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Bill Nye vs. God
September 9, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Bill Nye recently described in a Youtube video why he thinks that Creationism is inappropriate for children. Representatives of the Creation Museum have a response.
posted by Betelgeuse (221 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, it goes OFF THE RAILS at 2:15. And with such little fanfare. Just...wow.
posted by spacewrench at 8:26 AM on September 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


Well, on the one hand, Bill Nye is a scientist and correct. On the other hand, these boring wrong people made a video too.

It's mystery wrapped in an enigma. Will we ever know he truth?
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on September 9, 2012 [104 favorites]


I have a response to the Creation Museum, but it's not a particularly Christian one. Unless "eat a bowl of owl fuck" is hidden away in Philippians 4 somewhere.
posted by delfin at 8:32 AM on September 9, 2012 [98 favorites]


"Obvs the Bible is true, people saw that shit happen," is like the anti-Rashomon defense.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:34 AM on September 9, 2012 [33 favorites]


"The United States is the place where most of the innovation still happens"?
posted by Catchfire at 8:36 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


People, if we work together we can make the bowtie a symbol of cool science peple and not pretenious toadying.
posted by The Whelk at 8:37 AM on September 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


In a science textbook you won't find "animals need oxygen to survive" on page 10, and "animals DON'T need oxygen to live" on page 400. The Bible, on the other hand...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:37 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does anybody know what the "lack of a mechanism to gain genetic complexity" claim even refers to? Both myself and a handy biologist had no idea.
posted by jaduncan at 8:37 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


And to prove evolution is totally false I'm now going to rub this 2 gallon container of beans all over my head.

So you see, evolution can't be true when compared against the weight of available evidence.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


Is this the same Creation Museum that had to make videos for everything in their displays (because they presumed their audience wouldn't want to or be able to read anything) and then hired porn stars to act in them?
posted by trackofalljades at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Creationists should be required to teach them all if they want to force the issue.
posted by Brian B. at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2012 [25 favorites]


"do we start with man's ideas of the past... or do we start with the Bible? The written revelation of the eye witness account of the Eternal God who created it all?"

It's like they're not even trying to act like scientists.
posted by SollosQ at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


I really, really want to read the "eyewitness account" of the deity burying all those fake dinosaur bones whilst giggling.
posted by likeso at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2012 [37 favorites]


Right up in the beginning, the female scientist says that one of the holes in evolution theory is that there is no mechanism for increased complexity. I read in a Dawkins book (The Ancestor's Tale), that sometimes there are genetic anomalies like duplicated chromosomes that don't harm the organism but create a twice-as-large palette of potential random genetic changes. So there's that mechanism for increased complexity right there.
I feel like the main thing creationists lack is an appreciation for the concept of billions and billions of years.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2012 [53 favorites]


The two videos are a good representation of their respective philosophies.

On the pro-science video, there is loads of heated debate for and against. There are many people doing their best to explain and justify their views. Sometimes they do it politely and reasonably, sometimes they do it inappropriately. Either way, there is more information out there from which to make an informed decision.

On the creationist video, comments are disabled.
posted by CaseyB at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2012 [128 favorites]


Is this the same creation museum that put saddles on dinosaurs? Because shouldn't they realize that people didn't even saddle horses for thousands of years? Not until fairly recently even...
posted by Chekhovian at 8:40 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because shouldn't they realize that people didn't even saddle horses for thousands of years?

Teach the controversy.
posted by griphus at 8:41 AM on September 9, 2012 [20 favorites]


Right up in the beginning, the female scientist says that one of the holes in evolution theory is that there is no mechanism for increased complexity. I read in a Dawkins book (The Ancestor's Tale), that sometimes there are genetic anomalies like duplicated chromosomes that don't harm the organism but create a twice-as-large palette of potential random genetic changes. So there's that mechanism for increased complexity right there.

Even a point mutation of a single nucleotide can increase the amount of information in the gene pool. Populations evolve, not individuals.
posted by jcreigh at 8:44 AM on September 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


The creationmuseum obviously rips off the visual aesthetic of the Big Think videos, with the stark white backdrop and the bright orange logo in the top corner.
posted by hellomina at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was something I really lied about the tv series Rome. At one point Caesar rides in, totally sans saddleas would have been the case.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, the creation museum is absolutely right in the first clip of their video, creationism is absolutely not unique to the United States.

"The United States is the place where most of the innovation still happens"?

Yup, we still have all 25 of the top 25 research universities in the world, though that is indeed rapidly changing - particularly with California's abdication of its resposibilities to its kids.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


My primary response to the Creation Museum video was sympathetic embarrassment for those two people's PhD-granting departments. How they must be wishing they could rescind degrees retroactively!
posted by RogerB at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


How do the people at the Creationism Museum explain agriculture?

There are basic facts that 99.999999999% percent of literate people accept which require evolution. And not even in a sort of "well if you major in biology in college you will come to understand" sort of way. Like basic rational thought. How can we turn teosinte into corn if god designed all life to be exactly how it is? How can we get a chicken with bigger breasts or a tomato that will grow in colder climates without evolution being real?
posted by Sara C. at 8:46 AM on September 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


I really, really want to read the "eyewitness account" of the deity burying all those fake dinosaur bones whilst giggling.

And giving baleen whales pelvic bones just to screw with us.
posted by Huck500 at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


> "Does anybody know what the 'lack of a mechanism to gain genetic complexity' claim even refers to?"

After many years of being slammed by the argument that of course genetic mutation can cause viable changes, since we can observe it bloody well happening, Creationists aiming for a veneer of science-sounding noises have started claiming that this is "microevolution" which can only cause a "loss of complexity" and it's only "macroevolution" that can cause an "increase of complexity" that never ever happens nuh-uh 'cause we said so.
posted by kyrademon at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


[Folks, this thread only exists if you basically stick to the topic and don't use it as a place to insert your generalized simmering religious resentment. Please? Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 AM on September 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


The creationmuseum obviously rips off the visual aesthetic of the Big Think videos, with the stark white backdrop and the bright orange logo in the top corner.

What, a creationist copying the stylist and presentational details of something while completely ignoring the underlying intellectual theme? I AM SHOCKED.
posted by jcreigh at 8:49 AM on September 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


On the creationist video, comments are disabled.

Dr. Georgia Purdom on this:
On several occasions people posted that I was being a coward for disabling comments on the YouTube video and for deleting comments and banning them from my Facebook page. One person said, “Disabling the ratings and comments on your video on Youtube, while Nye left his open to discussion and debate, shows a lamentable degree of moral cowardice on your part.”

Am I a “moral coward?” First of all, if the person who posted this is an atheist then he has no ultimate foundation for morality and is being inconsistent with his worldview by trying to judge me according to his moral standards (see my article on this for more information). So am I a “coward?” A coward is defined as, “a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.”

The position I take as a Christian and as a scientist on the authority of the Word of God should be sufficient to show I don’t shy away from doing “unpleasant things”! People in the secular world and many in the Christian world (those who compromise on the authority of the Bible) want me to deny biblical authority, and they have essentially shunned me because I won’t. I’ve “ruined” my professional scientific career in the eyes of the world because of my stand. I’ve become accustomed to doing what the world considers “unpleasant things.” Suffice it to say, I’m no coward.
Sidenote: Unsurprised the scientific career is dead, and it makes me idly wonder who her supervisor was. I can't easily find evidence that her PhD was ever published.
posted by jaduncan at 8:50 AM on September 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


I really don't understand much about the creationist myth, but how do believers in it, who believe that dinosaurs and man roamed the earth together, account for the fact that no human bones are found alongside dinosaurs? I mean, surely we'd have been a food source for them, right? I've never heard this explained.

Also, even if they believe that a god sort of waved his hands or whatever and created the stars and planets, why does there seem to be such a lack of curiosity about where "he" got the material? Is this ever discussed? I've heard Christians say that "we're not meant to know" these things. Is this a widely held Christian belief?

Also, how do they explain the origin of God? Are they not curious about that little bit of creation, or is there an explanation of how he appeared? And why doesn't the argument fall apart when they run up against carbon-dating? Do they think science is just mistaken somehow?
posted by heyho at 8:51 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like the main thing creationists lack is an appreciation for the concept of billions and billions of years.

For some reason the idea of a Creationist version of Carl Sagan saying, "Thousands and Thousands of years" amuses me more that it should.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:51 AM on September 9, 2012 [28 favorites]


For some reason the idea of a Creationist version of Carl Sagan saying, "Thousands and Thousands of years" amuses me more that it should.

"To be precise, 6 thousands."
posted by jaduncan at 8:53 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a dinosaur therefore your argument is invalid.
posted by MikeMc at 8:54 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's all well to LOL at the creationists, but this sort of superstition belief absolutely dominates the political discussion in the US, particularly in schools. 46% of Americans believe "God created humans in present form". We can't even get Americans to stop confusing a 3000 year old fairy tale with science. Forget trying to have a rational discussion of something subtle like global warming or economics regulation.
posted by Nelson at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2012 [24 favorites]


"Sidenote: Unsurprised the scientific career is dead, and it makes me idly wonder who her supervisor was. I can't easily find evidence that her PhD was ever published."

Purdom, Georgia

Title of Thesis: The Role of the Microphthalmia Transcription Factor (MIKTF) in the Regulation of Gene Expression during Osteoclast Differentiation
Major Professor: Michael Ostrowski
Quarter Graduated: Spring 2000
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Mount Vernon Nazarene College, Mt. Vernon, OH

Don't worry, she is remembered.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, how do they explain the origin of God?

They don't. It's article of faith that "he" has always been there existing outside the boundries of and time and space in a fashion that the human mind is unable to grasp. In other words "Just shut up and go with it."
posted by MikeMc at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Comments are disabled for this video.

Always revealing, that.
posted by Decani at 8:57 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fundamental difference in worldviews are on perfect display just in the presentation of the two videos:

1. Bill Nye vocalizing his thoughts.
2. Creationists reading from a script. Poorly.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:57 AM on September 9, 2012 [18 favorites]


I worked with a guy that was a full bore young earth creationist, but those crazy beliefs didn't really effect his ability to dunk things in liquid helium...so being crazy doesn't really hurt your ability to do many kinds of science...
posted by Chekhovian at 8:59 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else get an advertisement for God ("stop doubting, believe") before the Bill Nye video?

Anyway.
Comments are disabled for this video.

Always revealing, that.
I know this is a general-purpose pile-on thread, as per usual with these sorts of things, but isn't the (absolutely correct) general understanding on MetaFilter that YouTube comments are among the half-dozen most reliably wretched and soul-deadening entities on the Internet? Creationists irritate me too, but I can wholeheartedly applaud their behavior on this point.

YouTube comments: Just say no.
posted by brennen at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2012 [27 favorites]


I worked with a guy that was a full bore young earth creationist, but those crazy beliefs didn't really effect his ability to dunk things in liquid helium...so being crazy doesn't really hurt your ability to do many kinds of science...

Well, unless you consider where helium comes from.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:03 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Chekovian, on the other hand, her dissertation apparently had something to do with gene expression. So I don't really understand how a creationist can do science that is directly about genetics without so much cognitive dissonance that her brain would explode.

My theory is that she got the degree long enough ago that she probably was not a creationist back then. My guess is that she got religion and then later drank the kool-aid on creationism.

I'm curious about what biology professors at Christian colleges (which I'm assuming Mount Vernon Nazarene College is) actually teach. Do they simply skirt the evolution issue, as my Catholic high school biology class did, or do they attempt to craft some kind of college-level creationism curriculum?
posted by Sara C. at 9:04 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, as long as we're up there together with South Africa and Brazil, we'll be alright. As soon as we get rid of those pesky sanitation, electicity, and paved roads, we'll be No 1 again.

Now where's my new vodoo doll?
posted by c13 at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2012


I worked with a guy that was a full bore young earth creationist, but those crazy beliefs didn't really effect his ability to dunk things in liquid helium...so being crazy doesn't really hurt your ability to do many kinds of science.

Officially, sure. Unofficially, how many biology labs or funding bodies are going to want a postdoc with Mount Vernon Nazarene College and the Creation Museum on the CV?

I have to admit I'd view it as likely to blow up in my face when she made further big public statements whilst affiliated with my lab/institution. It also has to be said that, much as if I was to hire a known racist in a humanities department, I doubt that the higher ranks would be hugely pleased with my judgement when it did.
posted by jaduncan at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2012


Is this the same creation museum that put saddles on dinosaurs?

Whcih is insane as we all know you can totally ride a Triceratops sddleless.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


"...YouTube comments are among the half-dozen most reliably wretched and soul-deadening entities on the Internet?"

YouTube comments: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Except maybe Newsbusters...
posted by MikeMc at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's missing from the discussion is a balanced view: Okay, so God created everything, but he took a little longer, and was a bit more subtle than some folks would like to believe.

All Christians, by definition, are Creationist, but not all Christians disbelieve evolutionary theory. I wonder why this bunch hasn't pushed back against their myopic brethren.

