Apologetics Makes My Head Hurt

If there was one trend that I could make go away, it would the so called “scientific proofs” that god exists.  These exercises are misguided sojourns that combine misunderstood or twisted science with bad logic swirling together  into a toxic stew that just makes my head hurt.

These exercises seem to be designed for the weak of faith and mind.  “Look” they say to people who are not sure what they believe, “God is just as proven as gravity!  You can believe and be smart at the same time!  No actual faith needed!”  When in fact, such exercises erode faith (faith doesn’t need proof, remember?) and they certainly are not designed for anyone who has any training in science, statistics or critical thinking.  empiricism

I came across a particularly bad example yesterday, a full blown migraine of execrable science and bad logic in the form of Steven Hemler’s book, The Reality of God: The Layman’s Guide to Scientific Evidence for a Creator.  Hemler appeared on the Drew Hystriani show yesterday and after only 20 minutes I was ready to inject oxycontin directly into my carotid to relieve the pain.

Hemler’s approach is particularly bad as it assumes that some level of evolution (both biological and astrophysical) has taken place, but that god has intervened in the process from time to time, a illogical chimera of evolution and intelligent design.

He started with the fine tuning hypothesis, which says that there are millions of ways the constants of the universe could have been arranged, but only the one we exist in has the proper constants that allow everything (and therefore us) to exist.  Wow!  What are the odds?  Out of all the possible ways to start a universe, ours is the only one that allows us to exist!  Well, duh.  Of course we exist in the kind of universe where we can exist.  Plus we have no idea of what happens to “non fine tuned” universes or how many possibilities there are.  Maybe they popped into existence and fizzled right out.  Maybe there were billions of big bangs that didn’t work out before the one that did.  No matter how improbable something is, if you have enough trials, it will inevitably happen.

After he finished with the fine tuning of the universe, he turned to the fine tuning of the solar system.  At that point I thought my Circle of Willis was going to rupture.   Our planet is just the right size, just the right distance from the sun, with just the right atmosphere, protected by the moon and magnetic field — what are the odds?  Are you kidding me?  There are 200 billion galaxies each with a trillion stars each.  Anyone who asks that horribly misunderstands probability.  There is a huge difference between individual probability and cumlative probability.

The odds of you buying a winning lottery ticket is something like one in hundreds of millions.  But with hundreds of millions of tickets sold, the odds of someone winning is a virtual certainty.   And what are the odds that the winner is a Christian who will credit god for the win?  Very high, of course.  Since a majority of people in this country are at least nominally Christian, and likely to thank god, the odds of god being thanked for a lottery win is not billions to one against (the probability of a single winner times the percentage of Christians.) but rather a virtual certainty.  Someone is going to win and it is highly likely they will thank god.  In the same way, we are virtually certain to live on a planet where conditions are right for us.  We can’t live anywhere else!

The very worst moment came when they were discussing the hypothesized creation of the moon when another protoplanet crashed into the forming earth, knocking off a chunk of the earth, forming the moon and the earth taking on more molten iron into the core from the other proto-planet (which is a real scientific hypothesis).  To hear Hemler say it, god said, “Crap, there’s not enough iron in the earth to make the magnetic field strong enough to make the Van Allen belts!”  And then flicked his cosmic pool cue to nudge another planet out of it’s orbit to fix the problem.   I feel another aneurysm coming on.

Hemler said that he uses the analogy of a sculptor and her chisel.  Natural processes are just god’s chisel to Hemler, but god is directing the processes at all times.  This is even worse than scientific creationism, as it destroys science as well.  Scientific laws?  Meaningless: god can violate them he damn well pleases, and he pleases all the time.  Hemler says that science and faith can coexist, but really in his view science is just a subfield of theology.

And speaking of theology, he saved the worst for last, a “new” “proof” that god actually exists, which turned out to be the second worst “proof” ever.

The worst is Anselm’s ontological argument, which says something like, if you can conceive of an almighty and perfect god he must by definition exist because not existing would be an imperfection.  Yes, it is basically that stupid.  You can see the whole argument here.  This argument has been refuted many times.

