Creationist Wisdom #976: How To Teach Evolution

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the The Daily Universe, a student newspaper of the School of Communications of Brigham Young University — a private university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The title is Evolution and creation (it’s the first letter at that link), and the newspaper doesn’t seem to have a comments feature.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Jacob. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Here we go!

Though it is admirable that BYU is attempting to reconcile religion and evolution in a way that students can effectively learn more about both, this attempt at reconciliation is, like all other attempts, ultimately doomed.

Why is it doomed? Jacob says:

The theory of evolution is rooted in a purely naturalistic metaphysics. It assumes that all things can be reduced down to mere atoms bouncing against each other [Boinkity-boink, clickity-clack!] and that all aspects of life are nothing more than the result of random, meaningless chance.

Egad, what a horrible theory! But wait — it’s even worse! Jacob tells us:

These assumptions ultimately imply a world where agency does not exist, choices are meaningless and there is no universal morality that we can ground ourselves in. It assumes there is no God.

Evolution is truly horrible! He continues:

On the other hand, the idea of creationism is rooted in an entirely different metaphysics. It makes its starting assumption that there is a God. It assumes that God created us, our world and the whole universe. It assumes that God is perfect, just, merciful, loving, and cares a great deal about our actions. It assumes we have agency to live morally and that life has meaning.

That sounds so nice! It must be true. Let’s read on:

These two viewpoints, evolution and creationism, can never truly be reconciled because they are rooted in fundamentally opposed metaphysics. All attempts at reconciliation will fail because of this.

Verily, they cannot be reconciled. Jacob has convinced us. And here’s the end of his letter:

By all means, teach evolutionary theory in the classroom. But teach the assumptions and implications that go along with it. Teach how the theory of evolution, when really taken seriously, leads to determinism, nihilism, moral relativism and the death of God.

That’s the way to teach evolution. Great letter, Jacob!

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21 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #976: How To Teach Evolution

  1. chris schilling

    “It assumes that all things can be reduced down to mere atoms bouncing against each other…”

    Who knew that Democritus was the father of evolution?

    No, poor Jacob with his coat of many errors was destined for failure when he tried to shoehorn metaphysics into a discussion on evolution.

  2. chris schilling

    Speaking of coats of many errors, I was wearing mine — nice fit, huh? — when I confused Jacob for Joseph.

  3. Dave Luckett

    An absolutely classic example of a strawman: the dishonest trick of falsely attributing an argument or position to one’s opponents and attacking that, rather than the real arguments or positions advocated by them.

    As usual we come to the perennial conundrum when faced with a creationist: Does Jacob actually believe what he says about the theory of evolution? Is he really so idiotic as to think that scientists must believe that “all things can be reduced down to mere atoms bouncing against each other and that all aspects of life are nothing more than the result of random, meaningless chance”? Or is he merely attributing this utterly false position to them, knowing that it is false, with the fraudulent intention of misleading his audience? Is Jacob a fool or a rogue? Or a bit of both?

    There’s no telling, any more than you can know if the raging drongoes you meet on the internet are really that crazy or are merely trolls trying to get a rise out of you. But Jacob is one or the other, or both, like all creationists.

  4. In olden days, the only version of atheism known was the atomism of Democritus, as formulated by Epicurus.
    Epicureanism became the word for atheism. See “De rerum naturae”/”On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius, which was The target of apologetics.
    Some modern apologists rely on hand-me-down arguments without understanding.

  5. “It assumes that all things can be reduced down to mere atoms bouncing against each other”
    So Jerky Jake doesn’t know much about physics and hence immediately produces the well known falsehood

    “and that all aspects of life are nothing more than the result of random, meaningless chance.”
    Not even quantum mechancics postulates random chance.

    “These assumptions ultimately imply a world where ….. choices are meaningless …..”
    BWAHAHAHAHA!
    According to Jerky Jake it’s totally meaningless if I choose to try to walk through a wall or not, because a chance of 99,9999 ….. % of me banging my head is totally random. Way to go!

    “It makes its starting assumption that there is a God.”
    Kudos for Jerky Jake. He honestly admits that he assumes what he concludes.

    “But teach the assumptions and implications that go along with it.”
    Good idea. Had they been properly taught to Jerky Jake he perhaps wouldn’t have written the crap I just cited. When will creacrap outfits take over his advise?

    “Teach how the theory of evolution, when really taken seriously, leads to determinism, nihilism, moral relativism and the death of God.”
    Thanks for demonstrating how necessary your advise is, Jerky Jake! Or perhaps you haven’t paid attention at school. Or perhaps …. the thought makes me shudder ….. you’re deliberately producing falsehoods about science?!

  6. @DaveL keeps on wondering: “As usual we come to the perennial conundrum when faced with a creationist: Does Jacob actually believe what he says about the theory of evolution?”
    Or perhaps Jerky Jake has passed the point where the question is still relevant? He resides in Oogity Boogity Land, remember?

