Muslim Creationism

A few days ago, I found a book in my mail box. It was made from glossy, high-quality paper, some 300 pages thick and titled The Evolution Deceit. Since it’s no secret that I have disdain for pseudo-science, especially when it serves to spread religion, I thought a friend was poking fun at me, giving me a fake book, or a well-made satire. After all, even at a cursory glance, it hits all the wide-eyed creationist highlights and the introduction reads like something straight from The Onion.

[…] the theory of evolution constitutes the underpinning of a deceptive philosophy that has held sway over a large number of people: Materialism.

Now, that is high satire. I mean, come on – claiming that a natural order can become an ideology is funny. I wish I had thought of that.

However, I quickly found out that not only is the book real, it also represents a tragically inept attempt at spreading religion:

  • First, the book is peddling Creationism. Here in Switzerland, levels of education are high, and only a few stubborn half-wits believe in the literacy of ‘God created Adam from clay, and Eve from a rib’. The potential audience for this kind of book, the occasional US ex-pat aside, is minuscle.
  • Then, as I was stunned to discover, the book is selling Islamic Creationism. This is astonishing for the simple fact that unlike Christianity, Islam never had a problem with evolution. So this book first creates a problem where none exists, and then tries to sell Islam by solving a non-existing issue. And if this wasn’t enough, Switzerland is a predominantly Christian country, with very little sympathy for Islam. So if you do find someone stupid enough to believe in creationism, they’d already be a Christian.

If you want to sell that kind of crazy here, I don’t think that you could pick a worse combination than Islam and Creationism – even if you wanted to.

The book itself is pretty much what you’d expect from someone foolish enough to try and use ‘science’ to disprove Evolution: misrepresentation (‘Darwin claimed in Origin of Species that Whales evolved from Bears’), misattributions, false assumptions, misdirection, really bad math (these Creationists sure love miscalculating probability), outright slander (my favorite: ‘Darwin is responsible for Hitler, Nazis and Communism’), allegations of conspiracy against ‘alternative’ science, and of course mountains of suggestive evidence that has been taken out of context. It doesn’t help that the author is also a conspiracy theorist and – this is a first – has both denied and affirmed the Holocaust.

But why am I writing about a deranged, scientifically illiterate or dishonest author who is prepared to lie in order to sell his religion? After all, there are tons of those, and nothing of what he writes is original nor noteworthy.

It’s not so much the fact that yet another scientific ignoramus is sacrificing his integrity on the altar of his imaginary master. It’s this: the book has enormous production values: high quality paper, lots of good photos and illustrations, impeccable layout, and well translated. The production values are higher than most school books I’ve seen recently, and it is distributed for free (I was wrong – no friend dropped off that book; everyone on my block got one as unsolicited mail).

I find it unsettling that someone would spend this amount of money to produce and distribute a book dedicated to undermining knowledge, reason and science. This book undeniably looks and reads better than most academic books I read at university. I’m worried what it could do to a poor community where real science books are difficult to come by and where people have little means to discern science from hateful claptrap.

This book wasn’t written to educate, to better this world and humanity. It’s been written, produced and distributed to prey on unsuspecting people; to infect minds with a divisive, dangerous ideology, disguised as science.

It serves as yet another unwelcome reminder of the fact that there is no evil that fundamental Christians do that Islamists won’t imitate.

Pagan Robertson

Scotsman, priest, and designated head of the Free Church of Scotland, Reverend David Robertson, like so many of his profession, ventured out onto the thin ice of reasoning, only to promptly slip and slide.

Worried about the children at school, the good Minister contends that the SSS (Scottish Secular Society, an acronym that can be delightfully enunciated like the hiss of a serpent, no doubt) wants nothing less than

impose an atheistic philosophy on children

Well, perhaps. Others may say that they merely want to remove hate-filled ideology from classrooms, but let’s not quibble over semantics. After breaking through the ice of reason, Robertson is delving deep into the abyss of stupidity:

Could we not have a more tolerant and Christian view of science? And could we not encourage children to think about the issues for themselves, rather than just tell them what to think?

Wow. Don’t let this guy near a school board. There is only one view of science, and religion does not have a say in this. There’s no Hindu Science, nor Buddhistic Science. Facts aren’t subject to religion. Nobody, neither child nor adult, gets to decide what a fact is. Facts aren’t democratic. Didn’t you watch Penn & Teller’s routine [at the 10:25 mark] where they tried to decide the sex of a white rabbit by voting? No matter what they voted, that vote did not change the rodent’s sex. It’s the addled-minded condition that priesthood and too much burned incense induce that makes you believe that you can impose facts. Everyone else knows that facts are not up to vote nor personal decision.

