.

Creationism comes to Flickr


After a request by Pappa Cambria, there’s now a Creationism group on Flickr.

Duane Gish
Duane Gish card cre­ated by Pappa Cambria.

Membership is open to every­one, so you can add your own cards. Sometime before next Darwin Day I plan to write up the rules for Creationism: The Card Game (or CreationismTCG if I get car­ried away). I’ve got a fairly well fleshed-out idea of how it would work, and it won’t be a Magic rip-off. There’s a nod to Netrunner though.

Briefly the game will be Creationist versus Scientist. The Scientist’s goal will be to gain 30 cred­ib­il­ity points, which ends the game. The Creationist’s aim will be to gain as many cred­ib­il­ity points as pos­sible before the Scientist wins.

The full match will be two games, with the play­ers play­ing once as Scientist and once as Creationist with the win­ner being the player with the highest aggreg­ate cred­ib­il­ity. The Scientist player will gain points by pub­lish­ing papers and books. The Creationist player will gain cred­ib­il­ity by get­ting reli­gion into schools or inter­fer­ing with the Scientist’s cards.

Spotting Design

Experimental Archaeology
Experimental Archaeology. Photo (cc) Wessex Archaeology.

I wish I was as good an archae­olo­gist as Michael Egnor claims to be. Egnor has recently writ­ten on the Antikythera Mechanism from a cre­ation­ist point of view. To be hon­est I dis­agree with some of it, the words mainly, but the spaces and punc­tu­ation on the other hand seem sound. Christopher O’Brien has given the words far more atten­tion than they deserve, so if you want a cri­tique of the pro­pos­i­tions ((It took me half an hour to choose that word. Facts as the blog entry makes clear wouldn’t have been the right choice)) then it’s a great read. What I find dif­fi­cult is the repeated claim by cre­ation­ists that you can simply see design.

It’s a com­mon claim. When fun­da­ment­al­ists Cameron and Comfort are notexhort­ing people to stick banana-shaped objects into their mouths they make claims like: “If you stuck a group of sci­ent­ists in a room with a paint­ing then, with noth­ing from the out­side world, they would con­clude there was a painter.” Now I don’t think they would. I can­not simply see design in com­plex objects, so are the cre­ation­ists wrong or am I thick?
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Is the Heart of the Universe is Satanic?


The Neurophilosopher points to a web­log with a very spe­cial grip on reality.

Blogs4Brownback is a site ded­ic­ated to put­ting Sam Brownback into the Whitehouse. Brownback seems to be an inter­est­ing can­did­ate adher­ing to the motto “A faith isn’t for life, it’s just for Christmas”. He’s moved from Methodism to Catholicism and now, if Blogs4Brownback is to be believed, he’s chas­ing the Satanist vote.

The clues are fairly blatant. He’s anti-abortion and pro-war clearly to curry favour with his new mas­ter who wants to see suf­fer­ing. The web­log shows him bar­ing his teeth in a satanic grin through a van­dal­ised American flag charred with brim­stone. And now he’s arguing that chil­dren should be taught that the uni­verse revolves around Satan.

The logic is fairly simple. As Dante made clear Satan lives in the heart of Hades deep in the under­world. Blogs4Brownback add the innov­a­tion of per­vert­ing Biblical scrip­ture to pro­mote Satan. The Earth, they argue, is fixed and immov­able in the Bible, thus the uni­verse revolves around it. Except when it gets pudgy and goes for a run around the Sun. Brownback is also an advoc­ate of intel­li­gent design which is a Satan-friendly form of Creationism.

Ah no, it’s not linked from the Brownback cam­paign site. Presumably it’s a spoiler to blacken his name. Amusing though.

Then Why Are There Still Humans?

...then why are there still humans?
Original image by vj_pdx.

I’m busy today, so I don’t have time to put together the Darwin Day post that I’d like to. In the mean­time here’s another Creationism card. I’m start­ing to get an idea of how a game would work, so tent­at­ively there might be more cards up and a work­ing game for the next Darwin Day.

One reason I’m slightly rushed is that I spent time catch­ing up on Origins Revisited, a Radio 4 series look­ing at the updated evid­ence for Human evol­u­tion. You can listen to all three pro­grammes via the archive.

Missing Links


It’s been a while since I made one of these. However Slash_Gordon was kind enough to com­ment on the Charles Darwin card. In par­tic­u­lar he notes:

Another funny thing Mr. Dawkins, it doesn’t work. The miss­ing links that are still miss­ing make that obvious.

He has a point.

Missing Links

Actually it might not be a logical tru­ism. Someone with stronger logic than I might be able to cor­rect that.

Is Steve Fuller anti-religious?


Pondering the Question of Existence
Is the per­son on the left non-existent or anti–exist­ent? Photo by TheAlieness►GiselaGiardino

I’m not act­ively look­ing for people to argue with, how­ever PZ Myers has drawn my atten­tion to an essay by Steve Fuller on Chris Mooney’s book The Republican War on Science, which is eccent­ric. There are many bet­ter cri­ti­cisms of the art­icle than I have time to write. There’s not a huge desire to think about it fur­ther though, because, if Steve Fuller is right, then his own art­icle is over 8000 words of anti-religious polemic.

The reason I come to this con­clu­sion is from this passage:

Just as the ACLU helped to drive a wedge between the teach­ing of sci­ence and theo­logy, the Discovery Institute would now drive a wedge between the teach­ing of sci­ence and anti-theology, or ‘meth­od­o­lo­gical nat­ur­al­ism’ as it is euphemist­ic­ally called.

When I’m writ­ing a lec­ture on some­thing like mech­an­ics I leave God out of it because it’s not neces­sary. I also leave cus­tard out for the same reason. In this sense sci­ence is athe­istic (and acus­tardic) because there’s an absence of gods. But I didn’t see it as anti-religious (or anti-custard) because it doesn’t have any­thing to say on the exist­ence of Gods (or cus­tard). Fuller argues that this isn’t merely an absence of super­nat­ural agency – the action of leav­ing Gods out of explan­a­tions is inher­ently anti-religious.
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