I can't help but suspect a political connection between certain of these Christians and the batshit right wingers, but I'm not sure which is the dog, and which is the tail.
posted by mule98J at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]



I have a response to the Creation Museum, but it's not a particularly Christian one. Unless "eat a bowl of owl fuck" is hidden away in Philippians 4 somewhere.


PRAISE JEBUS HE IS HEARD.......let us read from Philippians 4


I rejoiced gr
eatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.
They are
a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the
book of life.
I
will say it again: Rejoice!
 The grace
of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
I
will say it again: Rejoice!
I have received
full payment and have more than enough.
along with Clement and the rest of my
co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

posted by lalochezia at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2012 [111 favorites]


"All Christians, by definition, are Creationist"

You haven't really met very many Christians have you...
posted by Blasdelb at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


A coward is defined as, “a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.”

The absolutely loathesome Theo Beale (you may know him as Vox Day) does this same sort of reach-for-the-dictionary pedantic dodge. Must come with the mindset.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:10 AM on September 9, 2012


"All Christians, by definition, are Creationist"

This is completely untrue. Even the frigging Pope isn't a creationist.

It's like saying all Muslims are Islamist. It just isn't true at all.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 AM on September 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


My theory is that she got the degree long enough ago that she probably was not a creationist back then. My guess is that she got religion and then later drank the kool-aid on creationism.

According to her Creation Wiki (!) page, "Georgia Purdom has been a Christian since the age of eight, when she accepted Christ at a youth camp [1]. After hearing Ken Ham speak as a student at Cedarville University (Ohio), Purdom became interested in creation studies." Sure seems like she was a creationist since before she began the PhD. And I agree, this makes her into a really compelling psychological puzzle.

The more I think about it the more puzzled I am by this psychology, in fact. Why would an already convinced creationist undertake a PhD in genetics — did she imagine herself a secret agent, learning about Big Science from the inside in order to dismantle it? Is she really just dumb enough to sustain the cognitive dissonance of that spurious distinction between "historical science" and "observational science"? What series of choices could possibly get a person to the point where they were appearing in that video?
posted by RogerB at 9:12 AM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


What series of choices could possibly get a person to the point where they were appearing in that video?

Gunning for a regular pundit gig at Fox News, maybe?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:15 AM on September 9, 2012


Does anybody know what the "lack of a mechanism to gain genetic complexity" claim even refers to?

I'm pretty sure this is the creationists' re-framing of their "irreducible complexity" concept.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:17 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gunning for a regular pundit gig at Fox News, maybe?

Undershot with the museum PSA, then. She really needs a decent agent to get her a line of creationist science DVDs to promote, with a handily high-priced textbook to accompany them. Then she's published author, PhD. Always good for bookings.
posted by jaduncan at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2012


"The United States is the place where most of the innovation still happens"?

Absolutely. Not only these innovative new theories of non-evolution, but the US has produced several innovative theories about how climate change is a hoax/isn't happening/won't be a big deal/will be good/can't be stopped/Obama is a Muslim. Just think of Mr. Akin's new innovative theory about whether rape can cause pregnancy: that could never come from another country, and his colleagues are advancing other innovations in the field of reproductive health. Innovation in basic science not only happens everywhere in the US, it happens at the highest levels of elected office. In advanced physics, Mr. Romney has advanced an innovative theory of time-person duality where he was both responsible for and not responsible for Bain Capital. Perhaps most notably, Mr. Ryan is making some startling discoveries in non-Cartesian relativistic mathematics, and putting them to immediate use in preparing his budget proposals.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:20 AM on September 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


Yay. More scientists who don't understand evolution, or deliberately misrepresent it. How nice for you.

It isn't my job to pick apart this usual tired assortment of factually incorrect junk. Anyway, the whole point of this video is to present "scientists" as creationists as a sort of rhetoric trick. "See, real PhDs don't "believe" on something that isn't a belief system. This must mean it is wrongist!"

I will point out, however, the incredibly high frequency use of the word "probably" in their speechifying. Nice rhetorical trick there, Creation Museum.

Evolution is not a belief system. It is a system for understanding and framing the actual (directly or not) observable world.

I'd argue that religion and belief is also a human system for trying to understand things. It's just that they are trying to understand two complete unrelated things, with zero overlap.

Look, religion has nothing to do with science. Science cannot inform religion. Just believe what you want, how you want. The human brain can rationalize an amazing amount of contradictory information. This is generally considered a good thing. It's part of the reason we can have this stupid conversation.

At the end of the day, though, teaching children that creationism is at all related to how complex life has, several times over, bootstrapped itself on this planet does them an extreme disservice. It retards the ability to hone the rational mind, which is also a human invention. Aren't we smart?

But teach belief, too. I want strict monotheists to have to realize that Buddhists and Hindus are not misguided sinners, and that the roots of religion can be traced throughout human civilization.

The great mistake creations make is that somehow evolution is at odds with religion. It is not, because religion is meant to be a symbolic approach to the world, and no one other than the feeble-minded or deranged ever intended religious beliefs to be taken as fact or historical evidence. If this were the case, every belief system in the world would crumble because it would no longer be internally consistent.

And that's ok. This think sitting on our shoulders is not a biological computer. It is an exquisitely pliable self-aware highly evolved tool for contemplating the truly unknowable and vast universes, both without and within the creature carrying it around.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:21 AM on September 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


Ironically, part of Nye's argument for science was that it serves the very psychological needs that many people satisfy through religion. He talked about science "exciting" us, saving us from craziness and mystery. That presents science as a religion substitute. I don't think Nye realized he was doing that, and it's not necessary to the argument that children should be taught only evolution in school. Both science and religion have value in human life. Science has unique and distinctive value, and it can also for some people take over the entire place that religion has.

But the pro-science argument doesn't have to be that aggressive and all-pervasive. When you get into the realm of helping people feel good -- life has meaning and so forth -- the science of that is: What actually makes people feel good? To be scientific about that, within an argument about only teaching science, you'd need evidence that science is the one true answer to what makes people feel good. And I don't think we've got anything close to that.
posted by Alizaria at 9:21 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have teh Creationists ever come up with any rationale for the rest of the world and their religions having different beliefs regarding this?

People, if we work together we can make the bowtie a symbol of cool science peple and not pretenious toadying.
and help along with spelling ...
posted by infini at 9:22 AM on September 9, 2012


All Christians, by definition, are Creationist

Well, no. By definition*, all Christians believe in the divinity of Christ.

Most Christians do believe the universe was created by God, one way or another. Not all of them are young earth creationists, which I think was your point.

*C.S. Lewis', which is as good as any I've seen.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a bit shallow of me to say so, but Bill Nye looks like a handsomer version of a young, beardless Abraham Lincoln.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


All Christians, by definition, are Creationist, but not all Christians disbelieve evolutionary theory.

No. Creationism, as a term (especially if we're going to capitalize it), means that one is opposed to or disbelieves evolutionary theory. It doesn't mean that god created the world.

Growing up Episcopalian with parents who both have degrees in the sciences, I was taught (by my parents) that god created everything billions and billions of years ago, possibly in some connection with the big bang, and then science happened just as modern day scientists understand it. The book of Genesis is a folk tale from a different time when people didn't have the understanding of science that we have today.

Absolutely not a single word was ever said about evolution in my Episcopal church. I attended our church's parochial school, where the science teachers were standard normal science teachers, and our science curriculum followed the same elementary and middle school science curricula that are used in public schools.

Both my parents and half of my siblings have science degrees. Nowadays we're split on how we feel about religion, but we all agree that evolution is real.

I also attended a Catholic high school which just sort of skirted the main outlines of evolution in biology class. We didn't learn Creationism or any alternative (much less the weirdo "dinosaurs and humans coexisted" Young Earth shit), we just flipped from Chapter 5 to Chapter 7 in our textbooks and didn't talk about the contents of Chapter 6.

Growing up in a devout Mainline Protestant family and attending parochial schools for the bulk of my K-12 education, I didn't get any of the Creationist noise. I didn't encounter any of it* till I started rubbernecking Evangelical Christianity as an adult. Young Earth Creationism is very much not a default feature of Christian religious belief, or religious belief in general while we're at it.

*Well, there was this one family on our block who were total bible thumpers, but even they didn't actually talk much about Creationism. Back in the 80's and 90's they stuck mostly to hating on pop culture.
posted by Sara C. at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I literally face palmed twice during their response video.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2012


All Christians, by definition, are Creationist, but not all Christians disbelieve evolutionary theory. I wonder why this bunch hasn't pushed back against their myopic brethren.

I'm a Christian who believes in evolutionary theory. I'm happy to push back against my "myopic brethren" but the thing is they aren't really my brethren; I'm a wacko liberal New England Episcopalian who believes in the option of marriage for everyone and science and rights for immigrants and transgender rights and socialism and the separation of church and state and stuff like that. I live in Washington DC. I don't get a whole lot of opportunities to push back against other Christians who disagree with me on evolution because we're vary far apart both ideologically and geographically. It's seldom that I talk to any creationists or engage with their ideas. It's not that I wouldn't, it's that I can't. Just because we all self-identify as "Christians" doesn't mean we have a whole lot in common.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:25 AM on September 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


"All Christians, by definition, are Creationist"

No wonder they're having trouble understanding how science works. They haven't even learned how to ensure your underlying assumptions are correct!
posted by smirkette at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can we lay off the owls. THEY HAVE FEELINGS TOO YOU KNOW!!
posted by Fizz at 9:31 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


any rationale for the rest of the world and their religions having different beliefs regarding this

This gets nicely swept up in the "all other religions are wrong and you have to be Christian to get to heaven" idea. No other religions are legitimate, so it doesn't matter whether it's turtles all the way down or what.

What do non-Christian world religions believe about evolution, by the way? I know that different religions have different creation myths, but I don't know how modern religious believers regard those myths or what they specifically think about evolution, which is not really covered by religion (AFAIK?) even if you do want to get all fixated on believing creation stories literally.

The creation museum dude mentions Islam, but I'm not aware that there is a Muslim analogue to Creationism. I would be shocked if devout Muslims and fundamentalist Christians were in lockstep on the specifics of all this "dinosaur bones are fake" jazz. I'm prepared to accept that fundamentalist Muslims hate science too, but I'd be shocked if their science hate manifested in a way that Evangelical Christians could get on board with.
posted by Sara C. at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2012


Can we lay off the owls. THEY HAVE FEELINGS TOO YOU KNOW!!

No. If they had feelings they wouldn't have ganged up to kill the last two unicorns on the ark.
posted by MikeMc at 9:36 AM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I feel like I might be coming off as a believing Christian in this thread. Just want to clarify that I'm vaguely neo-pagan-ish on the agnostic/atheist spectrum. I stopped actually being a Christian when I was a teenager. But I grew up steeped in it, so I feel it's my duty to clarify some of this stuff.

Anything I say about Christianity should be taken as "this is what I understand Christians to believe" and not "this is what I believe".
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The creation museum dude mentions Islam, but I'm not aware that there is a Muslim analogue to Creationism. I would be shocked if devout Muslims and fundamentalist Christians were in lockstep on the specifics of all this "dinosaur bones are fake" jazz. I'm prepared to accept that fundamentalist Muslims hate science too, but I'd be shocked if their science hate manifested in a way that Evangelical Christians could get on board with."

Devout Muslims and fundamentalist Christians are indeed increasingly in lockstep on the specifics of all this, though it is mostly one way from American and European creationists to the Muslim world. A 2007 study of religious patterns found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin's theory is probably or most certainly true, and a 2006 survey reported that about a quarter of Turkish adults agreed that human beings evolved from earlier animal species.

This is the current consensus paper on the topic,

Hameed S. 2008. Bracing for Islamic Creationism Science. Vol. 322 no. 5908 pp. 1637-1638
posted by Blasdelb at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


The human brain can rationalize an amazing amount of contradictory information. This is generally considered a good thing.

What? By who? Who by?
posted by adamdschneider at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2012


TEACH THE CONTROVERSY
posted by shakespeherian at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Some people think they were dragons in a past life.

TEACH THE CONTROVERSY.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:46 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


religion is meant to be a symbolic approach to the world,

Okay so far.

and no one other than the feeble-minded or deranged ever intended religious beliefs to be taken as fact or historical evidence.

They may or may not be fairly characterized as feeble-minded or deranged, but there are, at minimum, millions of voters in the US who apparently intend their religious beliefs to be taken as both fact and historical evidence. Calling them 'no one' will not prevent them from winning elections, nor from passing laws which require this crap to be taught in public schools.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


LEAVE SCIENCE ALONE! You are lucky it even produces iPods for you BASTARDS!

LEAVE SCIENCE ALONE!…..Please...

*sobs*
posted by mazola at 9:48 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, I love how Nye can barely contain his raging condescension, at points nearly sputtering at the absurdity of creationism (whatta word to try to imbue with gravitas!). It does all us "elitists" proud.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:50 AM on September 9, 2012


Well, no. By definition*, all Christians believe in the divinity of Christ.

Even this is a bit strong, C.S. Lewis notwithstanding. If you go looking, it's probably not that hard to find self-identifying Christians who would explicitly disavow the idea. Most Christians would have big issues with this, of course, but then most Christians also have big issues with the idea that, say, Mormons are Christian. (Or Catholics, or "members of mainstream denominations who haven't explicitly asked Christ into their hearts", or wherever the circle is drawn.)