So the new version of Anselm’s argument that Hemler “credited” to Father Robert Spitzer goes something like this:  Human beings are constantly searching for perfect truth, beauty, justice and love.  Obviously we can’t find those things, but god is all of those things, therefore god exists.  It is just Anselm in disguise.  Lots of ways to refute it.  Personally, I am searching and searching for the perfect rib eye steak, therefore god must be the perfect cow.

Hemler further destroyed the argument by making it a circular special pleading  argument by saying that it was god who wrote those desires into our hearts.  So, the “proof” for god is the (pre)supposition that he wrote those desires into our DNA that can only be satisfied by him.  Excuse me, now I have added dizziness to my headache.  Besides, if he wrote those desires in our hearts and they can only be satisfied by him, how can he outlaw divorce?

Obviously in our mate we seek beauty, truth, justice and love.  But we are destined to be dissatisfied, so why let us get married in the first place?  To make us unhappy?  Thanks, again, Jesus.

Over and over again Hystriani said he was going to give this book to his atheist brother in law.  The brother in law will probably laugh his ass off.  This kind of crap is not going to convince anyone who is not already convinced.   Or very weak in the mind.  Or both. Right Drew?

I actually admire people who have actual faith in their god.  They really believe that god waved a magic wand and everything just appeared.  They say I can’t prove otherwise and they are right.  Such a thing is empirically unprovable and must be taken on faith.  And I say to those people, good for you, use your faith to move mountains.

But please, those of you with weak faith, all you apologists “defending” your religion with “science” and “reason,” stop.  Please, just stop.  You can almost hear the veins in the necks of apologists bulging as they grit their teeth and strain real hard, “I believe, I believe, I believe.”   Just like the audience clapping for Tinkerbelle.

“Look at all these great, wonderful, logical reasons for why I believe!”  As if all of that might add up to actually believing.  Oh, ye of little faith.  I pity you.

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Keep Your Bible Open: Sheep vs Goat Division

So, this is a major coincidence, on Monday, the gospel reading I am going to discuss caught my ear on the radio and I decided to write about it.  Before I could get my act together, in the book I am reading Bart Ehrman commented on the very same story.  Wow!  What are the odds?  God must be guiding my atheism!  So, you know this is going to be profound.

The gospel reading for Monday has Jesus talking about the final judgment.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

Now, call me shallow, but as I heard this, the thought that sprang to mind was “What’s so bad about goats?”  I could understand if he was going to separate the sheep from the wolves or sheep from the rats, but goats?

In a burst of what can only be considered a fresh breath of honesty, the priest who was reading this also noticed that there is nothing wrong with goats, but that the sheep, being born followers are what god is looking for.  In that case, I will go on in my goat like ways, thank you very much.

But beyond there really is a conundrum here, what does god really want?  If someone bought a farm that had both sheep and goats and the new owner slaughtered all the goats and burned them up, people would think they were crazy.  Goats give fine milk which makes great cheeses and I understand they are pretty tasty.  They don’t need much tending and will eat anything.  For the most part choosing between sheep and goats is purely personal preference.  Is Jesus saying that he and god are that capricious?  I like you better, so you are in.  You, not so much, eternal torment.  Gee, thank you Jesus.

Now, on the other hand, as Dr. Ehrman points out, there are in fact pretty specific criteria here.  But most Christians just don’t see it this way.  Pretty clearly in this teaching Jesus is saying, “if you did the right thing by the least among us, you are on the heaven train.”  Didn’t do the right thing and sorry, it’s the downbound train for you.  No belief test, no secret handshake, nothing.  Straight up actions.

Now Christians will pull out a number of other verses (which some how even though they say the opposite are claimed not to be contradictions) which say that, indeed, you DO have to learn the secret handshake and what you believe is just as (or in many churches way more) important than your actions.  I find the addition of “faith” as a criteria to be very troubling and frankly it makes god look bad.

