Evolution is wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.
July 17, 2014 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Understanding creationism: An insider’s guide by a former young-Earth creationist
"In this short series, David MacMillan explains how misinformation and misconceptions allow creationists to maintain their beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A former creationist blogger and writer, Mr. MacMillan earned his BS degree in physics from the University of North Alabama and now works as a technical writer when he isn’™t frequenting the PT comment boards. Since leaving creationism, he has written several columns discussing the public dialogue between creation and evolution. This series will outline the core beliefs creationists use as the basis for their reasoning while pointing out the challenges faced in re-educating against creationist misconceptions."
  1. Introduction and overview: Philosophy of pseudoscience
  2. Variation and adaptation
  3. You don’t evolve, your species does
  4. Transitional fossils.
  5. Evolution of evolution
  6. Genetic evidence
  7. The religion of evolution
  8. New perspective
posted by brundlefly (13 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I never understood before this that there were creationist nerds who really went that deeply into the argument.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:29 PM on July 17, 2014

"Creation Science" is in an unenviable position where it has to give lip service to the methods of science, but has to throw away the results of those methods whenever it conflicts with their understanding of the Bible. Under such constraints, no cogent argument can occur.

Ultimately, though, they don't have to provide cogent arguments, they just have to provide a plausibly scienceoid pile of documents that crypto-theocratic politicians can point to and say "see, people have written a lot of words on this topic and therefore there is a legitimate scientific disagreement over this issue."
posted by murphy slaw at 5:37 PM on July 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

The more I learned, the more distance I felt from creationists, who only ever seemed interested in mocking

I was a teenaged young earth creationist. I had a similar sort of experience. Creationists care about evidence only as ammo to won a debate with real or imagined enemies. Actual scientists approach evidence with joy and wonder. The vast distances of interstellar space and the intricacies of the simplest life aren't just debate fodder, they're beautiful. It's the beauty that gets people looking at scientific evidence. I think my creationism died not in a debate but retrospectively, thinking about all I'd come to know about the world and realizing that it had been a long time since creationism had told me anything half so true.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:39 PM on July 17, 2014 [19 favorites]

I never understood before this that there were creationist nerds who really went that deeply into the argument.

I was a hardcore little YEC. I didn't think I was throwing away the scientific method to save creationism. I thought creationism was true, and I had books full of scientific evidence to prove it. I seem to recall trying to convince a couple of my teachers in high school. In retrospect, the wisest response I got was bemusement, a recognition that I was too ideologically entrenched to be reached by argument which prompted my biology teacher to send me away with a smirk and a metaphorical pat on the head. In retrospect, I too am bemused with my young self.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:48 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

About this time, I came across this brief essay by noted biologist Todd Wood:
Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well. [Emphasis in original.]
Yet Todd Wood was, like me, a strident creationist.

I am not NEARLY smart enough to maintain this level of cognitive dissonance. I get tired just thinking about it.
posted by murphy slaw at 6:10 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

It works, and it works well.

"Admitting that the world is mysterious ain't accepting arguments against the glory of Abrahamic Truth," is how I read it.
posted by mr. digits at 6:41 PM on July 17, 2014

This is why I always found debates like the kind Bill Nye or like the skeptic podcasting duo Ross and Carrie have with creationists kind of frustrating, just because there is no actual logical debate to be had, and you have two sides discussing two completely different things that basically just end up nowhere.
posted by KernalM at 6:44 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Really good book, although a little dated now, is God's Own Scientists: Creationists in a Secular World, where an anthropologist delves deeply into American creationist Christians. Really helped me understand how and why people come to creationism and why they hang on to it so hard.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:50 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

KernaIM, I don't think those kinds of debates are intended to be productive as debates. They're public advocacy masquerading as debates, and in that sense I think they can be useful. I think Nye did a great job in that regard.
posted by brundlefly at 6:54 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

"They understand the theory of evolution, along with mainstream geology and a variety of other disciplines, as a philosophical construct created for the express purpose of explaining life on Earth apart from divine intervention."

This is at the heart of it. To creationists, science is like a conspiracy designed to challenge their faith. And if it turns out that the Biblical creation story can't possibly be true, then no other aspect of their religion is safe from questioning.

If it's not possible that God created the Earth in 7 days, then maybe it's also not possible for one man to die for the transgressions of another.
posted by monospace at 8:21 PM on July 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

If it's not possible that God created the Earth in 7 days, then maybe it's also not possible for one man to die for the transgressions of another.

Repeated for Absolute Truth.

Evolution is not a theory in crisis.

The Bible is not a theory in crisis, it is a theory thoroughly debunked.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:46 PM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Real science displaces pseudoscience: tell a man about science and he might trust your authority, but teach a man how science works and he won’t need your authority at all. Do your best to instill confidence in the scientific process apart from the question of origins.

This is the crux of the matter. Give a man some reasoning and he'll nitpick every detail; teach him how to reason and he can figure out his own mistakes without you being an arsehole about it. Not that I have always followed the advice of my own mixed metaphor, but I do try my best.
posted by harriet vane at 10:30 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is excellent. Thanks, brundlefly. Though I gave up on YEC decades ago, this really helped me make sense of the nature of the debate and why I (and so many others) hung onto it for so long... in my case, into high school at least.
posted by torticat at 10:43 PM on July 26, 2014

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