It doesn't seem very useful to me to have these arguments about membership in the category, but then I don't have a lot staked on the point.
posted by brennen at 9:51 AM on September 9, 2012


How do the people at the Creationism Museum explain agriculture?

There are basic facts that 99.999999999% percent of literate people accept which require evolution. And not even in a sort of "well if you major in biology in college you will come to understand" sort of way. Like basic rational thought. How can we turn teosinte into corn if god designed all life to be exactly how it is?


And given that breeding for features is actually in the Bible (Genesis 30, I think, Jacob breeding cattle with specific patterns in order to jump through hoops set up by Laban so he could marry Rachel), you'd think this would be noted. It is, of course, but then there's a creation story to take literally, and also, Genesis 1 says each living thing reproduces "after its kind."

So my guess is that literalist, young-earth creationist types would say admit that evolution happens at a micro-scale, where nothing ever varies too far from being "its kind", but didn't/doesn't happen at a macro scale where it would ever stop being "its kind." In fact, I'm pretty sure I've heard that specific argument.

How do the people at the Creationism Museum explain agriculture?

There are basic facts that 99.999999999% percent of literate people accept which require evolution. And not even in a sort of "well if you major in biology in college you will come to understand" sort of way. Like basic rational thought. How can we turn teosinte into corn if god designed all life to be exactly how it is?
"All Christians, by definition, are Creationist"
You haven't really met very many Christians have you...


There's at least two hazards in this statement.

One is the hazard here regarding the term "Creationist." It might mean you think God created everything in 144 hours including a static biological menagerie where living things only evolve within narrow parameters. Or it might mean you think Genesis isn't to be taken literally, that God spun the universe and let it unfold, that God was the driving force behind evolution, it might mean you're not sure what the hell happened but you accept evolution as a way of understanding biology.

With that understanding, one could reasonably argue that all theist Christians are Creationists (along with anybody who thinks there's literally some kind of Abrahamic deity).

That's the other hazard. There are some non-theist Christians. Probably small in relation to the number of theist Christians, but still.

don't use it as a place to insert your generalized simmering religious resentment.

That's...

what she said.

posted by weston at 9:54 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


A 2007 study of religious patterns found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin's theory is probably or most certainly true, and a 2006 survey reported that about a quarter of Turkish adults agreed that human beings evolved from earlier animal species.

This doesn't surprise me. What would surprise me is what the Creationism Museum people seem to be claiming, which is that the Muslim world adheres to their specific brand of Young Earth Creationism.

A lot of people who aren't very educated or who don't think a lot about science topics don't believe that humans evolved from other species (in fact this is probably what accounts for the US's 40%). That's lamentable, but it's not really the end of the world. We don't need a planet of 8 billion scientists, as awesome as that would be.

The fundamentalist Christian push to create a batshit alternate theory and then ram it into secular classrooms in the developed world is the real problem here, not that people in the developing world tend to be poor and uneducated.

Though obviously that is a totally separate HUGE problem, and probably a more legitimate one if only we could make the Young Earthers shut the fuck up.
posted by Sara C. at 9:55 AM on September 9, 2012


"The fundamental difference in worldviews are on perfect display just in the presentation of the two videos:

1. Bill Nye vocalizing his thoughts.
2. Creationists reading from a script. Poorly.
"

Really? In that video Bill Nye is largely incoherent, repeatedly demonstrably wrong, doesn't put forth or prove a meaningful thesis, and fails to present evidence for his points or meaningfully engage with the ideas of the people he is opposing. As some kind of rallying point in the culture wars the video is embarrassing. As an actual biologist, there are many reasons why the response video was bullshit that are much more solid than the fact that they actually bothered to collect their thoughts ahead of time, I’m kind of shocked at how few of them metafilter seems capable of finding.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you go looking, it's probably not that hard to find self-identifying Christians who would explicitly disavow the idea.

Mega derail, but no, not really. While you'll find individual Christians who would question the divinity of Christ, it is right there spelled out in the Nicene Creed. It's one of the most defining aspects of what it means to be Christian. You find Christians who don't believe that sort of like you find Christians who are actually atheist but just go to church to make their family happy or whatever.

There is no huge faction of Christians who would disavow the divinity of Christ, as you seem to be implying. It's not only the Evangelicals who believe this.

(Except for maybe Unitarians, though my understanding is that Unitarianism doesn't require one to believe in the divinity of Christ, not that they explicitly deny it. So you're still talking about some individuals within a tiny little minority denomination.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I’m kind of shocked at how few of them metafilter seems capable of finding.

You are also part of MetaFilter; you are welcome to explain them instead of just eye-rolling at the entire thread.
posted by jessamyn at 10:02 AM on September 9, 2012 [33 favorites]


I really wish that the nineteenth-century schism of Christianity which abandons most philosophies of Christ as written in the New Testament in favor of tortured logic imploring people to do their opposite wouldn't be labeled "fundamentalist," but I guess that battle is lost.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:02 AM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


After many years of being slammed by the argument that of course genetic mutation can cause viable changes, since we can observe it bloody well happening, Creationists aiming for a veneer of science-sounding noises have started claiming that this is "microevolution" which can only cause a "loss of complexity" and it's only "macroevolution" that can cause an "increase of complexity" that never ever happens nuh-uh 'cause we said so.

This isn't a new thing, actually. Intelligent design advocates, née creationists, have been using that distinction since I was in middleschool reading Bob Jones textbooks.

Since the 80s, they've conceded that natural selection results in varying populations for pre-existing species (black moths surviving and white moths dying in polluted cities, for example). They've also conceded that "micro-evolution," ie accidental or intentional cross-breeding, is a legitimate observable phenomena. They also acknowledge random mutation as a source of genetic drift, but insist that those changes are essentially destructive, not steps towards new species. Those assorted phenomena are basically shuffling the existing genetic deck, in their minds, not creating new species or fundamentally changing what God created.

"Biological macro-evolution" is the line in the sand for them, however, and in their parlance it basically boils down to the creation of new genetic information via mutation and the emergence of entirely new species over time.

What's interesting to me is that one of the common arguments in Creationist circles was that the current "tree of life" model, is an arbitrary taxonomy that makes people see biological macro-evolution where it wasn't. They didn't offer any really compelling alternative, but often made a big deal out of the inherent "bias" in the organization of species by their so-called evolutionary heritage. Years later, it occurred to me that they were falling on the same supposedly arbitrary taxonomic system to insist that "new species" never emerged from micro-evolution.

In a nutshell, they've defined things such that "micro-evolution" is the evolution we can see happening, while "macro-evolution" is the evolution that we have to infer from other evidence since it tends to occur on timespans longer than human lives. Since they tautologically refuse to acknowledge the scientific legitimacy of things that one person can't witness first-hand, they insist that biological macro-evolution is simply "another perspective," just like Creationism. If "macro" evolution were observed in a rapid-lifecycle species like fruit flies, they would simply insist that we were seeing "micro-evolution" in progress.

A lot of the genius of Creationism and ID advocacy is that it reduces complex science to tautology by fiddling with the very definition of 'science.' You can see this in the insistence on things like 'Observational' versus 'Historical' science. It pretends that one is "real" science while the other simply consists of reading what people in the past observed. Basic scientific practices like "decomposing big, complex ideas into small testable units" and "making falsifiable predictions" are swept away, because those kinds of practices are what build up the massive volume of support for evolution.
posted by verb at 10:04 AM on September 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


but didn't/doesn't happen at a macro scale where it would ever stop being "its kind."

Except that this still doesn't help when it comes to crops that were basically created from another "kind". Like corn. The existence of corn totally refutes Creationism.

It's hard to believe, but domesticating animals and plants substantially altered their appearance and form. I mean, think of a pomeranian and a coyote.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2012


From the "Not true but totally wish it was" department: Bill Nye Blasts Todd Akin, Challenges ‘Fucking Idiot’ to Debate
posted by daHIFI at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You find Christians who don't believe that sort of like you find Christians who are actually atheist but just go to church to make their family happy or whatever.

Well, in the interest of accuracy they are probably not Christians, rather than atheists.

One can be a deist, a Muslim, a pagan, an agnostic, a Hindu, a Transcendentalist, and so on without believing in the divinity of Christ. Depending on how you slice the semantics, you can be a Mormon without believing in the "divinity of Christ," and that's more than enough to get you a seat at the 'Conservative Bible Believers' table in most cultural conversations.

Fundamentalists have a tendency to lump the world into 'Christians and Atheists,' and even self-identified Christians who don't adhere to Fundamentalist dogma are essentially grouped with the atheists.

While I'm not a Christian, I have a great deal of respect for some of the Eastern Orthodox friends I hang out with. As I undertand it, the Orthodox position basically boils down to, "If you don't believe X and do Y, you are not a member of the Orthodox church. Whether you're a 'Christian', or going to Heaven or not is God's deal, and way above our pay grade. But since we're the Orthodox Church, we can definitely say whether or not you're part of the Orthodox Church."
posted by verb at 10:09 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just from a logical standpoint, isn't Creationism one giant Appeal to Authority?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:10 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is no huge faction of Christians who would disavow the divinity of Christ, as you seem to be implying.

Wasn't there a UK poll some years back that suggested nearly 1/4 of priests didn't actually believe in the resurrection? I can't find it quickly, but I seem to recall that clearly. I'd call that relatively "huge."
posted by mediareport at 10:10 AM on September 9, 2012


Regarding innovation - Keep in mind that having wildly differing worldviews (in some cases, within the same head) helps when it comes to thinking up new ideas.

The truth of what happened 6000 or 4.5 billion years ago has very little direct connection to whether or not you can come up with the next Google.

We really only run into a problem with "wrong" beliefs when we try to address real-world problems like global warming, where one extreme wants to render the planet a barren wasteland to hasten the "second coming", while the other extreme would have us all living in mud huts. Somewhere in the middle (perhaps a bit left of the middle), we have people coming up with new ways to enjoy the same (or better) quality of life as we have now, while minimizing pollution and energy use.

Even following the wrong trail will get you somewhere, though perhaps not where you wanted to go.



brennen : If you go looking, it's probably not that hard to find self-identifying Christians who would explicitly disavow the idea.

For some reason, Western religious thought doesn't seem to deal well with the distinction between a founded religion (such as Moses or Joseph Smith) and what the Hindus call a bhakti, devotion to a deity who serves as a sort of necessary agent by which you get "saved" or to heaven or whatever good-afterlife-condition applies.

So your issue here boils down to what we want to call "Christian". Most Christians (including even the fringest-of-the-fringe) disregard the possibility of Christ as merely a founder, in which sense ChurchHatesTucker has it correct (and so, by proxy, does mule98J). That said, groups like the Mormons and JWs also consider themselves Christian, but not in the "transformative deity" sense (though AFAIK, both of those groups have a stronger "Creationist" bent than Christianity as a whole).

So statistically speaking, I think it entirely safe to say that if we leave out the "Young Earth" flakyness, virtually all Christians do believe in their god as the primum mobile.
posted by pla at 10:10 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The whole thing to me reeks of "I don't want evolution to exist, because my faith is too weak to believe in God if I don't have a gap in my understanding of the world to count on as proof of divine intervention."
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:11 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everytime something like this comes up, I take a deep breath, sit back, and rewatch Cosmos, Episode 2: "One Voice in a Cosmic Fugue".

I kinda wish they would, too.
posted by mazola at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Verb, I was talking about specific atheists. As in "I don't believe in God, but it makes Grandma happy to see me in church every Sunday, so I go."

Not trying to create some kind of dichotomy between Christians and Atheists. But, yeah, there exist people who are privately atheist but continue to attend church.

Wow, a derail of a derail.
posted by Sara C. at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2012


My theory is that she got the degree long enough ago that she probably was not a creationist back then. My guess is that she got religion and then later drank the kool-aid on creationism.


Her undergrad is from Cedarville College/University, which is a very fundy Baptist school, so I imagine this wasn't a new thing for her.
posted by Isadorady at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2012


I don't want evolution to exist, because my faith is too weak to believe in God if I don't have a gap in my understanding of the world to count on as proof of divine intervention

No, it's not that. It's that they're just attacking "secular worldview" every which way they can. They don't care about public standards for truth, since they already have their own truth. All they want to do is push back against anyone else with any different truth in every way they can.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:15 AM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Mega derail, but no, not really. While you'll find individual Christians who would question the divinity of Christ, it is right there spelled out in the Nicene Creed. It's one of the most defining aspects of what it means to be Christian. You find Christians who don't believe that sort of like you find Christians who are actually atheist but just go to church to make their family happy or whatever.

I once attended Easter Sunday services at a mainline protestant church where the divinity of Jesus was explicitly disavowed from the pulpit.