What kind of justice looks at two people, who are doing exactly the same thing, feeding the poor for example, and condemns one and praises the other based on their philosophy.  OK, I suppose sometimes we see celebrities as being more about themselves than the charity they are supporting.  But would we really praise one person for doing good because of the golden rule and condemn another because they believe food is basic human right?  Either way, the hungry get fed.  Goats give milk, sheep give milk, are they really that different?

Seems to me that if god is going to reward people for their good works, and they are as self evident as the ones listed here, then he is pretty much irrelevant.  We can come to moral behavior through all kinds of ethical systems.   And since a truly ethical person would never do something purely for the external reward (because then you would be just like the celebrity above) the promise of the reward is irrelevant as well.

If, on the other hand it really is being good AND knowing the secret handshake, who would even WANT to be part of that?  God then becomes the celebrity with his priorities out of order.  “How dare you not worship me exactly the way I demand to be worshipped?”  I don’t care how good your milk is, goat, into the burn pit with you!  I would think even the sheep wouldn’t want to hang out with this guy, because you just never know when he might just change his mind.

On this same subject, Richard Carrier, says that a difference of one letter in the Greeks leads to two different translations of Luke 2:14.

The King James Version reads: “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The New Revised Standard Version (reflecting that more ancient versions read this way) says: “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]

Which leaves us with the same question.  Does Jesus save everyone or just the people that god already likes?  Maybe god is like a popular middle schooler, handing out favors to the people in his clique.

Kind of odd behavior for the supposed creator of the whole universe.

Let’s Get Back to Traditional Marriage

In the lead up to Valentine’s day on Irrelevant radio, Drew Mariani had a special guest on his show, Brian Barcaro, co-founder of CatholicMatch.com.  I found this interesting, as Mr. Mariani bills himself as a journalist, but in this case you have to wonder.  CatholicMatch.com is quite a prominent sponsor of Relevant Radio and Mr. Mariani himself does many commercials for the service.  In fact, he implores his listeners to check out the “special offer” that can be found at a subsection of the site which can be found using his name.  So not only does Catholic Match keep Irrelevant Radio afloat (in part) but they also presumably pay Mr. Mariani directly for his services.

Most news organizations would consider this a serious violation of journalistic ethics, giving someone a platform that you are making money from.  Making your show no longer any kind of “news” but rather a long commercial announcement.  Brian Williams was taken off the air for a much less serious breech of trust than this.  But never mind that.

What they talked about was how to reverse the slide in the number of people getting married.   To be honest, I didn’t listen to them, but I do know that Catholic Match itself is a clear symptom (and by no means a cure!) of what is “wrong” with marriage.

Turning to Catholic Match means that people feel that there is “no one” to marry in their home parish, their workplace, school or anywhere else they frequent.  No one who meets their criteria in their home parish, diocese or even their state.  So, they have to search the whole world.  You could say they are too picky, but the real reason is that yes, marriage has changed from the “good old days.”

Over and over again you will hear hosts on Irrelevant Radio pining for the good old days of marriage.  I guess what they mean is back when women were pretty much forced to get married because they no economic rights of their own.  In the good old days, your family dictated pretty much who you would marry.  In the good old days, shotgun marriages were common.  In the 1950s, between a quarter and a third of brides were already pregnant.

But now, pregnancy is not necessarily a reason to get married.  People are putting off the age of first marriage, and one reason is that wanting (and needing) fewer children people can get established in their career, save up for a house and of course, keep up the search for the “perfect” mate.  This is part of a trend that has been happening for some three hundred years now, the romantization of marriage.

I don’t want to get into the argument about how long people have felt romantic love (perhaps always) but it is true that in Western society, for a very long time, marriage was more about cementing family and economic opportunities than about love.  When parent and families didn’t flat out arrange marriages, the exercised very strong influence.  Stepanie Coontz points out that while such marriages might not have been “happy” they were stable in that the extended family and community were involved in keeping them together.

