Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy birthday, Darwin

Imagine it’s a birthday party, and Mom comes out with a great big, frosted birthday cake. She says, “Go on, cut the cake!

But the birthday boy says, “There’s no such thing as cake.

And Mom says, “Why, certainly there is, I’ve just put one in front of you!”

And our birthday boy says, “No, this is only icing. It’s not cake.”

“But the icing is part of the cake,” says Mom.

“How can icing be part of a cake? I thought cake was baked in an oven. How could icing have come from an oven?”

“It didn’t come from the oven – I never said it did. But it’s part of the cake.”

“No, Mom. The icing you’ve brought me proves there can be no cake.”

This is the kind of thing I see in Creationist literature. It never fails to amaze me. Utterly amaze me. These people are entirely happy to co-op the evidence only science could have presented to them to deny the conclusions that same discipline arrives at as a result. The same people who’d still be sitting around fires, explaining away everything as “God did it, God did it, God did it,” watch television, take trips on airplanes, gloried in moon landings, and have been saved by inoculations and CAT scans and transplants... at the bottom of it all, are really no different from people a thousand years ago. They’re medieval people who get to drive cars. Those who tremble at the lightning.

The same lies get published over, and over, and over, and over... you never see the rebuttals. They never stop stating the lie just because it’s been exposed as such. For instance, how many times do we have to hear about irreducible complexity? How many times does it have to be explained that yes, “half” an eye – in fact, anything even a little light-sensitive – is in and of itself a survival advantage, and one that can be built on, over time, generation after generation after increasingly-successful generation? How many times does the flagellum of a bacteria – supposedly “useless” if any one part is absent – have to be shown to actually be constructed of parts that do, in fact, have other uses in isolation (one part at the base, for instance, is used by other bacteria as a sort of syringe to inject toxins into target bacteria)?

How many times does the supposed violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, with regard to the Earth, have to be revealed to be an inappropriate argument, since the Earth is not a closed system (it’s powered by the sun, in an open system not subject to the Second Law)?

How many times do we have to hear that the oxygen on the early Earth would have destroyed amino acids? Of course there was oxygen on the early Earth; it’s the third most abundant element in the universe after hydrogen and helium. But it also has a notorious affinity for bonding with other atoms – so there was no free oxygen on the early Earth – it was all bound to other atoms... hydrogen, carbon, and silicon. Life itself creates molecular oxygen – the free oxygen Creationists say would have destroyed early amino acids – through the process of photosynthesis, combining water and carbon dioxide, both of which contain bonded oxygen. And it was an environmental poison till some of the microbes learned to use it... and their descendants, we, took over the world.

Most interesting is the claim about DNA itself. Four amino acids. Too complex to appear on its own (sure, if you believe in a world that was 6,000 years old as of last Tuesday, yeah). Had to be created. Apparently, over, and over, and over, and over for every form of life on Earth. Not just the same language, but the same words, same paragraphs – in fact, entire volumes in common creature to creature to supposedly-unrelated creature. Bring this up and it’s, “oh, it all works the same, so why shouldn’t it use the same information?” Which begs the question then, why aren’t all the copies identical? Why are there intriguing little differences – a genetic letter here, a genetic word there – that seem to suggest small but indicative copying errors over time?

The biggest joke of all is that all these “proofs” of Creationism – a doctrine that begs people to stop asking questions and simply believe – were furnished by a discipline in which men and women who had the courage not to just accept pat answers but to investigate the nature of things, and over hundreds and even thousands of years, to build up the knowledge necessary for people with a 12th century mindset to go on television, talk on the internet, and jet between continents to ridicule its conclusions. It would be hilarious if it didn’t make me despair for our future. Maybe the raccoons will do better.

I don't know whether there's a God (or gods) or not. I've never seen anything that really convinces me. The very proliferation of mutually-exclusive faiths around the world tends to make me suspect it's all made up to suit someone's purposes, and gets passed on generation to generation like language, music, and building styles. But this much I know: science has nothing to say on the existence of God. I think it's time faith paid science the same courtesy. If there's a God, He loves you whether you came from "a monkey" or the dirt that made Adam. But if you're going to drive a car and use electricity and watch probes land on Mars — if you're going to eat the cake — then please stop lying about the icing.

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