This obviously isn't common. I know that it's a minority position within the denomination in question, and it's probably a total non-starter for the vast majority of self-identified Christians in the world. All I'm suggesting is that drawing the circle that way would cut out a fair number of people who self-identify as Christian, and formulas like that one (of which there are probably nearly as many as there are major subsets of Christianity) don't strike me as very useful for determining who gets to be called a Christian. Or at least not as useful as "well, what people would tell you they're Christians, if asked?"
posted by brennen at 10:16 AM on September 9, 2012


C.S. Lewis', which is as good as any I've seen

From Mere Christianity:
People often ask when the next step in evolution—the step to something beyond man—will happen. But on the Christian view, it has happened already. In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.

How is this to be done? Now, please remember how we acquired the old, ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others, from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent—and by a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A process you would never have guessed. Most of us spend a good many years in childhood trying to guess it: and some children, when they are first told, do not believe it—and I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges how the new kind of life—the Christ life—is to be spread. We must be prepared for it being odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us either when He invented this.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:17 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a UK poll some years back that suggested nearly 1/4 of priests didn't actually believe in the resurrection? I can't find it quickly, but I seem to recall that clearly. I'd call that relatively "huge."

I would want to see that poll, and I would want the numbers to be more like actually 25%+ and not 11% or 18% or something else statistically meaningless.

The Anglican Convention definitely still uses the Nicene Creed. If individual priests have decided that they privately don't believe in the main tenets of their religion, then, OK, I guess that's their choice. But it still doesn't mean that there is a significant number of Christians who reject the divinity of Christ. It means that there are a few outliers who preach something they no longer believe in order to keep their jobs.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on September 9, 2012


According to her Creation Wiki (!) page, "Georgia Purdom has been a Christian since the age of eight, when she accepted Christ at a youth camp.

This is exactly what Nye is talking about. When all of the adults around you convince you to believe that the ultimate truth of the universe is only found in a single book — before you have even hit puberty, and before you are able to understand the most basic concepts contained in that document — how does that child have any chance of developing their opinion from observable reality instead of the myths of their forefathers?

This all traces back to the undeniable lack of faith that the faithful have in their own ideas. If their ideas were powerful and true, they wouldn't need to shove it down the throats of children and their fellow citizens through laws and punishment.

I barely escaped that life myself, and I need to do a better job of working on my compassion for the people caught in that vicious cycle. I think it would go along way towards bringing more people into the fold of cautious skepticism instead of the fanatical certainty that leads to so much conflict these days. Part of the attraction of science for me is that it would still allow for the existence of some sort of God if the falsifiable evidence for it was ever discovered.
posted by deanklear at 10:20 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


My primary response to the Creation Museum video was sympathetic embarrassment for those two people's PhD-granting departments. How they must be wishing they could rescind degrees retroactively!

They do have this power. All Universities have the power to rescind the qualifications they grant.
posted by srboisvert at 10:23 AM on September 9, 2012


"This doesn't surprise me. What would surprise me is what the Creationism Museum people seem to be claiming, which is that the Muslim world adheres to their specific brand of Young Earth Creationism."

Well, then I suspect you'll be surprised when you get around to acually looking at the debate in the Muslim world. The topic of creation and evolution has largely ignored in media in Muslim countries and not really politicized in any way until very recently, and then it has been very slow. As the, still relatively small, number of Muslim scholars and academics who have become interested in defending creatinism have waded into the debate they have largely copy and pasted the Intelligent Design frame work of the various western creationist movements. The account of creation in Islam has many important religious and symbolic differences, but if you read it as a factual account of natural phenomena then the incompatibility with modern scientific models of how natural history works is roughly identical.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:23 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, a derail of a derail.

Doh, thank you for the clarification. I just had a conversation with a friend who was actually making the point I misread into your comment, so I think I was just primed for it already.

Derails of derails. This is my legacy!
posted by verb at 10:23 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no huge faction of Christians who would disavow the divinity of Christ, as you seem to be implying
The Congregationalist Church (UCC) here accepts members who do not believe in the divinity of JC and the virgin birth. And I live in one of the most Evangelical Christian cities in the country. Or maybe that's why they accept them...
posted by Isadorady at 10:28 AM on September 9, 2012


It's hard to believe, but domesticating animals and plants substantially altered their appearance and form. I mean, think of a pomeranian and a coyote.
Dogs are derived from Canis lupus. Coyotes are Canis latrans. I know what you're getting at though.

posted by Jehan at 10:31 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anybody know what the "lack of a mechanism to gain genetic complexity" claim even refers to? Both myself and a handy biologist had no idea.

Presumably all of Gregor Mendel's work is utter bullshit then. As well as cellular biology and the concept of organelles.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2012


Maybe I've been watching too much Dr. Who, but I have this feeling that everyone believes in evolution until you ask them if they do.
posted by pokermonk at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


What I think we're seeing here, and experiencing in the context of the wider world, is not religious belief vs. science per se. "Creationism" just an expression of the battle. The war is just as intense in politics and social structures, and it's against modernity.

Modernity, as a post-medieval system of thought, embraces the hypothetical, skepticism and rationality. It is adaptable, flexible, and open to fresh evidence. Crucially, modernity lacks absolute certainty. It allows for (and, it might be argued, requires) an emancipation from religion.

Against this, you have pre-modern systems of thought: instinctive, intuitive, where subjective experience takes precedence over facts. Truthfulness is based on the status or passion of the person providing personal testimony. Pre-modern thought is utilitarian, largely unchanging, and comforting.

The two systems can and do co-exist, both in the same person, and in their cultures: fundamentalists have no issue in driving cars. Participation in the modern world is often negotiated, accommodated, or restricted: driving for men but not women, defining electricity as fire and therefore unusable on the Sabbath, a rejection of anti-vaccination as being against God's will. There are many others for whom religious belief is almost entirely compartmentalized: they enjoy the comfort of a personal God, but the belief barely influences their interaction with the modern world.

When pre-modern beliefs are an entirely personal adult choice, there's little issue: religious believers can reject blood transfusions for themselves as a fundamental right. The problem comes when instinctive, hide-bound and irrational beliefs are imposed on children (the anti-vax community, as one example) or the culture as a whole. In the voting booth, pre-modern thought is not merely ill-informed: it's dangerous.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:35 AM on September 9, 2012 [21 favorites]


Just put on Laurie Anderson's Big Science in honor of this thread.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anybody know what the "lack of a mechanism to gain genetic complexity" claim even refers to? Both myself and a handy biologist had no idea.
Presumably all of Gregor Mendel's work is utter bullshit then. As well as cellular biology and the concept of organelles.
In fairness, Mendel didn't know about mechanisms either. The idea of the gene predates actual knowledge of DNA by tens of years.
posted by Jehan at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of the "two science guys" that the Creation Museum props up to defend against Bill Nye, only one appears to actually be a "guy".

Perhaps they should double check their science!
posted by pokermonk at 10:37 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Except that this still doesn't help when it comes to crops that were basically created from another "kind". Like corn. The existence of corn totally refutes Creationism... domesticating animals and plants substantially altered their appearance and form. I mean, think of a pomeranian and a coyote.

I don't know exactly how a no-macro-evolution adherent would respond to this, but I'd guess they'd probably say "Well, sure, canines can vary in size/features, but they're still canines, not a fish or a bird or something!"



Mormons and JWs also consider themselves Christian, but not in the "transformative deity" sense (though AFAIK, both of those groups have a stronger "Creationist" bent than Christianity as a whole).

There are definitely Mormons (even historic/current leadership) who have young earth no-macro-evolution creationists views. However, there's also historic/current Mormon leadership who are on board with the scientific consensus in geology and biology, and that's what's generally taught in science classes at Mormon educational institutions like BYU.

See here for more info about the treatment of this topic in Mormonism and various Christian sects.
posted by weston at 10:38 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a derail of a derail.
posted by Fizz at 10:40 AM on September 9, 2012


[Do not turn this into a "my complaints against religion generally" please. This is the last time we will ask nicely.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2012


Here's my theory of Humankind, Americans, and Ms. Purdom:

Shit gets weird when people get scared. People get scared when resources start getting more scarce. This is the idea in Jared Diamond's examination of the genocide in Rwanda (with due respect given to the existing ethnic issues there) so I'm stealing it.

Anyways, this explains so much: Not just Rwanda, but many wars on many continents. Plus look at the U.S. White guys are on the way out, in terms of power. Time to freak the fuck out.

And what do we make of Dr. Purdom? We'll never know, but I kinda hope that she gets help outside of whatever supportive church structure she's a part of, given that she has a kid and she apparently decided to through many many years of work out the window.
posted by angrycat at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2012


"Well, sure, canines can vary in size/features, but they're still canines, not a fish or a bird or something!"

So evolution exists until we're talking about birds and dinosaurs? That makes no sense. There is no easy line where "micro" is a quick-ripening tomato and "macro" is the reptile-to-bird shift.

Seriously, guys. Corn. Corn is how we take them down.
posted by Sara C. at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


What a fragile God these folks must have, to need such desperate defending. Reducing God to a Get Out Of Jail Free card to be played in a game of culture war seems profoundly disrespectful, as well as short-sighted.

But what do I know. I'm a hell-bound godless heathen.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:02 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just think of Mr. Akin's new innovative theory about whether rape can cause pregnancy: that could never come from another country

Sadly, no

Well, no. By definition*, all Christians believe in the divinity of Christ.

Well, most post-Nicene Christian denominations anyway. If you're interested in that sort of thing -- and who wouldn't! -- looking at the variety of Christianities slugging it out in the Roman and Byzantime empires in the first centuries CE is an eye opener as it shows how political those core features of Christian philosophy actually were.

I don't believe in God, but it makes Grandma happy to see me in church every Sunday, so I go.

My grandmother was very much religious, hardline reformed protestant, as was most of the family on my mother's side. Our family however had sort of slid back long ago (dad being of farmer stock and coming from a much more pragmatic, "farmers protestant" family -- going to church is alright, but the harvest comes first) but pretended to still go to church, except for me. Long, long discussions with gran when I was twelve and heavily under the influence of Carl Sagan's Cosmos book. In the end she accepted that I was an atheist, even though she never stopped worrying about my soul.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:05 AM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Menton states that Creationism is believed around the world, citing South Africa, India, South Korea and Brazil as places where it is "taught". This is a poor rebuttal to Nye's point that Creationism is "unique to the United States", because those are all places where American missionaries work in large numbers to push Creationism and other conservative Christian ideas. Those countries have their own, home-grown conservative Christian beliefs, but showing where something is "taught" is like saying that one Creationist has traveled around the world and therefore Creationism is believed around the world. I don't think Creationism is unique to the US, but Menton's argument is specious at best.
posted by jiawen at 11:07 AM on September 9, 2012


To be honest, I don't really know that's its really true that we need to have every child get a good education in order for our economy to "function", to compete in the world, whatever.

Don't get me wrong, I think every kid has a moral right to a good education, but these arguments about national competitiveness seem kind of incorrect to me.

We only need so many scientists or engineers. Lots of scientists today in some fields can't even find jobs in academia.

If you look at China for example, people rave about their education system, but in reality lots of rural poor barely get any education at all.

Teaching a kind creationism only might be bad for that kid if he wants to go into biology when he gets older. And I think that in a democracy it would be good if people had solid science educations. But in terms of jobs, you don't need to understand evolution to be a mechanical engineer or even a physicist.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some misconceptions:

1) If you're a Creationist, you can't believe in genetics. Not so, what they don't believe in is what they call "macro-evolution", which as discussed above, is a crock.

2) If you're a Christian, you must believe in the divinity of Christ. Also not so, the Unitarians are classified as Christian, and do not believe he was divine, but see him as a prophet.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2012


but isn't the (absolutely correct) general understanding on MetaFilter that YouTube comments are among the half-dozen most reliably wretched and soul-deadening entities on the Internet?

Relative value of comments, in my experience:

- Metafilter comments
- Reddit comments
- Fark comments
- 4chan comments
- Facebook comments
- Youtube comments

[large gap]

- No comments

Suffering the expression of lousy, ill-informed opinions is far, FAR better than offering no ability to comment at all.
posted by CaseyB at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


> To be honest, I don't really know that's its really true that we need to have every child get a good education in order for our economy to "function", to compete in the world, whatever.

[...]

> We only need so many scientists or engineers. Lots of scientists today in some fields can't even find jobs in academia.

In a modern, advanced society, the primary reason for education is not job training - it's to make you a better citizen, so you can make better personal decisions and better group decisions (i.e. vote in an informed manner).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


That makes no sense.

Spoiler: it doesn't!

There is literally no fact or explanation which can alter this belief in and of itself, because it is already held in the face of all available evidence. Corn is certainly no more convincing than the many human features which would make more sense on a hairy quadriped.
posted by vorfeed at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've had perfectly interesting conversations on YouTube. It was a proud moment for me when I was debating there with someone about Cage's 4'33" and he said, "But that means that any sound could be music," and I said, "Exactly right," and he said, "You've given me a lot to think about."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:15 AM on September 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


In a modern, advanced society, the primary reason for education is not job training - it's to make you a better citizen, so you can make better personal decisions and better group decisions (i.e. vote in an informed manner).

