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Among The Creationists

Dispatches From The Anti-Evolutionist Front Line

Jason Rosenhouse

Evangelical christians see themselves as a tiny island of righteousness adrift in a sea of secular evil. Bible-denying science, acceptance of homosexuality etc were tools of Satan.

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Shorn of emotional arguments, nothing remains apart from gross scientific errors, which is why creationisms biggest failures have come in the courtrooms and universities.

Author says that when tells colleagues of his little hobby (going round the various anti-evo meetings) commonly ask three questions: "Are they stupid? Why do they accept modern science when applies to technology and health, but reject it when comes to age of the Earth and origin of species? and, Why do they put so much faith in the inerrancy of the Bible?

Many of the specific facts that science has uncovered, evo in particular, are very difficult to reconcile with a traditional Christian view of the world. Trad Christianity teaches that human beings are the intentional product of a God of infinite love and that He created the world specifically that we might live. Science tells us that we are the incidental by-products of a lengthy process of evolution by natural selection, and that this process is wasteful, violent and cruel.

Many believe that the existence and the attributes of God can be inferred from nature. In principle you should be able to find scientific evidence of an intelligent designer, if not the Christian God specifically. You wd expect the natural world to be the place to find evidence of a supernatural designer. It is significant that no evidence has been found.

Science is based on the idea that all theories must be judged by evidence. There is ultimately no room for proof by authority ("It's true because I say so"). This makes it very difficult to think of faith and revelation as reliable routes to knowledge. (Not impossible, as shown by fact that there are scientists who are also Christian, but difficult, as shown by the dramatically lower rate of rel belief among scientists as compared to populace as a whole.)

Author has problems with the doctrine - ideas that don't make sense. That the Earth is superintended by an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God is a tough sell given the ludicrous quantities of rottenness in the world. Then add to that idea that Jesus was God in human form, lived a blameless life, and died on the cross for sins that I wd commit thousands of years later. And there is a gruesome afterlife awaiting those who don't sign up for the program. How do people believe such things?

People claim the Bible is "The Word of God" yet there are many other books that are superior repositories of wisdom and moral insight.

We are told that God exists outside of time and that to him past present and future exist simultaneously. You can write those words, but can anyone actually picture what they mean? He is pure spirit but he can interact with matter in dramatic ways. He knows everything that everyone is thinking at every moment in time. Which raises question - how does he not get bored? When nothing can surprise or challenge him, how can he maintain his interest in anything?

We have two options. We can either think that the sorts of natural forces that have explained about 99% of everything are also adequate for the few puzzles that remain. Or you can invent a supernatural being and saddle yourself with a collection of conceptual problems far more difficult than any of nature's puzzles.

Creationists ignore the huge library of books and studies that have been produced over past 150 years. It is really difficult to believe that a gifted amateur is going to come up with a fatal flaw that has been overlooked by generations of scientists.

Creationists see "evolution" as a synonym for "anti-God". To those Christians who long ago made their peace with evo, the suggestion that they are somehow against God is perplexing.

Scientists think that evo is a useful explanation, not a world-view.

Creationists dismiss research with a glib phrase, disregarding the detailed work supporting scientists findings. For example, one of most complete pre-human fossil skeletons is "Lucy". Creationist literature asserts that she was "just an ape". But that simply isn't true. One study looked at 36 anatomical characteristics of Lucy. Of the 36, 14 were ape-like and 22 were human-like. Of the 22, 12 were found on the spine, pelvis and leg bones and could therefore be classed a relating to changes in walking - ie Lucy walked more like a human than as an ape. The other 10 are found on the jaw, teeth and shoulders and represent changes in what could eat and how could throw things. The data thus supports the hypothesis that Lucy is anatomically partway between an ape and a human/ She is clearly not an ape.

Information theory. Creationists assert that it means you need an outside source to start info transfer, and that it cannot be increased, and that mutations always reduce information. But genetic info gets increased all the time - during replication DNA sometimes gets doubled - an extra copy is made. This copy is then free to accumulate mutations while the original carries on doing its original job.

Evo is a lousy craftsman - everywhere you look you see kludges, cobbled-together designs, and left-over bits of stuff that was once necessary, but is now obsolete.