  7. It strikes me how peculiar it is that apologists and especially creacrappers always target evolution theory when whining that methodological naturalism makes life meaningless. What meaning does Ohm’s Law give to human life? If there is an answer, does that mean that humans for all those millennia had a meaningless life?
    At the other hand you could (I don’t) argue that evolution theory actually does give life meaning: to produce fertile offspring.

  8. General Kenobi

    When people casually throw around the word “nihilism” I can’t help but think of the Big Lebowski … “I’m a nihilist … I believe in nothing” haha. people take themselves too seriously.

  9. Take a look at Walt Whitman’s poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”.
    Such deep thoghtfulness when confronted with higher mathematics like division.

  10. Jacob asserts that the “idea of creationism” assumes

    that life has meaning.

    Meh. I’m inclined to the view that among the least meaningful of all questions is the bogus, “What is the meaning of life?”

    One might as well ask “What is the meaning of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7?”

    Whether one enjoys the piece (as most do) or not (there are philistines, after all) doesn’t turn on looking for ‘meaning’ in places it is not to be found

  11. I’d like to hear what the ID mafia would have to say about the recent peer reviewed work in science that reveals that children view those men with beards as strong but clean shaven men as more trustworthy and lovable. I.e. Children don’t feel closeness towards bearded humans . also the researchers wondered what advantages would a bearded man have in competition for survival if the beard is not matched by the man’s strength and ingenuity.. Good question. But lets not ask questions of the IDers. they don’t like questions. Only doctrine based on supernatural events and magic.

  12. What!? Donald Trump is more ‘trustworthy and lovable’ than Santa Claus??!

    Say it ain’t so!

  13. they don’t like questions
    They don’t like questions about their rhetoric.
    They do like questions about science.
    Do they like answers? They don’t like answers to the questions that they pose about science. Obviously, they don’t like answers from scence to those questions. But they are also noted for not providing their own answers to their own questions. They’d rather change the subject.

  14. As a clean-shaven man whom dear Olivia finds extraordinarily strong, entirely trustworthy, and–above all else–irresistably lovable, I remain stunned by the scientific study noted by och will. And a tad dubious–though I suppose that, if the study shows that it is folks with the minds of children despite being of adult years who show this tendency, then Trump’s appeal to a segment of the population might be explained.

    But still, I am tempted, in the time-honoured fashion, to start an online Dissent from Facial Hirsutism, open for signatures by suitable qualified barbers and tonsorial stylists. We hold, inter alia, that Benito Mussolini was not more trustworthy, still less more lovable, than Abraham Lincoln.

    Our current research programme, conducted in a secret underground green-screen la-BOR-a-tory, seeks to determine the effect of moustaches. Was Stalin perceived by the childish at heart as more trustworthy and lovable than Captain Kangaroo? The world needs to know!

  15. Jim Roberts

    Usually it’s not an issue, but occasionally it’s VERY weird to hear someone tell me that my beliefs are cognitively dissonant because I believe in God and also acknowledge that life occurred and is evolving through natural processes.

  16. The photo our Curmudgeon posted is a manifest fake.

    A proponent of absurd anachronisms, I only shave with my late grandfather’s old-fashioned ‘cut-throat’ razor, lovingly sharpened on a leather strop.

    The only safety razor in our home is reserved for Olivia’s exclusive use–for purposes over which I will draw a discreet veil…

  17. @Mega tries to be snarky: “Whether one enjoys the piece (as most do) or not (there are philistines, after all)”
    How fortunate that the Philistines (of the same culture as Carthago) developed a great civilization, because even if I’ve played Beethoven’s 7th as a member of an amateur orchestra I always thought it dull. I prefer the Eroica.

    He also leaves room for speculation: “draw a discreet veil”.
    This is an invitation I can’t decline. Must be because Olivia is so afraid of both Mega and our dear SC that that razor is her main safety measure against both …..

  18. SecMilChap

    God seems to be a word that the creationists like to use, but their chronic anonymity is bothersome. If you can read Lithuanian, you know that all of creation is attributable to Dievas. But, we know that nihilism is real, so can’t we attribute that, too? GodChecker.com gives us some guidance by posting an occasional name for a creator now and then, but rarely any advice on propitiation. I seem to remember Ahura-Mazda was given the credit for all creation, too. But, just as I was comfy with that name, I got the unwelcome news that the name had been changed to Ormuzd. Do gods go to court to get name changes? Still, nihilism was knocking about before and after the name change. Does that mean a whole new set of rules was promulgated? It’s a tough universe to hang out it unless you just keep busy doing other things. When I was a big-city rail commuter, I usually couldn’t visit GodChecker.com, and only blamed myself for the few times I missed a train. Jacob’s advice doesn’t help – maybe a timetable?

  19. Megalonyx, Olivia — the real one, not your fantasy — asks me to give you this link: sea lion falling into mouth of whale.

  20. By all means, teach evolutionary theory in the classroom. But teach the assumptions and implications that go along with it. Teach how the theory of evolution, when really taken seriously, leads to determinism, nihilism, moral relativism and the death of God.

    In other words, teach evolution, but also teach that evolution is evil and should not be taught.