More to Nye's point, I think, is that voter-training is the legal underpinning for universal education in the U.S., and he wants to show that teaching Creationism runs counter to that purpose.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2012



Teach the controversy
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:27 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Creationism - the Young Earth variety with no room for evolution - is just as bad as theology as it is science. It in effect makes the Bible divine, which is idolatry, and denies God's omnipotence, which is about as heretical as you can get in Abrahamic religions. For while Genesis et al do say "God did x, y and z", it doesn't say how. Is it possible for God to make the world in six days and also in 13.7 billion years? Hey, he's God. Of course it is. Like beer, ain't nothing he can't do.

And indeed, this sort of YEC fundamentalism is remarkably recent; even St Augustine was clear that the study of the natural sciences revealed God's creation in ways that recast the Bible - and you were foolish to pretend otherwise.

It's not good religion, it's not good science. It is, however, very good at making stupid people feel superior to the book learnin' types who run the place, which is something that has not gone unnoticed by those who feel that they should be running the place instead. Which means that it is dangerous and by golly, deserves to be fought.

(Book learnin' types also tend to know things like tje context in which the Bible was written and the many similar contemporary documents. That's even more unwelcome to fundamentalists, although tjere do exist academic evangelists who manage quite awe-inspiring feats of mental agility. Compare and contrast to the field of Koranic textual analysis, which is small and high risk...)
posted by Devonian at 11:34 AM on September 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


Suffering the expression of lousy, ill-informed opinions is far, FAR better than offering no ability to comment at all.

Perhaps this actually is a considerable derail, but in your chart of value-of-comments, I think I'd put [no comments] at or very near the top for places like YouTube, individual blogs, and other sort of "primary content" channels.

I think the fundie whackjobs in this case responded exactly as you should in a medium like YouTube: They made their own video. Would that more people would follow their example in general.
posted by brennen at 11:35 AM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


That woman blinked 500 times in a minute.
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2012


That woman blinked 500 times in a minute.

She is actually reciting the text of chapter 2 of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians using Morse code. It's actually a very clever use of the adaptation that allows many terrestrial species to moisturize and clear debris their eyeballs the mechanism that God gave us to prevent devils from jumping into our eyes when we gaze upon sinful images.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:49 AM on September 9, 2012


If you look at China for example, people rave about their education system, but in reality lots of rural poor barely get any education at all.

Teaching a kind creationism only might be bad for that kid if he wants to go into biology when he gets older.


Being ignorant of certain facts is probably not all that bad for people, no. Most people on this planet know what they need to know and a few things besides, which is a perfectly fine education for day-to-day life.

I think being trained to believe obvious lies is bad for people, though. I've seen many accounts of young people from creationist families who didn't "want to go into biology when they got older", yet were still deeply wounded when they realized that the people they'd loved and trusted had misled them, and that everything they'd believed in their lives was untrue.
posted by vorfeed at 11:54 AM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a bit of sophistry, I have to admit I was impressed by the rhetorical dodge the creationists used when they divided science into 'historical' and 'observational' all so they could invalidate radio carbon dating. I mean that's as solid as science can get yet but by saying it's 'historical', you can persuade people that don't know any better to ignore it.

I guess they spend a lot of their time at the Creationist Museum researching new ways to lie.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:03 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Teaching a kind creationism only might be bad for that kid if he wants to go into biology when he gets older.

What vorfeed said. I went to a Catholic school for the first few years of high school, and we simply didn't cover evolution. We did not have to study lies crafted for the purpose of pushing us away from asking too many questions about the natural world.

While I agree it's true that you don't have to know a lot about evolution unless you end up being an evolutionary biologist or something, I don't think K-12 education is about job training but about giving people the skills and knowledge they'll need to engage with the adult world. Not covering evolution doesn't prevent a person from engaging with the world. Filling their heads full of lies does.
posted by Sara C. at 12:08 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I went to a Catholic school for the first few years of high school, and we simply didn't cover evolution.

My buddy got his Catholic high school biology teacher fired for not teaching evolution. Turns out the Pope kinda said they should do it...
posted by Chekhovian at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I went to school in a very conservative part of the country, and my guess is that the school didn't do it because they didn't feel like dying on that particular hill. Not because it was handed down from the Pope.
posted by Sara C. at 12:11 PM on September 9, 2012


Blasdelb: Really? In that video Bill Nye is largely incoherent, repeatedly demonstrably wrong, doesn't put forth or prove a meaningful thesis, and fails to present evidence for his points or meaningfully engage with the ideas of the people he is opposing.

Did you watch a different video than the rest of us? I found the whole thing to be quite coherent. And please do elaborate on what you think was demonstrably wrong: There was some rhetorical hyperbole, sure, and some personal opinions --- but I don't think anything there was straight-out incorrect.

In the video, he's expressing his frustration at the harm caused by Creationism, not trying to debunk it. Various skeptics have point-by-point demolished Creationism a thousand times over. Why should Bill Nye need to do it again?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yup, we still have all 25 of the top 25 research universities in the world, though that is indeed rapidly changing - particularly with California's abdication of its resposibilities to its kids.
Plus, as anyone who's been there can tell you, a huge number of the students come from overseas. But that's actually another hole in the 'economic' argument. We can cut funding for k12 education here, and then import people from other countries to do engineering and science.

I don't think the value of education is pure dollars and cents.
In a modern, advanced society, the primary reason for education is not job training - it's to make you a better citizen, so you can make better personal decisions and better group decisions (i.e. vote in an informed manner).
I agree, however people making the argument for education frequently invoke this supposed economic advantage for some reason. Why that is, I don't know. Maybe it's persuasive, but I don't really think it's accurate.
I've had perfectly interesting conversations on YouTube. It was a proud moment for me when I was debating there with someone about Cage's 4'33" and he said, "But that means that any sound could be music," and I said, "Exactly right," and he said, "You've given me a lot to think about."
It really depends on the video. A lot of times I find the 'top comments' to be pretty funny though.
posted by delmoi at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2012


I know this is a general-purpose pile-on thread, as per usual with these sorts of things, but isn't the (absolutely correct) general understanding on MetaFilter that YouTube comments are among the half-dozen most reliably wretched and soul-deadening entities on the Internet? Creationists irritate me too, but I can wholeheartedly applaud their behavior on this point.

YouTube comments: Just say no.
posted by brennen at 5:02 PM on September 9


YouTube comments are indeed widely dreadful, yet it is noticeable that those who disable them tend to be those who post wackaloon nonsense videos. YouTube comments can be ignored, just as annoying Metafilter comments can - sorry, I mean should - be ignored (bit of a sore point with me, this, at the moment; sorry for the minor digression), and most people don't disable comments for precisely this reason. Nye didn't. The creationist did. That's revealing, and typical.
posted by Decani at 12:14 PM on September 9, 2012


Obviously I meant "Whoever posted the Nye video", not Nye himself.
posted by Decani at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2012


Plus, as anyone who's been there can tell you, a huge number of the students come from overseas.

And the really great thing is that those overseas students can be charged like 3-4x the in-state tuition rate. It helps fill in for the decline in public uni-funding...
posted by Chekhovian at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


We can cut funding for k12 education here, and then import people from other countries to do engineering and science.

Is that really a country you want to live in?
posted by Sara C. at 12:18 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


the mechanism that God gave us to prevent devils from jumping into our eyes when we gaze upon sinful images.

I thought we weren't supposed to blink when looking at the weeping angels.
posted by weston at 12:37 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2012


Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing: "That woman blinked 500 times in a minute."

TheWhiteSkull: "She is actually reciting the text of chapter 2 of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians using Morse code. It's actually a very clever use of the adaptation that allows many terrestrial species to moisturize and clear debris their eyeballs the mechanism that God gave us to prevent devils from jumping into our eyes when we gaze upon sinful images."

Her apparent neurological atypicality is a depressingly large part of what she is remembered for at OSU, I hope metafilter can be classy enough refrain from continueing to mock her for it.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:40 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The great mistake creations make is that somehow evolution is at odds with religion. It is not, because religion is meant to be a symbolic approach to the world, and no one other than the feeble-minded or deranged ever intended religious beliefs to be taken as fact or historical evidence.

Fundamentalists do, that's part of their definition of the Bible. They very clearly deny that anything about religion is symbolic. To change that is the complete destruction of everything fundamentalism represents.
posted by Mcable at 12:48 PM on September 9, 2012


There is no huge faction of Christians who would disavow the divinity of Christ

Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) members believe that Jesus was without sin, and yet not divine. From the INC website, a video titled "The Truth about God - Part II: Why Jesus Christ is NOT God" is unambiguous.

Four to nine million believers is a pretty big faction. There's vast variety in Christian thought and belief.
posted by Houstonian at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2012


It is not, because religion is meant to be a symbolic approach to the world

This is total god of the gaps thinking. The only reason religion is now viewed by many folks as a symbolic approach to the world is because science has completely supplanted many of its traditional approaches.
posted by Justinian at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Observational science v. Historical science

Some people lived through the Black Plague. Many people did not. It may be that the ones who lived through the Plague had a genetic predisposition to immunity. The others, not so much.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2012


"Smaller factions of creationists are found, probably, in Japan, Israel, New Zealand, Australia and Canada..."

Ah...so probably, is it?

The worst bit, to my mind, comes with her distinction between "observational science" and "historical science" at 1:15. This is a kind of distinction beloved by creationists. The distinction basically makes science impossible, since there is nothing special about inferences from past to future. Future-to-past inductions are merely a type of observed-to-unobserved induction, so there are no grounds for being skeptical about the former unless you're skeptical about all of the latter; and if you're skeptical about all of the latter, you're skeptical about science, period. All that's left is recording the few things we actually observe. Even generalizing from our observations would be unjustified if these folks were right.

OTOH, I have to say that I have a certain interest in teleology, and part of me does think that the true theory of evolutionary change will turn out to be much more interesting and complex than the current neo-Darwinian synthesis... Of course, you go saying such things in a discussion like this and people think you're defending the kooks...so forget I said anything...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2012


They very clearly deny that anything about religion is symbolic.

Until it suits them. If you read anything about these folks' approach to the books of Revelations and Daniel, you can't help but notice how many things in the text are meant to symbolize aspects of modern life. For example when fundie Christians freak out about [Latest Pop Culture or Tech Phenomenon] as the "mark of the beast".

Though you don't even have to go that far -- look for instance at that quote from genesis about each living thing reproducing "in its kind", and how it apparently symbolizes that new species cannot evolve from other species.
posted by Sara C. at 1:01 PM on September 9, 2012


Regarding the idea of what children should be taught:
I wish my parents hadn't pushed their halfhearted religious beliefs on me. Sure their words said to be a good Catholic, but their actions didn't back that up; they went through the motions, celebrated the holidays and we had to go to CCD after school, but they never went to church themselves. Anyway, when I did become an adult and started learning a lot more about the world around me, I had to reconcile what I was brought up believing that the Catholic church taught with what science actually showed to be true and that caused a lot of confusion for me and I think held me back in terms of intellectual growth. Its really hard to shake what you have been taught your whole life by the people closest to you, even when proof is staring you in the face. So I totally see where Bill Nye is coming from. If I didn't have to waste time re-thinking my world, I would have had time to learn other things.

I personally think the issue of death and what happens to our loved ones after death is a reason that some adults cling to their halfhearted religious beliefs and pass them on to their children. No one wants to tell a child, "Nope, that's it, when you die you'll never see grandma again and oh, by the way, that will happen to you too."

But I wish my parents had. They really didn't believe in what they taught, it was convenient for them but it messed me up when I grew up and tried to understand the world around me.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, no. By definition*, all Christians believe in the divinity of Christ.

Even this is a bit strong, C.S. Lewis notwithstanding. If you go looking, it's probably not that hard to find self-identifying Christians who would explicitly disavow the idea.


Some early sects distinguished between Jesus (the man) and the Christ (the divine), to the point that some said Jesus was not born divine but became so at some later point, i.e., his baptism. C.f., Nestorianism.

I'm learning all kinds of interesting things from Robert Price's The Human Bible podcasts.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:10 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wasn't there a UK poll some years back that suggested nearly 1/4 of priests didn't actually believe in the resurrection? I can't find it quickly, but I seem to recall that clearly. I'd call that relatively "huge."--mediareport

I would want to see that poll, and I would want the numbers to be more like actually 25%+ and not 11% or 18% or something else statistically meaningless
.--Sara C

Here's a website that shows that poll and quite a few other interesting poll results. Sara, I think you are listening too much to those who shout the loudest and are therefore miscounting their numbers.
posted by eye of newt at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Did you watch a different video than the rest of us? I found the whole thing to be quite coherent. And please do elaborate on what you think was demonstrably wrong: There was some rhetorical hyperbole, sure, and some personal opinions --- but I don't think anything there was straight-out incorrect."

The very first clause of the very first sentence is wrong in just about every way it is possible for it to be wrong, and the first part of the response was absolutely right as it jumped on him for it. Creationism is not unique to the United States, the style of creationism found in America is not unique to the United States, creationism is not uniquely abundant in the Unites States, the aggressiveness of creationism in the United States is not more American than it is Australian or British (Answers in Genesis is itself Australian), and teaching creationism is illegal in public schools in the United States whereas elsewhere it is illegal to teach anything else.