Worse, Robertson – obviously not a man to read much outside the bible – also overlooks the problem of practicability. If we really were to teach creation myth alongside science, the year would not be long enough to teach the 1200 historic creation myths known in Eurasia alone – not to mention those from Australia nor the Americas. So I suspect that Robertson doesn’t really want children to choose from a broad range of myths. He wants their intellect to be drowned in the Abrahamic blood-fest called ‘Old Testament’.

Robertson indignantly continues:

It is desperately disappointing that secularists believe the key danger in 21st-century Scotland is apparently creationism, not the 20% of Scottish children who live in poverty, nor the many thousands who have faced the ravages of sexual abuse and drug addiction.

Perhaps. But why is the Reverend wasting his time on this issue rather than helping the impoverished 20 percent? His ways, it seems, are as mysterious as those of his god. And please note that I refrained from an all too obvious snark involving the church and child abuse… ah, bugger it.

Robertson’s distress and disappointment may also have been heightened by a speech the day before from his Vatican competitor, astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno, who went on record likening creationism to ‘a kind of paganism’.

Ouch.

I’m godlike!

The Intelligencer published a new entry written by David Bereck today that makes you really question the ‘Intelligence’ bit. Titled ‘So you think you are an atheist…’, the article trots out some of the silliest and, well, stupidest arguments against atheism. If I didn’t know better I thought the author was trolling.

Do the people who practice atheism actually know what they are putting their faith into? I hope that more atheists take an interest in learning more about what they think they believe.

Can you be any further off the mark? Of course you don’t understand atheism if you think of it in terms of a religion. People don’t practice atheism. Atheism is absence of practicing religion. It’s like the idea of a vacuum that some people can’t get their head around: how can there be nothing – there has to be something. David seems to be having similar difficulties with the idea that not believing in gods really does mean that the concept of gods vanishes from our thoughts. That it’s become a non-issue.

David’s understanding of atheism in other people is influenced by things he himself believes to exists. He believes a God exists, hence he concludes that not believing in the existence of Gods is also a belief. But it makes no sense to try and enumerate the infinite number of things that we believe do not exist. Let’s instead look at what we believe that does exist. What differentiates you, David, from us is that in addition to the many beliefs we share, you also have a belief in gods. From that perspective it becomes understandable why the term ‘practicing atheism’ becomes a non sequitur. One can’t do things by not doing them.

Some atheists will not even know they have to use a lot of faith just to believe that from nothing … came something.

Perhaps it does require some faith. Yet somehow believers fail to grasp that it takes even more faith to believe essentially the same plus the existence of a magical all-powerful creature. But I think it’s important to point out that most atheists merely say ‘well, I don’t know what happened. Let’s see what the scientists can come up with’. ‘I don’t know’ is a much better, and more honest, answer than ‘I know that God did it’.

The other point of common sense is that chaos doesn’t result in order. If someone were to put all the parts of a Lamborghini in a garage and then threw a bomb into the garage, you wouldn’t expect to find a perfectly designed Lamborghini to drive away.

Yup, the good old 747 ‘Jumbo’ Jet analogy. So David probably read a Creationist book. Yes David, you are correct – except no-one ever said they believed that they would. What we actually believe is more likely by orders of magnitude than ‘God did it’, and it doesn’t require any magic at all. Perhaps you should invest some time to actually understand what scientists have to say about this.

The second point that chaos doesn’t result in order proves that even if I was wrong about the Big Bang Theory, there is no possible way an explosion (chaos) would ever be able to create a universe with such tremendous order.

No, David. It merely proves that you do not understand the laws of thermodynamics, and probably fail to grasp the scale of what you are talking about. It’s not as if it’s not understood how galaxies condense (order from chaos). It’s readily observable even today. There is no faith involved in believing something that elementary. It seems you are questioning not just the Big Bang, but matter accretion and other fundamental, well understood processes. That would be unwise.

I encourage people to question atheism because when you really look at the details from a different perspective, you have a much wider range of understanding.

And yet, strangely, you propose a much, much simpler solution: all this was created by a god. Complexity? God did it. Life? God did it. Universe, Stars, Planets? God did it. Your understanding is much narrower than a worldview that allows ‘I don’t know – let’s find out’ for an answer. You are not proposing that people open their minds – you advocate credulity in millennia-old superstition. It’s not a perspective that is difficult to understand, nor does it enrich understanding. It’s a bit like the Santa Claus myth. Everyone understands where it comes from. But it will in no way broaden our understanding of the world if we believed they were true.

David closes with

Personally, I am glad to be artistically created in the image of an awesome God rather than being the cousin of some slimy thing that crawled out of the ocean.