As marriage became more romanticized, it also became more unstable, according to Coontz.  And it is not hard to see why.  If marriage is supposed to make you happy, when you are unhappy (as often happens) perhaps you need a new marriage.  And so we saw in the 20th century.  When the divorce laws were liberalized in the 50s and 60s, there was a spike in divorces, which have since leveled out.  But still many marriages end in divorce.

At first glance, something like Catholic Match might seem to be a solution to the “problems” of marriage, but I would argue it is not.

First it raises even higher the idea of romantic marriage.  I don’t think it is any accident that the idea of a “soulmate” is becoming even more entrenched in our society.  One perfect creature with whom you will have a perfect relationship with, forever.  Online dating gives the illusion that you can find that one person in the world.  And what could possibly go wrong with that?

In addition to the over romantization of marriage, too many choices itself brings its own set of problems.  Studies have shown that when consumers have to make too many choices they “having to make too many decisions can leave people tired, mentally drained and more dissatisfied with their purchases. It also leads people to make poorer choices — sometimes at a time when the choice really matters.”  This probably applies to online dating as well.

And finally, online dating may be destabilizing from a community standpoint as well.  Since you are not meeting the person through any of your existing communities, that means you know much less about them, which can be its own problem (con artists, rapists, etc.)  But even if things work out, you may have people from different areas of the country getting together and the result ultimately destabilizing.  I had a friend who met his wife online, she was from Oklahoma and he from Wisconsin.  She moved up here for a couple of years, then they moved to Oklahoma.  Maybe this will last with one of them being away from their culture of origin, but one would think maybe not.

Maybe the cure for the marriage drought is to truly go back to the “good old days.”  For over a thousand years the Catholic Church™, Inc. basically was not involved in marriages.  There was no “sacrament of marriage.”  People got together in front of family and friends and said, “Let’s get it on.”  Or something like that.  England didn’t even start issuing marriage licenses until the late 1700s.

Contrary to what you might think, church and state were not that involved with marriage for over a thousand years in the west.  Maybe we should go back to that and let the people themselves decide when they are married and when they aren’t.

Spiritual but not Religious

First of all, I want to say that I have no idea what this phrase even means.  But I am going to guess that for most people it means some kind of belief in supernatural phenomenon.  But it is a phrase you hear a lot in current culture and statistics seem to bear out this kind of sentiment in the US.

The United States is generally viewed as very religious country and we are probably the only Western industrialized country with such a vocal fundamentalist movement.  But while the fundies may be loud, their influence is fading and it may well be they have boxed themselves into a corner that will further erode their influence.

In a recent survey, the US was found to be the 5th most “religious country” in the world.   However, this headline is misleading because the survey asked about belief in god, not religion. Recent surveys have found that around 20% of the population identifies this way.  Which explains why we are in the top 5 in in belief in god, but not even in the top 10 when it comes to religious affiliation.

There is another factor in survey data that has to be kept in mind, it seems that here in the US, religion is generally seen as a positive influence on society and so, when asked people may claim more religion than they actually do.  For example, for years Gallup has asked people, “Did you attend church last Sunday?”   Over the years about 40% of those asked said, “Yes.”  While the people actually looking in churches were wondering where all the people were.  Turns out church attendance is actually about half of what the survey data says.    Which means that going to church is still the “right answer” to give to people who ask.  Does that mean that all measures of religious actions should be cut in half?  Probably not, but it is something to keep in mind.

Personally, I am not anti-theist, but I do hope that more people will use evidence to make decisions rather than authority, or especially a 2000 year old book that most people hear about rather than read for themselves.  So, I am pretty pleased with the 2014 “State of the Bible.”

Lots of good news in there.  People are less likely to view the bible as sacred, down to 79% from 86% just three years ago.  The percentage of people “engaged” with the bible is exactly equal to the number of skeptics, and that number is only 19%.  Lots of people own bibles (the “right answer!) but very few read them (and keeping in mind the church attendance statistics, even less may actually read it than say they do). And the best finding of all is that the younger generation is more skeptical, with 39% of millennials never reading the bible.  Which personally, I think they should, the more you read it, the more skeptical you get.