Secondly, the idea that creationism will be extinct in a couple of centuries is beyond ridiculous. Religions and religious ideas die hard, very very hard, and I certainly hope the next couple of centuries aren't anywhere near as convincing as the Spanish Inquisition was.

It is incredibly imporant that the people who are known for communicating science arn't caught saying stupid shit like this, if only because it throws places like the Creation Museum softballs for them to hit out of the park.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:20 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


it throws places like the Creation Museum softballs for them to hit out of the park

Is their response is an example of a creationist home run I can't really imagine how stupid a creationist pop fly would be...
posted by Chekhovian at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2012


" Is their response is an example of a creationist home run I can't really imagine how stupid a creationist pop fly would be..."

You presumably have the benefit of a scientific education and disposition, their audience does not. The park that matters is awfully small.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You are also part of MetaFilter; you are welcome to explain them instead of just eye-rolling at the entire thread."

Oh, ok, so we're going to declare this the signal in the lolxian noise of this thread.1

There are not two sides to what a modern scientific theory is. For a theory to be a good one, it must be validated by solid data from diverse sources and approaches, explain natural phenomena, and be useful for making verifiable predictions of what those phenomena will do. The theory of evolution by natural selection is all of these things while the theory of Intelligent Design is only able to explain phenomena based on unrepeatable and subjective reasoning. That does not mean that creationism as an artistic representation of who we are through a metaphorical description of where we come from is stupid, bad, or even unreasonable. However it does mean that as an explanation of natural phenomena it is unverifiable, as well as more importantly, fundamentally not useful. This is the biggest reason why Intelligent Design has no place being taught next to or as a viable replacement for the extraordinarily useful theory evolution in a science classroom. To do so would be to fail to teach science, not just as the collection of facts your teachers tried to cram into you once upon a time but the as the practice of trying to understand the natural world in an intellectually honest way. 2

The dichotomy between historical and observational science that the video tries to separate as the central thesis of both the video in the FPP, and the twin that it missed, falls together with this understanding of how scientific theories and models actually work, and more importantly, have value. Theoretical models of how both current and past phenomena work have value when they are backed up by agreement from different ways of looking at the phenomena, provide insight into the nature of the phenomenon, allow you to make predictions about the things you will find out next about the phenomenon, and those predictions turn out to be at least close. Ken Ham and the Creation Museum staff seem to have conceded that this is true for the study of natural phenomena in the present, but it is equally true for the study of past phenomena.

For example, the theory of evolution has been verified by the study of the molecular mechanisms of cellular and particularly viral life, and has a mathematically definable predictive value for the discovery of how known mechanisms work in unknown creatures. It works really well – I posted a workshop like thing on metafilter a while ago that you can use to play with doing it yourself. One might say that when God made all of life he gave every creature similar to every other one in a complex inter-relationship that just happens to look exactly like they were related to each other, but then there is work like Rich Lenski’s that shows the generation of new species in 31,000 steps, all of the various steps observed in real time.

Similarly, the theory of evolution has been verified and has predictive value in diverse disciplines such as Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biogeography, Bioinformatics, Biomathematics, Biophysics, Botany, Cell biology, Developmental biology, Ecology, Embryology, Entomology, Epidemiology, Epigenetics, Genetics, Herpetology, Histology, Ichthyology, Mammalogy, Marine biology, Microbiology, Mycology, Neurobiology, Oncology, Ornithology, Population biology, Paleontology, Pathology or Pathobiology if you really must, Parasitology, Physiology, Phytopathology, Sociobiology, Structural biology, Synthetic Biology, Virology, and Zoology. None of these really make sense in the absence of how fantastically useful evolution is. If a young earth creationist were to try to really study how each of these disciplines work, they would need to at least pretend to accept evolution’s predictive power. This is the paper that David Menton mentions to solidify his argument that evolution is useless, and if you read it, it is clearly making a much more nuanced point.

Even from a theological point of view, the video says something that demonstrates a fundamental lack of biblical literacy:

“Or do we start with the bible, the written revelation of the eyewitness account of the eternal God who created it all”

The Bible is not a homogenous book, and only one of the smaller sections makes any claim to being an eyewitness account of someone who witnessed God, the Epistles of Paul. Every other section of the Bible is written from either a third person perspective or the perspective of someone who makes no claim of themselves actually witnessing Jesus or God. Even then the only account of Paul witnessing God is told from the a third person perspective by his disciple Luke in Acts who did not himself witness the event.


1Methinks the mod doth protest to much, jessamyn if you can honestly claim that you have yet to roll your eyes at this thread, even if only in a metaphorical sense, I'll eat my hat.

2It is also depressing to me how few of my students in the advanced college level science courses I’ve instructed come equipped to be able to accurately express what a scientific theory is or what one is valuable for.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:30 PM on September 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


Her apparent neurological atypicality is a depressingly large part of what she is remembered for at OSU, I hope metafilter can be classy enough refrain from continueing to mock her for it.

It seems like you're reading some kind of offline gossip about Purdom into what people here are saying, but as far as I can tell everyone else here is responding entirely to the public persona that she's voluntarily presenting to the entire world as an advocate. Not that I wouldn't be curious to hear more about her and how she managed to get through her PhD program — it must've been a very interestingly strained relationship between her and her supervisors and department, and I've already remarked what an interesting psychological enigma she seems to me, so I'd invite you to dish if you're inclined — but you're also the only person who said anything about "neurological atypicality" here. If she's putting herself on camera as the public face of creation "science" then it seems fair enough to talk about how awkward and unconvincing she is as a spokeswoman. Awkward on-camera blinkers are not a protected class.
posted by RogerB at 1:31 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Teach the controversy! The sun revolves around the earth in a perfect circle!
posted by milarepa at 1:31 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sara, I think you are listening too much to those who shout the loudest and are therefore miscounting their numbers.

No, I'm going on the basis of the extremely mainstream idea that the vast majority of Christian groups use the Nicene Creed as a mission statement of sorts.

I know for absolutely positive that the Anglican Communion does, because I grew up reading it aloud every damn Sunday in church.

Any Anglican priest who does not believe that Christ was divine does so on an individual basis despite the very statement of faith that she or he reads aloud every Sunday in church. I haven't been to church regularly in at least a decade, so I couldn't really say how individual priests reconcile this. But I know for 100% sure that any priest who is ordained in the Anglican tradition is expected to accept the Nicene Creed as a formative statement of Christian belief.

It's not really an optional thing. I don't think they're going to drum you out if you privately believe something different, even if you say so from the pulpit. But it certainly goes against the stated beliefs of Anglicans as a group.

A vanishingly tiny number of modern-day Christian sects don't use the Nicene Creed in this way. All the major denominations, like Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, etc. use the Nicene Creed as a formative statement of belief. You can come up with a few counterexamples, like Unitarians or Nestorians, but if you're talking about the macro denominational level of Christian groups, bottom line, virtually all mainstream Christian groups believe in the divinity of Christ as a basic article of faith.

If you want to talk about the micro level, about individual believers or clergy? People believe all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, official dogma or not. And since modern day people tend not to get very het up about the finer points of theology, it's not like the Methodists are going to excommunicate you if you privately have your own far-out version of how the trinity works. But again, regardless of one's individual beliefs, you're still reciting the Nicene Creed every Sunday in church.

None of this is particularly controversial. Nor does it have anything to do with evolution, for that matter.
posted by Sara C. at 1:46 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You presumably have the benefit of a scientific education and disposition, their audience does not. The park that matters is awfully small.

Any suggestions for an example of effective atheist seduction? The accusations of shrill-stridency that normally get tossed around in these threads seem to be a way to shut down discussion.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2012


"Any suggestions for an example of effective atheist seduction? The accusations of shrill-stridency that normally get tossed around in these threads seem to be a way to shut down discussion."

If you're looking for tips on effective evangelism, you'd probably get better ones from them than me.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:08 PM on September 9, 2012


I'm probably a good example as an "atheist convert", though I'm not really a 100% super convinced Atheist With A Capital A, and I also grew up in a comparatively liberal Christian denomination, in a family where we were encouraged to discuss debate openly challenge religious dogma. My grandfather is exceedingly proud to (maybe) be a descendant of a prominent eighteenth century Dissenter.

So on the one hand, I'm someone with a religious Christian background who is now an atheist (sort of). On the other hand, it's not like I was ever a born again Young Earth Prairie Muffin or anything.
posted by Sara C. at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2012


Oh I'm not looking for lessons. I'm pretty much set in my strident asshole ways. I was just curious if you'd ever seen something from atheist thinker that coupled most strongly in to your world. Usually Ken Miller has the softest kid gloves in attacking theists during these debates, but he's actually religious...
posted by Chekhovian at 2:12 PM on September 9, 2012


Creationism is not unique to the United States

Bill Nye said evolution denial was unique to the United States, not Creationism. He's specifically referring to the organized political machine that is systematically trying to purge evolution from school curricula. And that was hyperbolic, yes: these people do exist in other countries. But they do enjoy a unique level of privilege and mainstream political infiltration here thanks to the generally higher religiosity and Evangelical leanings of American Christianity.

Secondly, the idea that creationism will be extinct in a couple of centuries is beyond ridiculous.

The idea that we won't be making sacrifices at the temple of Jupiter in a couple of centuries is beyond ridiculous.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:17 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, I'm going on the basis of the extremely mainstream idea that the vast majority of Christian groups use the Nicene Creed as a mission statement of sorts.
...

None of this is particularly controversial. Nor does it have anything to do with evolution, for that matter.
--Sara C.

Yes, but, after looking at the poll results, do you now believe that it is possible that a reasonable number of Christian ministers, including Anglican, follow the moral teachings of the Bible without believing in resurrection, despite the Nicene Creed? And they consider themselves very much Christian.

And I think that this has quite a bit to do with evolution and creationism because it is, for many people, the concept of the Bible being a book of moral lessons, along with a lot of outdated and 'magical' thinking that can be overlooked. Heck, Thomas Jefferson came out with his own version of the Bible without the miracles and the resurrection.
posted by eye of newt at 2:17 PM on September 9, 2012


2) If you're a Christian, you must believe in the divinity of Christ. Also not so, the Unitarians are classified as Christian, and do not believe he was divine, but see him as a prophet.

You can come up with a few counterexamples, like Unitarians or Nestorians, but if you're talking about the macro denominational level of Christian groups, bottom line, virtually all mainstream Christian groups believe in the divinity of Christ as a basic article of faith.


To be clear, when you say "Unitarian" these days in America it's almost always a reference to Unitarian Universalists, who are modern (mostly) secular humanists. Unitarian Universalists don't even have a common creed, to the extent that they are neither Unitarian nor Universalist--fewer than a quarter identify as Christian at all, so fine points about the divinity of Jesus or who winds up in heaven are pretty much out the window. Of course, it's possible that individual Unitarian Universalists may be Unitarian, Universalist, or both. There are still "real" Unitarians (and Universalists) around, but they're rare indeed in America, and worldwide UUs outnumber all of the other members of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists combined. Confusing, but I think they like it that way.
posted by pullayup at 2:20 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yup, we still have all 25 of the top 25 research universities in the world

At best it is 19 of the top 25. Others suggest 11 of 25. Still others say 18 of 25. Anyway, whatever the real number, I have to say "Dude, wtf?!?"
posted by Chuckles at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


What made me shift towards an atheist way of thinking was engaging in thoughtful debates online. This was something that happened gradually over time and was mostly internal as said debates made me think. It wasn't like, "oh, huh, that dude compared god to the tooth fairy, therefore god must not exist."

And again, I'll remind you that I grew up in the unique position of someone who was explicitly encouraged to think critically about religion.

I don't think there's any good course of action to get fundamentalists to stop believing in god, short of aggressive cult deprogramming.
posted by Sara C. at 2:29 PM on September 9, 2012


Yes, but, after looking at the poll results, do you now believe that it is possible that a reasonable number of Christian ministers, including Anglican, follow the moral teachings of the Bible without believing in resurrection, despite the Nicene Creed?

That was never my point. My point was that, at the denominational level, the vast majority of modern day Christian groups take the divinity of Christ as axiomatic. That there are some individual members of said groups who privately disagree does not change that.

I will believe that a significant number of Anglican priests do not believe Christ was divine when the Anglican Communion gets together and decides to cut the Nicene Creed out of the Book Of Common Prayer.
posted by Sara C. at 2:34 PM on September 9, 2012


Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, Jehovah's Witness, Religious Society of Friends, the New Church, Oneness Pentacostal: Churches that do not accept creeds or do not accept parts of the Nicene creed.

Statements about "all Christians" or "no Christians" or even "most Christians" rarely work.
posted by Houstonian at 2:35 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder why they disabled both "likes" AND comments. A powerful mystery...
posted by varion at 2:38 PM on September 9, 2012


Houstonian, eye of newt is claiming that most Christian denominations don't believe that Christ was divine, and that I'm swallowing some kind of Evangelical propaganda in assuming that most do.