And that’s pretty much it – David prefers to think of himself as an image of a God who has a special purpose for him – rather than facing the possibility that his existence is mere happenstance, and that he is of no consequence at all. His belief, it seems, serves to elevate his self-esteem.

Darwin = Hitler

And here we go again. Dumb as doornail ‘Discovery Institute’ (DI) are trying to scientifically ‘prove’ that science leads to immoral behavior. This time around, they have drawn a line between Darwin and Hitler, claiming that the Holocaust is a direct result of Darwin’s theories. Citing a film by Dr. Richard Weikart called “Darwin to Hitler”, based on his book of the same name and funded in large parts by DI, their argument goes as follows:

Natural selection was the guiding idea for Hitler and the Nazis. … the term [selection] was related directly to Darwinian terminology that when you went to the camps, you went through a selection process. They were selecting this person to survive and this person to go to the gas chambers.

And that’s their complete line of reasoning. Just what did this ‘Dr.’ get his title for? I bet it’s not science. Darwin discovered the principle of natural selection. The grisly scene Weikart describes is unnatural selection, the exact opposite.

[slow clap]

Bravo.

Alien Hell

You just have to admire the dogged, willful stupidity of the advanced Creationists. Ok, Ken Ham has built a business around not understanding science; yet he manages to successfully walk the fine line between being a complete idiot and religious businessman.

He now has managed one of humanity’s first: he’s earth’s first antixenoc; he’s the first human who hates aliens (the extra-terrestrial kind) for irrational reasons. So our hat is off to Ken for unlocking the ‘alien hate’ accomplishmnt.

As the Huffington Post reports, Ken states that

You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. […] This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.

So not even Jesus can save E.T. With that, aliens are even worse off than us uncouth atheists. While we can change our ways, repent, and be welcome to his god’s paradise, all aliens are bound for hell.

Yet it requires some special bravado to come up with Ken Ham Caliber reasoning. All aliens are bound for hell because they are not descendants from Adam and Eve, yet they are affected by original sin. Now, this would usually raise some eyebrows, as intellectual pedestrians like me think that Original Sin applies to all descendants from Adam and Eve. This is because, well, Christianity – when they invented the concept based on Romans 5:12–21, 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Psalm 51:5 – has always maintained that it applies to all descendants of Adam and Eve. It does not, for example, apply to animals. Hence Ken’s assertion that ‘the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe’ is somewhat out of this world. The Bible itself never mentions Original Sin; it’s a construct developed in Lyons during the second century. Perhaps Ken merely forgot to take his meds?

But does Ken really have an alternative to crossing into rational Never-Never Land? Let’s turn the question around. Let’s say SETI is successful, and we contact an alien race. Now, if the benevolent Christian God exists, these aliens will get to heaven because they are not tainted by original sin – they have no blood line (if they even have blood) to Adam and Eve. So aliens get a free pass to heaven, while the humans that God allegedly loves so much must toil all their lives to gain entry.

Now, that would make humans look really, really bad, and definitely puts a dampener on the ‘chosen race’ belief, doesn’t it? So in order to restore the balance, Ken somehow implicates all aliens – who weren’t present at the scene of the crime – as coconspirators. They are now guilty of something humanity did. And somehow, his benevolent and just God would agree with that.

At least Ken has already managed the difficult art of alien logic.

Atheists believe!

It’s exploiting a linguistic imprecision, they know it, and it’s driving me nuts. Ray Comfort and the rest of the lunatic creationist fringe in particular. The word ‘believe’ has two very different meanings, and intellectually dishonest apologists have been mining that particular vein for personal gain.

When a believer states ‘I believe in God’ what they are saying is ‘I have faith that God exists’. It is the first definition of believing: to accept something as fact with no, and sometimes in spite of, evidence.

When someone states ‘I believe (in) evolution’ what they are saying is ‘I have been persuaded by evidence to accept evolution as a valid explanation’. It is the second definition of believing: to accept a statement as true, i.e. after being convinced by evidence and fact.

I believe that most apologist know this. I believe they don’t give a damn.

Now, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

Is rape wrong?

Is rape wrong?

That question was raised a couple of days ago by Darek Isaacs, a Creationist author. In an interview that would even make “Divine Banana” Ray Comfort’s eyes water, Isaacs stated that

You have to start asking questions: Well, if evolution is true, and it’s just all about the male propagating their DNA, we had to ask hard questions, like, well, is rape wrong?

For the intelligent, atheistic reader I must note that questions of this kind are common in the world of believers, and apparently aren’t simple to answer. For example, a few weeks ago, St. Lois Archbishop Robert Carlson said in his deposition on child rape that he’s

not sure whether I knew [that sex with children] was a crime or not.