And I think especially the fundamentalist position is about to get worse.  Now that Islamic fundamentalism has come front and center, it is becoming apparent that they share some, perhaps many beliefs in common with Christian fundamentalists.  I almost hate to make this observation, but I think one of the reasons President Obama keeps mentioning the parallels is for political gain.  It is like playing the Hitler card, “You guys (who just happen to be his political opponents) are a lot like ISIS.”  And sadly, he is somewhat correct.  Their fundamentalism might be directed at different gods, but philosophically they are similar.

And some on that side just don’t get it.  It is one thing to call for ISIS to be wiped out because they are barbaric killers.    It is quite another to declare a “Holy War” which implies they should be wiped out for what they believe (Islam) rather than for what they do (kill people.)  People like Bill O’Reilly don’t understand that by declaring “Holy War” on ISIS, they become just like ISIS!

The “spiritual but not religious” people do see that.  And I think it will further drive them further from religion.   Islam at the moment is showing the really horrible side of the fundamentalist worldview and even many, perhaps most, Christians reject that worldview.

Here is a series of blog posts by a Christian blogger arguing that hell cannot be part of god’s plan.  I agree with him and have made many of the same arguments.  But one argument in particular is very interesting and telling.  He says that since we have rejected torture as human beings (and label those, such as ISIS, who practice it as barbaric) how can god possibly send us to eternal torture.  Are we morally superior to god?

It is interesting because it applies ethical reasoning and applies a human standard to god.  Which I applaud.  Whether he got his reasons from the Golden Rule or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is somewhat irrelevant, because either way it goes beyond just accepting received wisdom.

Although I see no evidence (or need) for god, I understand that some people do.  My objection to religion is when it shuts off intellectual development, like creation science,  or social and moral development like Wahhabism.

I feel like the “spiritual but not religious” people are  seeking knowledge (or truth if you will) and this is a fully human drive.   The process of seeking, not “truth.”  I see them on the same side as me.  On the other hand most religions claim to have found the truth, full stop.  Cutting off the search denies this human drive and is a main reason I find myself opposed to most religions.

The Mormon Model

In my life, I tend to be a simplifier on the order of (I like to think) Occam’s razor.  Why have a complicated explanation when a simple one will do?  Sometimes, because of this, I miss the boat, but mostly it works pretty well for me.  I bring this up because I am currently reading,  The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave.  It is a series of essays about whether or not we can believe the empty tomb story in the gospels,  whether there are possible natural explanations for the resurrection story and so on.

Even though these essays are skeptical they still start from the assumption that something must have happened, even if the gospels don’t contain the whole truth.  Jesus’s body could have been stolen, buried twice (the second time in a mass grave), he could have not died on the cross, and many other hypotheses and speculations.  The background assumption of all of this is that something must have happened to make the early Christians believe as they did.  I have a slightly different theory.

Someone around the first century BCE pulled Christianity right out of his ass.  Might have been Jesus, maybe Peter and almost certainly independently by Paul.

Now, you can call it a visitation from god, a hallucination sincerely believed in, an honest delusion or conscious fraud, but either which way you want to see it, it all started inside someone’s head.  At one time in my life I believed that something amazing must have happened in first century Palestine to get all those people to believe.  Then I moved to Arizona.

I lived in Arizona from 1976 until 1983 and it was there I ran into a kind of creature I had never encountered before: Mormons.  Nicest people you would ever want to meet.  If you judge the validity of a religion by the behavior of its adherents, Mormonism looks pretty darn good.  High marriage rates, low divorce rates, very low alcoholism and drug usage rates.  Mormons are known for being squeaky clean, almost annoyingly so.

But when you look at their beliefs and the history of the church, things start to get a bit strange.  My other contact with them was through doing genealogy, which they are champions of because of their belief that people can be brought into the church after they have died.  Long after they have died.  And then there is Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, the golden tablets and other oddities.