Which I'm not. I mean, yay for the Quakers, I guess, but they don't really prove eye of newt's point.
posted by Sara C. at 2:39 PM on September 9, 2012


On the creationist video, comments are disabled.

That pretty much says it all about where religion intersects reality.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:41 PM on September 9, 2012


MetaFilter: Seriously, guys. Corn. Corn is how we take them down.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm saying that many believe something different than what their religion officially states. I'm saying that the fact that the Nicene Creed is in the Book of Anglican Common Prayer is irrelevant to many, just as the 6000 year old Earth in the Bible is irrelevant to their Christian beliefs. Maybe that makes them hypocrites or maybe human thought on theological matters is more thoughtful and reasoned than we give credit for.
posted by eye of newt at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2012


"Not that I wouldn't be curious to hear more about her and how she managed to get through her PhD program — it must've been a very interestingly strained relationship between her and her supervisors and department, and I've already remarked what an interesting psychological enigma she seems to me, so I'd invite you to dish if you're inclined — but you're also the only person who said anything about "neurological atypicality" here. If she's putting herself on camera as the public face of creation "science" then it seems fair enough to talk about how awkward and unconvincing she is as a spokeswoman. Awkward on-camera blinkers are not a protected class."

If you are really interested I'll be happy to answer questions by memail, but seriously, even leaving aside the fact that this is mocking her for an aspect of her appearance -which alone is fundamentally not cool; if her blinking is the best we've got on her then we really do have reason to dispair for the future of science education in this country.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:52 PM on September 9, 2012


I don't know about you guys...but I flagged it as child abuse.
posted by varion at 3:21 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that the fact that the Nicene Creed is in the Book of Anglican Common Prayer is irrelevant to many, just as the 6000 year old Earth in the Bible is irrelevant to their Christian beliefs.

eye of newt, you don't know what you're talking about. It's OK. It's just... no. I don't want to be rude or shouty, but... no.
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"It is not, because religion is meant to be a symbolic approach to the world"

"This is total god of the gaps thinking. The only reason religion is now viewed by many folks as a symbolic approach to the world is because science has completely supplanted many of its traditional approaches."

I suppose you can indeed word this negatively and still be factually correct, but I see this differently. There is a gap in the breadth of human understanding that scientific pursuits will never close, just as part of the nature of what science is and can do. Even as a religious person, I see the fact that science has pruned off so much bullshit off of religion as an amazing and beautiful thing.

In the one class I took in college that wasn't science, I had a professor who said something that has stuck with me to this day. She said that science is the process of telling lies with the truth, art is the process of telling the truth with lies, and indeed the telling of perfect truth is impossible.

The more I have worked in science the more I have grown to appreciate the first clause of the saying, that science is the process of telling lies with the truth. Almost by definition a theoretical model cannot be perfectly correct, it is a model of the truth, our best attempt to create a mirror image of it in a form that we can understand- and our understanding will never be perfect and without distortion. For example, there are a variety of ways to produce really awesome models of the 3D shape of biological macromolecules but none of these strategies can produce a real structure. NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, and electron microscopy each have their advantages and their disadvantages, and none of them will ever give you quite exactly the biological truth, though they can each provide incredibly valuable answers to specific kinds of questions. While this problem is universal to all of science it really ends up having very little effect on the practical application of scientific principles, though it does create a whole lot of non-intuitive weirdness in the philosophy and communication of science.

Similarly, the second clause has very little practical effect on a lot of art, but it is still largely – though depending on your definition not as universally- correct. For example, while there is a hell of a lot of truth to be found in the luncheon represented by my favorite painting, there is no boating party to be found behind the frame. All of representational art works the same way, the object d’art is indeed at least in a sense a lie, intended to tell the truth of the representation – you know, a metaphor. There are many kinds of truths that can only be meaningfully communicated as a represented metaphor. Parables are an excellent example, when people talk about the parable of the frog and the scorpion they are not referring to a factual frog and scorpion but still communicating a truth.

With the enlightenment it became increasingly clear that religious study was terrible at telling the first kind of truth, and the absurd hoops that the folks in the second video go through to insist that it isn’t is really proof enough of that on its own. However, if you open up the kind of old KJV that has them, the majority of the red letters in it are in parables. The kinds of truths that can only be told representationally are at the heart of Christianity, and indeed most religions. Religion works best when it is like how Werner Herzhog once described his movies (You’ve got to bear with me on this one, the description is at the end of the clip).

”Oh I'm not looking for lessons. I'm pretty much set in my strident asshole ways. I was just curious if you'd ever seen something from atheist thinker that coupled most strongly in to your world. Usually Ken Miller has the softest kid gloves in attacking theists during these debates, but he's actually religious...

This is not exactly what you’re looking for, the author was a devout Catholic, but it is the strongest argument for the validity of modern science to a theological audience that I’ve ever read. Indeed after it was written, it has served as the primary theological foundation of modern science – where it has needed one - ever since. This letter was the wedge where the predecessors of modern evangelicals split from what became modern science, and the message is just as valid today.

I suppose I should also warn you, it is a lot of what converted me to Christianity
posted by Blasdelb at 3:28 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


eye of newt, you don't know what you're talking about. It's OK. It's just... no. I don't want to be rude or shouty, but... no.--Sara C.'

I know a Bishop who would disagree with you...but I don't want to get him in trouble.
posted by eye of newt at 3:42 PM on September 9, 2012


Secondly, the idea that creationism will be extinct in a couple of centuries is beyond ridiculous.

You're aware that the biblical literalism of capital-C Creationists is a remarkably recent turn of events in Christian history, yes? It only really took root around the cusp of the Industrial Revolution.. before that even your nutbaggy Cotton Mather types would fully admit that the majority of the fantastical elements of the Bible were figurative and metaphorical stories to illustrate moral points, sort of like 'parables' if you will. The concept of the Earth being a few thousand years old at best was laughable even back then.
posted by FatherDagon at 4:17 PM on September 9, 2012


I suppose I should also warn you, it is a lot of what converted me to Christianity

Really? Too bad it didn't save Galileo too. Well I'll have to let it sink in a bit. I'll report later if any surprise logic bombs go off and I recant my manifold heresies.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:25 PM on September 9, 2012


One third of clergy do not believe in the Resurrection

A third of Church of England clergy doubt or disbelieve in the physical Resurrection and only half are convinced of the truth of the Virgin birth, according to a new survey. The poll of nearly 2,000 of the Church's 10,000 clergy also found that only half believe that faith in Christ is the only route to salvation. While it has long been known that numerous clerics are dubious about the historic creeds of the Church, the survey is the first to disclose how widespread is the scepticism.

Thanks, eye of newt, for finding that page at ReligiousTolerance.org, Beliefs about Jesus' resurrection among Christian laity & clergy, which footnotes the article and has other surveys as well:

A survey of mostly mainline Protestant clergy by a prominent American sociologist showed that many doubt Jesus' physical resurrection. Percentage of doubters were found to be:

American Lutherans: 13%
Presbyterians: 30%
American Baptist: 33%
Episcopalians: 35%
Methodists: 51%

posted by mediareport at 4:27 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The only reason religion is now viewed by many folks as a symbolic approach to the world is because science has completely supplanted many of its traditional approaches.

C.S. Lewis was mentioned earlier in the thread. His approach to religion was pretty grounded in the usefulness of myth and story, but I think it's also clear this was not merely a fallback from defending the reality of the religion he believed in. It may be common enough for people who read religion literarily to be unsure of its literal value, but the two approaches aren't exclusive.
posted by weston at 4:27 PM on September 9, 2012


Creationism is a marketing game
posted by homunculus at 4:29 PM on September 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Houstonian: Statements about "all Christians" or "no Christians" or even "most Christians" rarely work.

Yeah, this.

I find myself at odds with people on this point all the time; pretty frequently they're Christian themselves, and what I'm trying to suggest is that their particular formulation of the boundaries of what is true or correct Christianity isn't the same as the boundaries of what can be usefully called Christianity. That's a hard thing to put across because religions are so often so concerned with self-definition. For a lot of people, to be a Christian is to be correct about [set of key things], and to be in even minor disagreement about those things (or what is properly considered a member of that set) is considered to put you outside [set of actual Christians]. You run into a lot of No True Scotsman As Worldview.

Sara C., I could pick at details (who says the Nicene Creed every Sunday and who doesn't or whatever), but I don't at all think you're super wrong about the substance of majority Christian belief. I just get a slight vibe of your experience defining the whole category for you, and so the point that it's hard to say what makes someone a Christian by singling out a particular belief becomes a bigger argument than it really should be.

I don't actually think this is a derail. There's something about this conversation that has a lot to do with why threads like these are so frustratingly full of cheap lolxtians stuff. (Not that you're doing that; quite the opposite - I just think there's something in these conversations that proceeds from too-broad categorical thinking about religious people.)
posted by brennen at 4:30 PM on September 9, 2012


She said that science is the process of telling lies with the truth, art is the process of telling the truth with lies, and indeed the telling of perfect truth is impossible.

Blasdelb, it was in realizing the second clause of that sentence that I realized I probably fall somewhere in the world of agnosticism/atheism.

Because I realized that I don't believe that god is a physical entity, but more like a metaphor or a character in a story. Of course, something being a metaphor doesn't mean it isn't completely real. Money is a metaphor, and yet I can't call my landlord and tell her I won't be paying rent anymore because I don't "believe" that money is real. Money is as real as it gets, even though money is not a physical thing that can be said to "exist" on anything beyond faith.

If money is real, god is real. And conversely, if money is a metaphor for an economic transaction, there's no reason god as a metaphor is any less legitimate.
posted by Sara C. at 4:46 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Christian atheism is definitely a thing. There's a definite thread of atheism, or at least questioning of theism, in modern Christian thought running from Paul Tillich (who, although he's probably the most influential non-fundamentalist theologian of the last century, is often described as an atheist), to the Death of God theologians (including Thomas Altizer, who even wrote an influential book called The Gospel of Christian Atheism), to John Shelby Spong, who explicitly rejects theism, to these dudes. And there's also a long tradition of Jesusism, which is an approach to Christianity that rejects the mystical, metaphysical, Neoplatonistic stuff that it sees Paul as having grafted onto a much more naturalistic, even secular stock (and that particular fight goes back to the earliest tensions between the Jerusalem and Antioch churches).

Counting adherents is kind of a... dumb way of assessing the vitality of an intellectual tradition. Of course that kind of thinking doesn't show up in a creedal form--it's all about questioning creeds and understanding the nature of religious experience, not about vowing devotion to a fixed set of ideas.
posted by rodii at 4:47 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know a Bishop who would disagree with you

You know a bishop who believes that this 6000 year thing is actually in the Bible, and that this idea represents an article of faith that Christians believed for all of time until one day, some scientists came along and debunked it?

Because, damn, that would be one epically wrong bishop.

FatherDragon has it right -- the Young Earth thing only really dates to the mid-19th century, and was until the last few decades only interesting to a tiny minority of theologians. Sort of like the question of how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

It's really only in the last decade or so that this has been a Thing that the average (certain kind of) Christian needs to know about. And, again, only about a century since it was even thought up.

It is NOT in the Bible. It has never been an important aspect of Christianity really ever, but even in microscopic terms only since the invasion of American school boards by members of the Religious Right.
posted by Sara C. at 4:55 PM on September 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I asked a creationist co-worker once " suppose the scientific method proves creationism is the model most correct?"

His answer "then scientists will believe it"

"Exactly" I answered, "because the scientific method will have worked, right"

"right"

"Okay, so if the scientific method ultimately proves the creationist model wrong then?"

"then science failed" he answered.

I asked him to look up confirmation bias and to please shut the fuck up.
posted by roboton666 at 4:59 PM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


And remember folks, as Joshua says:

"the only way to win the game of creationist debate is not to play"
posted by roboton666 at 5:02 PM on September 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Money is a metaphor, and yet I can't call my landlord and tell her I won't be paying rent anymore because I don't "believe" that money is real.

Disbelieving in God isn't the same kind of act as disbelieving in money. It might be a good idea for me to understand the beliefs of people I'm concerned with, but neither of us have to agree on which God to use for the default clause in a contract. Perhaps it's not that way for everyone--there are a lot of people who live in social settings where failing to put up a good front of religiosity results in ostracism or worse--but I don't think the word "real" means the same thing when applied to money as when applied to God. If I disbelieve in the American dollar, that might lead me to stockpile gold and ammo, but I'll still have to buy those things with American dollars.

Perhaps a better analogy would be to the corporation. A corporation is a legal fiction created to allow groups of people with a common business interest to sue and be sued. Various legal professionals are required by law to treat corporations as though they exist in some sense, so that's what they do, and it doesn't matter if the corporation hasn't produced anything but lawsuits since the founder went AWOL. I might be willing to concede that gods exist in the same sense that corporations do--Hasidic Jews do in fact hold court to decide what God wants them to do in a given situation. But I think it would be misleading say I'm any kind of believer in Him, because I think the Hasidic religious law is regressive and oppressive, and I'd like to see it done away with.