So it seems that devout believers do have an issue with discerning ethical behavior unless you bang them them about the head with the bible. In Isaacs case, though, repeated banging may have led to permanent damage. He states that studying the works of “purveyors of evolutionary thought” like Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens caused him to reach a “very, very dark place” that forced him to ask a lot of “hard questions”.

Well, first, it would seem that the “dark place” he found was his intellect – it’s switched off. Because, seriously, anyone who thinks that “is rape wrong” is a hard question must be short a few chromosomes.

Of course, Isaacs is not quite that dumb, if only by very little. Because after using ‘logic’ he concludes that people who ‘believe’ in Evolution must answer that question with ‘No’, hence Evolution is untrue.

Well, Derek, here’s another approach to ‘scientifically’ disprove atheism:

“If you believe in Gravity, and there was any substance to atheism, it must be Down With Atheism”

Since you already proved that Dragons exist, maybe that can be the central thesis of your next book.

All about Eve

For some time I’ve been wondering why religious nutjobs (a.k.a. Young Earthers and other religious literalists) are so dead-set against evolution. For a long time I thought it was just because they are stupid. Well, although their belief certainly is stupid, it turns out that they have no other choice.

You see, ‘Original Sin’ is an important concept of Christianity. It means that all humans are automatically guilty of sin, and need to believe in God/Jesus to be saved. According to Genesis, Adam & Eve rebelled against God, making everyone who descends from them a sinner. And the Bible teaches that all humans descend from Adam and Eve.

Now, modern evolution estimates that 60’000 years ago, when modern humans emerged, the population was around 2’500 individuals of mixed ancestry. This means that humanity does not descend from a single couple, but a much larger pool of individuals.

So? Is it of any importance if there was one or one thousand Eves?

Yes.

The concept of original sin only makes sense if all adams and all eves disobeyed god – at the same time.

Nevermind, a pragmatist may say – so Original Sin is out, lose it. We good?

Nope. That’s where the nutjobs run into a problem: Jesus allegedly died to save us from Original Sin. If we drop it, his death was rather pointless, if not downright stupid.

If you ask me, that may be the reason he returned three days later.

Observational vs. Historical idiocy

Aside from the documentation HBO produced, some Creationists are actively trying to spread their idea of ignorance over fact. That is required in order to claim with a straight face that there is scientific proof that the whole universe is only 6000 years old, and that the story of Genesis, as narrated by the Abrahamic Bible is literally true.

In a recent debate, Creationist Ken Ham asserts that instead of science, we really have two kinds of sciences: ‘observational’ and ‘historical’. The ‘real’ science Ken claims, is the ‘observational’ one, with ‘historical science’ being a lesser discipline. To someone who doesn’t know what science is, his words may even make sense.

Alas, they don’t. Ham simply tries a semantic sleigh of hands, hoping that his audience doesn’t know better. He even tried this in the debate. He asserts that the word ‘observational’ is closely linked to ‘eye witness evidence’, hence ‘observational science’ is science where you see the result with your own eyes.

Now, in science – and in court – evidence from eye witnesses is generally regarded as the least reliable form of evidence. Need I really detail the eye witness accounts of UFOs, Yetis, Loch Ness Monsters and Alien Abductions? No, the human eye, memory and mind are easily fooled.

The brouhaha surrounding the issue of ‘observational’ science results from Ken’s deliberate misrepresentation of what the words ‘observational’ and ‘historical’ mean in scientific terms. The truth is that all scientific evidence is observational, including indirect evidence that can’t directly be seen with your eyes. Paleontologists never saw a living dinosaur – but they observed their remains, and deduced, after correlating lots of similar evidence, how these animals looked and lived. That knowledge then was used to predict future findings, most famously when paleontologists predicted that they should be able to find smaller dinosaur remains in the footprints of Argentinosaurus huinculensis. And they were, equally famously, able to deduce how fast such a large beast could walk.

So why the false distinction? According to Ken, only experiments that can be reproduced in a lab should be accepted as ‘observational science’, all other is ‘historical’. Any science dealing with the past is therefore merely conjecture, not science. So if a scientists comes up with some findings in a lab today that nevertheless touches upon something of the past (say age of Earth), Ken is now free to dismiss that as ‘historical science’, and, therefore conjecture.
Plus, that’s where the Bible comes in. For everything in the past, we should use eye witness accounts, and Ken asserts that the Bible is full of accurate eye witness accounts. If all historical science is conjecture, he argues, the Bible is as accurate as the Big Bang theory (not the series).

Put that way, it’s actually quite pathetic. Too bad so many fall for it.