The story of the founding of the church is colorful, to say the least.

Joseph Smith, who in other circumstances might be described as a  bit of a grifter, is visited by the angel Moroni, who eventually leads Smith to some golden tablets, which tell the story of the risen Jesus, who came to America to visit the native Americans, who are really a lost tribe of Israel.  Smith keeps the tablets hidden, at one point in a barrell of beans.  Apparently Smith didn’t read or write so well, so he enlisted some help in “translating” the tablets.  Of course he didn’t have have the tablets in front of him, he had two special “seer” stones which he held in front of his eyes while he buried his face in a hat and “read” out the text line by line.  One version has it that Smith and his stenographer were separated by a curtain while this went on.

Unfortunately, after dictating 116 pages this way, Smith allowed his stenographer to take the papers home, where they were promptly lost. So, Smith started the process all over again, but not before having a “special vision” that redoing this “translation” process would not result in exactly the same text as the one that was lost.  You know, just in case the pages were later found.  When he was done “translating” the angel returned and collected up the tablets, which have never been seen again.   Eleven people attested to seeing the tablets, but it is unclear whether they actually saw them or had visions of them.

After finishing the book, Smith started preaching his new religion and did not receive an exactly rousing reception and was run out of town, the first time in New York state.  He started moving west, preaching and getting run out of town, getting himself and his brother killed in the process. Finally the new church reached Utah, where there was no one to run them out of town.  They set up shop and pretty much took over the state.  They were so dominant in Utah that when the state is admitted to the union, the Mormons are forced to renounce one of their main teachings (polygamy) in exchange for statehood.  This will not be the last time they are forced to renounce a tenant of their religion publicly due to secular pressure.

Keep in mind that all of this happened in the 1800s, in the United States, not in some obscure backwater of the world before newspapers had been invented.  Apparently many people were killed in this western trek and there is quite a bit of debate of who did the killing and why.  It was in a lot of papers, but none of that seems to matter.  I doubt many people who, after meeting the nice young men in their starched white shirts go look up news reports from the 1830s.  Any more than Christian converts did in the second century to see if there was a death certificate for Jesus.

None of this stopped people from joining the  Mormon church.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints is now the fourth largest church by membership in the US.  It is considered to be one of the fastest growing churches in the country, with its membership having tripled since 1982.  As it approaches its third century of existence, they certainly have more believers than Christianity did after two centuries.  I realize that is somewhat of an unfair comparison, but still.

Many apologists for Christianity say things like “it must be true otherwise no one would believe anything so outlandish.”  Really?  Resurrection was just too bizarre a belief for first century Jews to latch on to.  And so on.  If you really believe that, explain Mormonism to me and why it isn’t just as true.

Now you might say that based on what we know, that Joseph Smith might not be the most reliable person.  But then again he claimed to do no more than Muhammud did, and that prophet has 1.6 billion followers.

And as for the bible: the only biblical author we know for sure is Paul, who seems a bit of a nutjob, first persecuting people for what they believe and then telling them what to believe–flip sides of the same coin.  And Paul says that he saw the risen Jesus in a vision, one that consisted of light and a voice.  Not very convincing.   As for the rest of the New Testament, we have no idea who wrote it and why they lied about who they are.

I think most rational people, even those who believe in the supernatural, would see the Mormon story as, to say the least, a bit ridiculous.  But I don’t really see any evidence that any of the holy books were written with any greater care or authority.  Logically you either have to accept them all or reject them all.  I choose the latter.

Science: The Grand Conspiracy?

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately that seeks to brand “science” as either faith based (just another point of view) or a downright conspiracy.  First of all, to get technical, “science” can be neither, because it is a method, not a “thing.”  But I will leave that point aside for just a second.

One of the areas where science is labeled a “conspiracy” is in the global warming “debate.”  To hear some commentators say it, scientists are a bunch of commies who hate capitalism and will make up anything to stop industrialization in its tracks so we can go back to some simpler time before corporations existed.  Could be, doesn’t sound right to me, but it is possible.  And science has one thing to say to those people: “Prove it.”

