Thursday, 10 November 2005

The Kansas Board of Education

I need to make some declarations before I start talking about this.

  • I'm an Atheist, with scientific training.
  • I've never met a creationist, even amongst ordained ministers of the Church of England or alpha course God-Botherers.
  • I find it hard to believe any sane, educated human being could accept a proposition as ludicrous as "Genesis represents the literal truth"

I'm tempted to Ignore the Creationist argumet as so obviously stupid as to not warrant a responce. However, Given that a staggering 51% Americans think that God created man in his present form, and America controls over half the world's military power, this needs addressing.

  • All religions are, to some extent, Myth. To take a literal reading means that you lose the allegorical meaning of the text.
  • If you take the view that all is explained in Genesis, then you won't listen to reasoned, empirical argument; you are being, by definition, unreasonable.
  • Because a view is popular, that does not make it right.
  • Science should be taught in Science class, Religeon in Church. Surely, unresolved conflict is for the individual to work out as a free agent. After all, isn't that the point of temptation?

All of the arguments put forward by creationists can be dismissed in detail by anyone with a basic understanding of Evolution, if you can be bothered. Try going to answers in Genesis and knock over their philosophy. It's easy, but so's taking the piss out of French people. That doesn't make it any less fun.

Intelligent design is harder to knock over because they use reasoned argument not blind faith. But simply:

  • Why does an omnipotent, omnicient designer create a creature that snores? Snoring is a design flaw caused by quadrupedic evolution into our bipedal frame and is cited in more murders than any other reason*
  • The vertibrate eye has the rods and cones upsideown, with the result that the optic nerve runs over the retina and out through a "blind spot". This is consistent with a gradual evolution of light sensory epithelial cells developing into the Eye-ball, and certainly not evidence of an intelligent designer. Interestingly the Cephalopod eye does not have this flaw, indicating a convergent evolution of eyes, at least twice. If God saw the flaw and corrected it then Squid would have to have been created after man. Perhaps the bible should have been revealed to Cuttlefish. Maybe God is an Octopus.
  • Man's Hip, Knee, back, and shoulder joints are very badly designed, indicating an early stage in the Evolution of Bipedalism.
  • Women Die in labour more than any animal (except hyenas... more below) because of a compromise between the demands of bipedalism and the need to get a Huge head through a small hole. This is a design flaw which also means our infants are helpless for longer than any other animal. An intelligent designer would not force the baby's head through the Pelvis.
  • Hyenas need agression to survive the competition at a carcass, therefore females have high levels of Testosterone (as a result of adaptive evolution). If Pregnant, this turns female embryos male and emasculates male embyos. As adults, the big Hyenas with the swinging cocks are female, and the small ones with internal genitalia are male. The birth canal heads out to where a properly designed animals vagina would be, then does a 180 degree turn and the young Hyena is squeezed down a cock, resulting in huge numbers of deaths in first time breeding females.
  • This facet of recent hyena evolution demonstrates the hypothesis that evolution acts on the individual and not the species. This is a common misconception put forward by ignorant advocates of "intelligent design".
  • Finally, Why would an intelligent designer create the French and give them nuclear weapons?

I could go on, but I can't be bothered. Creationists can be dismissed as cranks (all 175m of them) and Intelligent designers are people who know their first choice philosophy is wrong and are trying to justify themselves. They will lose to reasoned, detailed argument.

*I made this statistic up


Momentary Academic said...

What I don't understand is when people can't reconcile religion and evolution. Why not just give a creator (be it God or whomever) the power of the big bang? I think that I'm a bit more forgiving of religion that you are, but I still don't quite understand why it's so difficult to accept that all species are related in some way shape or form?

But in the case of the Kansas board of education (or miseducation as the case may be), there are other factors which dictate this decision.

Jackart said...

That's the like Stephen Hawking and many cosmologists take.

The American Psyche is very poor at seperating issues which should be about personal choice from politics

Religion (perhaps because of the church/state thing)

Abortion, because most Americans have an Imaginary friend called God

Guns, because of a silly, misrepresented ammendement

Life/death (see abortion)

Drugs, because of a nasty puritain streak in American evangelical Christianity

Alcohol (see drugs)

Sex (see Abortion and Drugs)

I could go on, but I think this represents a sort of National adolesence. You'll grow out of it in about 200 years.

Momentary Academic said...

You have to spend some time here before you can make pronouncements about us. The truth is, most Americans don't even pay enough attention to the news.

You need to see America in order to get it.

Jackart said...

I think we need a neoglism which comes from Blog and Lynch (Blonch?) because that's what's going to happen to me after that comment isn't it!!

Momentary Academic said...

I was just about to write that my comment came off so much more hostile than it should have been.

We're really not that bad. Some of us a even cute and cuddly.

Momentary Academic said...

I meant cute and cuddly. Good lord, I need a coffee break. That's a drug, isn't it? :)

the lost message said...

I suppose I am one of those 'Alpha Types' you mention!

I don't have any scientific training but I have a degree in Relgious Studies and theology which might help.

You are so right about accepting Genesis 1-3 as literal. Utter madness. I don't understand the evolutionary science behind it all, but the text itself is obviously mythological, written later than most Christians would think and is more likely a pamphlet or theology against the beliefs of the Babylonians.

However I think you have overemphased the fact that all religion is myth. It is far more complex than that and the term myth needs to be reunderstand and redefined as a lot of people then think myth=not true. Again it is more complicated than that! However it is true to say the bible is full of mythological teachings - with Genesis being one of them. But whether it is TRUE id a broader and more complex issue as truth is a complicated concept (not just as simple as literal etc)

I really like your overview of the intelligent design argument here. Excellent points!

I am currently doing a brief series on Atheism on my blog. Does the Christain faith stand up to scrutiny and philosophical analysis? I am play devils advocate (the atheist!) but I would really appreciate your input!

Jackart said...

The Lost message,

Thanks for your input.

For a good overview of modern genetic and evolutionary thought, you could do worse than reading Richard Dawkin's book (i use the singular because "the selfish gene", "climbing mount improbable" and all the rest are the same book written half a dozen times). The man's an arsehole, but he does put evolutionary thought well.

I'll have a look at your blog and post my responce to your question there!

All the best


the lost message said...

Hi again,

Thanks for replying.

I have read the 'Devils Chaplin' which I found really engaging.

Alistar McGrath has written an interesting philosophical critique on Dawkins view called 'Dawkins God'(I think). He challenges the view that evolutionary theory leads directly and necessarily to atheism.

McGrath is an Oxford theologian but originally did a biology PHd (again at Oxford) specialising in similar areas to Dawkins. So he also citiques Dawkins ideas of memes etc.

liwo said...
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