I guess I could start identifying as a misotheist? The ensuing confusion might be fun. But it doesn't make sense to say I "believe" in gods (many of which are called "God") in this functional sense, unless I'm trying to troll those who "believe" in one of the other senses.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:13 PM on September 9, 2012


Founders of the Creation Science Hall of Fame, which now exists only as a website, would like to build a brick-and mortar structure along Interstate 75. The group will consider vacant land and the renovation of an existing site.

“When we have the funds, we would like to locate on the highway, about halfway between the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter,” said Terry Hurlbut, secretary/treasurer of the group. “What better place to locate than between these two attractions? We envision that, as people fly or drive in to see them, we will be a stop along the way.”

(...)
Nor is the Hall of Fame affiliated with the planned Ark Encounter, a themed attraction in Grant County, about 40 miles south of Cincinnati. It’s envisioned to include a replica of Noah’s Ark and other attractions
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:25 PM on September 9, 2012


Disbelieving in God isn't the same kind of act as disbelieving in money. It might be a good idea for me to understand the beliefs of people I'm concerned with, but neither of us have to agree on which God to use for the default clause in a contract. Perhaps it's not that way for everyone--there are a lot of people who live in social settings where failing to put up a good front of religiosity results in ostracism or worse--but I don't think the word "real" means the same thing when applied to money as when applied to God.

That's only because of social convention. Not believing in god was completely unthinkable until recently for largely the same reasons that not believing in money is unthinkable now.

I mean, imagine that five hundred years from now, we're living in some kind of post-financial utopia. Everyone has all the material goods they need, and there's no capitalist system of rents or payments for necessary services or the like. Maybe some people who are super into the stock market still use money, but by and large there's no real need for it anymore.

In that world, I can see a group of "afinancists" arising who think all this mumbo jumbo about markets and rents and interest and the rest is completely nuts. They all go around trying to explain to people that money isn't "real" and that people who take part in speculative commerce are at best dupes of a bunch of evil fatcats, and at worst, insane for believing in the equivalent of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

Those people wouldn't be wrong, just like Dawkins and Hitchens and the like aren't wrong. But right now, money is as powerful an idea as god was in seventeenth century Europe. So I'm going to be writing my rent check, even though I'm well aware that a "rent check" is an absolute fiction on par with the Easter Bunny or Saint Christopher.
posted by Sara C. at 5:29 PM on September 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I can't disagree, I just think it's weird to use that type of "belief" in a context where it's normally expected to mean a great deal more than "accept as a matter of convention".
posted by LogicalDash at 5:38 PM on September 9, 2012


Why is it weird?

Atheists often cite the fact that god does not literally exist as a reason not to believe.

Lots of stuff that is absolutely necessary to be a successful person in most of the world in 2012 also does not literally exist. Therefore, it's clearly not all that important whether a given human construct "literally exists".

Atheists are right that, for people living in the affluent developed West, god is unnecessary and it's potentially detrimental to believe. We are now living in a post-religion society, which I agree is a good thing.

Anything beyond that is academic.
posted by Sara C. at 5:46 PM on September 9, 2012


I don't think it's academic to consider how your statement of belief will be taken in the context in which you say it. You'll have to explain that, by "believe" you mean "assume by convention," pretty much every time you say you "believe in God," assuming you say that without getting religious in a more, uh, recognizable way.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:49 PM on September 9, 2012


Come to think of it, I myself would not say that I believe in money or capitalism. I use money and frequently behave in a capitalist kind of way, by pursuing profit and minimizing expense and the like. I just don't invest those things with any particular meaning beyond the pragmatic.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:51 PM on September 9, 2012


I know a Bishop who would disagree with you

You know a bishop who believes that this 6000 year thing is actually in the Bible, and that this idea represents an article of faith that Christians believed for all of time until one day, some scientists came along and debunked it?--Sara C

Um, well, since you ask, the answer is no. I know a Bishop who believes that Christ was just a man and there was no resurrection. I'm willing to bet he doesn't believe in Creationism (with a capital 'C') either.
posted by eye of newt at 6:10 PM on September 9, 2012


The war is just as intense in politics and social structures, and it's against modernity

So there's going to be a new Romanticist movement? That would at least be a cool by-product.

The idea that we won't be making sacrifices at the temple of Jupiter in a couple of centuries is beyond ridiculous.

Neopaganism is a thing that exists. The quote was referring to ideas. You can't fight ideas with bullets.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:24 PM on September 9, 2012


Waaaay late to the thread, but I just happened to have read Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line, a newer book which was a pretty interesting account of a mathematician who spent some time crashing creationist conventions and challenging the "authorities" he encountered there. I picked it up for the anecdotal stuff (and there was plenty of that), but it also lays out a pretty good analysis of the philosophical and scientific arguments made by the anti-science crowd (which are much more diverse and nuanced than I would have guessed), and he isn't dickish in the way he refutes them all.
posted by Rykey at 6:47 PM on September 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Bible is not a homogenous book, and only one of the smaller sections makes any claim to being an eyewitness account of someone who witnessed God, the Epistles of Paul.

Revelation is written in the first person and the author describes seeing God (e.g. chapter 4).
posted by jedicus at 8:27 PM on September 9, 2012


the style of creationism found in America is not unique to the United States, creationism is not uniquely abundant in the Unites States, the aggressiveness of creationism in the United States is not more American than it is Australian or British (Answers in Genesis is itself Australian)

Minor correction: creationism is not anywhere near as widely accepted or aggressively pushed in Australia as it is in the US. We have a much smaller base of fundamentalists (as a percentage of total population), and although we've produced a lot of creationists, they've almost all had to move overseas to get any attention or traction. There has been a recent push here for it to be introduced in schools, but 'recent' means 'the last two or three years' only, and it's largely been on the back of the success creationists have had in the US. We certainly think of it as a US phenomenon over here.
posted by harriet vane at 9:59 PM on September 9, 2012


Neopaganism is a thing that exists.

Yes it is.
posted by mephron at 11:01 PM on September 9, 2012


Upon consideration and reflection, the Creation Museum makes me angry.
posted by mazola at 11:58 PM on September 9, 2012


Secondly, the idea that creationism will be extinct in a couple of centuries is beyond ridiculous.

The idea that we won't be making sacrifices at the temple of Jupiter in a couple of centuries is beyond ridiculous.

Neopaganism is a thing that exists. The quote was referring to ideas. You can't fight ideas with bullets.


This would seem to beg the question, wouldn't it? There are thousands upon thousands of dead ideas -- for instance, entire traditions are known to us only through brief descriptions or much later records, many of which were written by enemies or outsiders -- and tens of thousands more died leaving no record whatsoever. The worship of Jupiter may be among the ideas which has survived (sort of, as a modern reproduction of an extinct tradition with a big dollop of syncretism on top), but that doesn't mean the same has to be true of creationism.
posted by vorfeed at 12:22 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope this doesn't seem ad hominem, but the Creationist Phd Georgia Purdom... she seemed almost....medicated, to me.

That would explain the lack of cognitive dissonance, wouldn't it?
posted by taff at 1:58 AM on September 10, 2012


Upon consideration and reflection, the Creation Museum makes me angry.


Try having it in your backyard. When I moved to Northern Kentucky for a new job a few years back, my new boss took me out to lunch. Our conversation turned to what there was to do for fun in the area, and among the many attractions he recommended was the Creation Museum. "It really opened my eyes," he told me. Knowing that about him really opened my eyes.

Shortly after that, some friends were telling me about a weird guy they met one night who asked them to join him in a "philosophical discussion" that turned out to be thinly veiled evangelizing for Young Earth Creationism. When they'd challenge the validity of his claims, he'd preface all his rebuttals with, "Well, if we believe what the Bible says..." to which they'd reply, "But what if we don't?" Their conversation went in circles like this until they gave up. When they mentioned the guy had an Australian accent, I perked up: "Wait! What was his name?" It was one of Ken Ham's sons.

Fortunately, sometimes reason prevails around here, though. Shortly after I moved here, the Cincinnati Zoo dropped its promotional partnership with the Creation Museum after a wave of negative reaction.
posted by Rykey at 7:00 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The worship of Jupiter may be among the ideas which has survived (sort of, as a modern reproduction of an extinct tradition with a big dollop of syncretism on top), but that doesn't mean the same has to be true of creationism.

What? Who's begging the question here? The original post claimed that because there are no longer sacrifices made at the temple of Jupiter, this shows that creationism will no longer exist centuries from now. I pointed out that the worship of Jupiter still exists, as a testament to how long ideas exist. There are people who still claim that the earth is flat, or hollow, and they have websites. The fringe you will always have with you.

It seems like you're equally begging the question, by going "just because Jupiter worship exists now, creationism won't centuries from now." Where's your evidence?
posted by Apocryphon at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2012


she seemed almost....medicated

I think that was just her way of speaking.

She has that weird sort of accent where no word is ever fully formed and everything sounds like a lazy half-drunk slur. I've always associated it with the West Coast, but I guess it turns up everywhere. I have a few East Coast friends who talk that way, too, and it drives me nuts. Enunciate a whole syllable, guys. Please.

(I used to assume that tongue piercings caused people to talk that way, because almost everyone I knew with that accent had their tongue pierced. But now the whole tongue piercing thing is over and people are still talking like that.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 AM on September 10, 2012


What? Who's begging the question here? The original post claimed that because there are no longer sacrifices made at the temple of Jupiter, this shows that creationism will no longer exist centuries from now.

The example qxntpqbbbqxl chose does demonstrate what they wanted it to: it shows that widespread and long-held ideas can in fact die out within a span of centuries. Can, not will. There's a distinction, and the distinction ("you can't fight ideas with bullets", "The fringe you will always have with you") is where you're begging the question.

The original post claimed that because there are no longer sacrifices made at the temple of Jupiter, this shows that creationism will no longer exist centuries from now. I pointed out that the worship of Jupiter still exists, as a testament to how long ideas exist.

That's the problem. The worship of Jupiter does not still exist, not as originally practiced. Neo-paganism is a product of the 1960s; if its adherents wanted to faithfully recreate services at the Temple of Optimus Maximus they could not, because we don't know enough about either the temple itself or the rites performed there. The vast majority of the original ideas behind the worship of Jupiter are dead. Rituals like these and these are new ideas. And for every Jupiter there are probably hundreds if not thousands of gods which have been entirely wiped from the pages of history.

Jupiter might be an example of how long ideas can exist, but that proves nothing about how long the idea of young earth creationism will exist.

It seems like you're equally begging the question, by going "just because Jupiter worship exists now, creationism won't centuries from now." Where's your evidence?

I didn't say that. I said "The worship of Jupiter may be among the ideas which has survived, but that doesn't mean the same has to be true of creationism". I was refuting your own certainty about creationism's survival, rather than making a certain suggestion of my own.

Personally, I do think it's reasonable to suggest that young earth creationism may die out within the next few centuries. It's a reactionary movement that's very much of its time and place, so it's reasonable to suggest that its ideas may be abandoned later on. I can't say that it will die out, but it's certainly not "beyond ridiculous" to suggest so... much less because religious ideas never die. Extinction denial was a hot topic in Christianity just two hundred years ago -- if religious ideas don't ever die, then where is it now? Why aren't creationists still insisting that species never die out?

Given history I think it's reasonable to suggest that Christian fundamentalists two hundred years from now may have conceded this particular issue, and might be agitating over something else entirely.
posted by vorfeed at 11:50 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did anyone else get the urge to play Origin of Species by MC Frontalot while reading this thread?
posted by Melee Loaf at 12:22 PM on September 10, 2012


[I'm a Christian and a biologist who espouses the "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" idea of biologist and Russian Orthodox Christian Theodosius Dobzhansky.]

I lost interest in the creationist video in the first minute when the guy said "Moozlim".
posted by neuron at 7:48 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Menton states that Creationism is believed around the world, citing South Africa, India, South Korea and Brazil as places where it is "taught".

South Korea rejects creationist interference in school textbooks

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 12:09 PM on September 11, 2012


Facebook Ad Touting Dr Pepper as the ‘Evolution of Flavor’ Sparks Boycott Calls from Creationists
posted by homunculus at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Facebook Ad Touting Dr Pepper as the ‘Evolution of Flavor’ Sparks Boycott Calls from Creationists

Don't they know Dr. Pepper was invented only four minutes ago? Teach the controversy!
posted by Rykey at 8:36 PM on September 13, 2012


Bill Nye the party guy
posted by homunculus at 12:59 AM on September 16, 2012


Feathered Dinosaurs Drive Creationists Crazy: Biblical literalists are on a campaign to “take dinosaurs back.”
posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on September 19, 2012


BILL NYE-SCIENCE STYLE (과학 스타일)
posted by homunculus at 12:20 PM on September 27, 2012


Rep. Paul Broun, High Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science: Evolution, Big Bang Theory ‘Lies Straight from the Pit of Hell’
posted by homunculus at 3:03 PM on October 5, 2012


Casually skimming what you wrote, for some reason I grokked it as Rep. Broun thinking the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory came straight from the pit of hell.

Working for CBS was pretty bad, but I don't know that it was hell.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on October 5, 2012


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