Science is a method that combines empirical data and logic.  If data and logic can bring down part or all of existing scientific knowledge, then so be it.  Here is an example.

Many people, including myself, have made the observation that some of what goes on in medical research looks suspicious.  Maybe, just maybe, drug companies are paying people off to do studies that look like science but are really designed to rubber stamp their products.  Lots of journalists have followed the money, as Woodward and Bernstein suggested and yes, drug companies throw around all kinds of money.  As they should.  But does that prove anything?  Maybe not.

So another group of people attacked science with science.  They made a hypothesis: If drug studies are rigged then some of the data must be missing.  So they went looking for that data and as a result, many papers have been published on publication bias.  That’s right scientists are publishing papers on how scientists are not doing their jobs correctly.  Because that is how science works.

Some scientists may not like it, but if using data and logic shows their work to be lacking, then lacking it is.  Don’t believe in global warming?  Find some data that says otherwise (checking carefully that this data hasn’t already been looked at, of course.)  Think vaccines cause autism?  Show me something more than a correlation.

Science is really a series of rules, not dogma, not faith.  If you follow those rules and you can prove current scientific knowledge wrong, you might even get famous.  There have been instances where, when first introduced, theories were thought to be totally wrong and were scoffed at.  Plate tectonics,  the dinosaur killing asteroid, and even global warming were all theories that got off to slow starts.  In each case, data and logic have convinced a majority of those working in the field that those theories explain what is observed.  Global warming did not come to be accepted by guys going on CNN complaining that the capitalist “non-warmers” were conspiring against them.

I will give half credit to the Creation Science people.  Whereas Old Style Creationism just ignored evidence it didn’t like (Dinosaur bones? Bogus tools of the devil!) at least the Creation Science people try to take real scientific data and fit it into their theories, even if they have to stretch it almost beyond recognition.  The results sometimes can be hilarious, but they are, at least part way, playing by the rules of science.  That is they have laid out their theory and supporting evidence out in a public forum.  Good for them, it is more than most global warming skeptics have done.  The only reason they are not fully scientific is that they will never, ever let the data overturn their theory.

Science is self correcting because in science, ultimately, data modifies theory, not the other way around.  Are there scientists hanging on to old beliefs and holding up progress?  Probably, they are human after all.  Are there scientists out to destroy people’s faith just for the fun of it?  Maybe.  People sometimes do things like that.

But is “science” out to destroy faith?  No.  It is following the data where it leads and considering the progress we have made in the last 200 years, where it leads is amazing.

Ken Ham — Darwin’s Greatest Friend!

There was a time when creationism almost made sense.  Old Style Creationism was pretty simple, with a simple defense that played well to simple people.   God created everything just so, from pandas to penguins to pachyderms.  Sure you could argue with his choices (black flies?) but each animal and plant worked in its place in the world because god put it there.  Easy Peasy.  And the flood?  Well, maybe it was local or something.  No big deal.  Evolution?  Tool of the devil, stick your fingers in your ears, ” la la la.”  God said it, we believe it, end of story.  Nice and neat.

Then along came the Ayatollah of the Appalachians, Ken Ham, and the “Oh ye of little faith” crowd.   They set out to PROVE Genesis, not take it on faith.  And thus was born “Creation Science.”  Being neither theologians nor scientists they had no idea the can of worms they were opening.   Basically they don’t seem to see that you can tell people to believe any crazy shit and they either will or won’t, but it depends on them, not the story.  But proving something is another kettle of fish entirely.

Anything that can be proved can also potentially be disproved.  You have to present actual evidence.  And while people may still believe in spite of bad evidence, it might also be found that the evidential house of cards collapses, and you can’t go back to “just believe.”

It could very well be that Ken Ham is providing us with a great public service by moving the bible squarely into the domain of science and thus showing how silly it really is.