Bible literalists concerned that evo eliminates Adam, and so there was no Fall. Biology and paleontology demolishes the idea that death due to sin, and so no need for redemption.

A range of opposition - as well as YEC's, there are those who accept the age of the Earth and some who accept evo for animals, but reserve humans as special case. Still others accept evo, but see God as controlling the mutations which gave rise to humanity. The problem there of course, is that evo works just as well without a driver a the wheel.

Many IDers attack creationists because of their poor scientific arguments and because their extreme fundamentalism subverts the ID message. In turn, the creationists are hostile to the ID camp for leaving God out of the argument.

Dover trial verdict. ID is not science. It fails on 3 different levels, any one of which wd be enough to disqualify it as science. (1) ID violates the centuries old ground rules of science by invoking supernatural causation. (2) The argument from irreducible complexity (that some part of an organism is so complex that it's precursors wd not have been an evo advantage), which is central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's (the argument that if I prove that something is not black, then it must be blue, or whatever I say it is) (3) ID's negative attacks on evo have been refuted by the scientific community. The judge also said it was important to note that ID has not been accepted by the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, and it has not been able to be tested or researched.

Evolution is godless only in the way that gravity is godless, or plumbing is godless. Agricultural scientists find it more useful to explain crop failure in terms of fertilizer or water or pests rather than God's curse on the land for Adam's disobedience.

Science says shd exclude supernatural explanations, but that just leaves room for ID'ers etc to claim that scientists have closed minds and are setting the rules to prejudge. Instead, shd simply point out that supernatural explanations are bad science, in that they have always failed.

Michael Behe's argument that some bits are "irreducibly complex" - specifically, that they wouldn't work until all their bits were in place, and so any precursors wd not have worked. The immune system, the blood clotting cascade, and the flagellum of certain bacteria.

YEC hostile to the idea of a world before Adam and Eve, because the fall is their explanation for the evil in the world. Idea that no death before Garden of Eden. Christians who accept age of the earth and/or evolution have to find another explanation. Many people troubled by the amount of suffering in the world, and how that fits with an all-powerful and kind God. When Darwin pushes that suffering back millions and millions of years, that means billions of animals must have suffered pain, terror and death, supposedly so that, after a huge number of species have gone extinct, there may emerge a species with the special powers that enable it to worship the Creator.

Philosopher David Hull:the God implied by evolution and natural history is not a loving God who cares about his productions. The God of Galapagos is careless, wasteful and indifferent. He is certainly not the sort of God you'd want to worship.

One solution to this problem is to say that we simply can't understand God's purpose. Our dog doesn't understand why he has to suffer trip to the vet for shots, but we take him because our understanding is much greater than his. But the problem that if horrific evils happen because there are greater goods known only to God, then how can we have any confidence in our own moral judgements?

Some argue that natural Selection was God's chosen mechanism for arriving at humans. Yet it is quite obviously not the only option for creating humanity, just as Noah's Flood was not the only way God cd have (temporarily) wiped out the sinners.

Some suggest that the obvious errors in facts in the bible due to God having to explain things in simplified terms, as you would to a child. Yet is it reasonable that a God who could see the future would not have known how confusing and destabilizing it would be in 2012 to have stuff like Genesis, which clearly didn't happen. From the point of view of modern science, it appears to be a complete fabrication, rather than a simplification.

Throughout the NT, Adam is treated as a historical figure, and his sin is explicitly presented as the reason why Jesus had to be sacrificed. So if Adam is mythical, where does that leave Jesus and the central dogma of 'dying for our sins'?

Genesis is quite probably a purely human invention. Biblical scholar David Harlow has compiled a list of common factors between Genesis and other contemporary myths. Almost every major theme, from an initial garden paradise to a flood and to clothing as a symbol of civilized life, can be found in stories from other Mesopotamian civilizations.

Author argues that it doesn't make sense to see God as 'co-author'. More plausible that people have a profound experience of God, and then write it down as well as they can. The biblical authors have provided powerful accounts of their experiences, imperfectly expressed in the idioms of their day.

Once upon a time, Adam and Eve, and concept of Original Sin were our best explanation of human behaviour. But that explanation is no longer tenable. Today, such knowledge we have of why humans act the way they do, comes entirely from sources apart from religion.

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