For example, the Sensuous Curmudgeon turned up the nugget of the old word monkeys.  Standard evolutionary theory says something like old world and new world monkeys evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago, and that separate species came from groups being isolated from each other.  Sometimes, biologists will have trouble detailing exactly when and where groups got isolated and speciated, but this is not a major problem for the theory.  After all we are assuming small changes accumulate over a very long period of time.  It is actually very easy to imagine.

Now, Old Style Creationism would say, “Bushwa, God created some monkeys over here and some over there, each perfect in their place 6,000 years ago.”  Period, end of story.

But Creation Science with it’s Grand Unified Theory of Genesis, has a different story.

So, a thousand years after god creates all the animals in their places, he decides to kill them all.  NIce.  What did the animals do?  Oh, never mind.

So, those new world monkeys in South America get the notion (from where?) that a catastrophe is coming (monkeys are smarter than people?) and they start heading for the Ark (How do they know where it is?  If monkeys know the flood is coming, why aren’t people all over the place building arks?)   Actually, even though there are lots of different species of new world monkeys, there are five families of these primates, which the CS people see as “kinds.”  So, ten monkeys (2 of each “kind”) set out to walk from Central and South America to Israel.

This is actually pretty easy because, before the flood (according to CS), Africa and South America are connected as Pangea, just like in the real world.  Somehow, our intrepid monkeys arrive alive at the ark, are checked in and put in the monkey section.

Finally the rains come and waters come out of the earth and somehow manage to cover the entire surface of the earth to a depth of 15 cubits higher than Mount Everest.  Now, I am not even going to ask how water not in a basin manages to stay on the face of the earth, or where it came from or where it went.

Once again, somehow our ten intrepid monkeys manage to survive a year on the ark.  Fortunately they are small, so they don’t each too much monkey chow, but for a year?  Really?  Not a single animal dies?  Finally, the waters subside and the ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat somewhere in Turkey.  A year floating around with no sight of land whatsoever and they only got as far as Turkey?  Never mind.  We are only talking about the monkeys here.

So, Noah opens the door (or not) and the animals all pile out onto Ararat.  Noah tells them “good luck” and starts planting grapes so he can get hammered — and who can blame him?

So, our five “kinds” of monkeys set off again.  For South America.  Which the flood has moved away from Africa into its present position.  Poor monkeys!  Oh, and one would presume that the earth has been denuded of vegetation: what plants can survive a year under 30,000 feet of water?   So, I am not sure what the miracle monkeys would have eaten.  But off to the new world they trek.

They walk back home.  How do they know which way to go?  And they must have walked pretty fast, because they didn’t leave any New World Monkeys in the old world.  And then, somehow, they managed to swim across the Atlantic, so that a little less than 5,000 years ago ten miraculous monkeys arrived back in the new world.  When they arrive, these monkeys get busy — really, really busy!

Cottontop Tamerin

First they have to split into species.  For example, from the two surviving members of the Callitrichidae “kind” there are now some 35 species (and probably more yet undiscovered) running around the jungles.  Creation Science says those two individuals are programmed to be able to morph into different species over a couple of hundred years depending on their environment (Wait, animals change because of their environment, and that is not evolution?).  So, at some point there was say, a pair of cotton-topped tamarins wanders from their sea side home, and walks hundreds of south to Brazil and in a couple of generations, poof!  suddenly  black tufted marmosets are being born.

Black-tufted Marmoset

And somehow this makes more sense than Darwin?  Really?  Over 100 species of new world monkeys all came from ten miracle monkeys 5000 years ago?   So, species are like breeds of dogs?  Oh wait, we have been breeding dogs for 10,000 years.  And dogs really are the result of “intelligent design,” that is to say, human beings.   All these species of monkeys had to be preprogrammed by god and that program had to run by itself, because there was no “re-creation” after the flood.

There is your “proof” that Genesis is true.

I think Ken Ham has done the world a great favor.  He has tried to prove how Genesis could have really happened.  The resulting mess shows how reasonable the science really is.  Thanks, Ken, you’ve done us a great public service!  All praise Ken Ham, Darwin’s greatest friend!