Creationism Is Nowhere — Free Fire Zone

This may be a bit premature, but it looks like the complete collapse of the ancient “science” of creationism is at hand. Why do we say that? Because they don’t generate any stories we can blog about.

They’ve had no legislative victories since Louisiana and Tennessee enacted the Discovery Institute’s creationist Academic Freedom bill. As for litigation, not only don’t they have any court victories, it appears that they can’t even find a lawyer willing to litigate whatever grievances they have — and they do have them.

Don’t misunderstand. Creationists haven’t disappeared. They’re still out there, writing letters to the editor and visiting Hambo’s ark, but the big news is that they aren’t successful at bothering the rest of us. That’s great, but it means we often can’t find anything to blog about. So we’re declaring another Intellectual Free Fire Zone.

You know the rules. We’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, or even astrology, theology, mythology, and sociology — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it!

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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28 responses to “Creationism Is Nowhere — Free Fire Zone

  1. it seems that rejecting religious affiliation doesn’t always mean rejecting superstitious nonsense: Apparently, atheists are somewhat though far from entirely free from woo, agnostics somewhat freer than the general population, but “no affiliation” are among the most superstition-prone.

    Comments? And has any similar work being carried out in other Western countries?

  2. Opinions vary, but I find that peculiar ideas seem to abound in the social sciences.

  3. At this point in any discussion of atheism I always feel it improves the tone if I quote a saying I attributed to G K Chesterton: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.”

    However, following the admonition of the last words of the scholar in the story, I checked that quotation and found that it originates with a biographer of Chesterton, Emile Cammaerts, not with the great man himself. Nonetheless, it seems to me to be apt.

    I then reflected that the “last words of the scholar in the story” were equally apocryphal, wise as they are. I wondered how much other wisdom is found in common belief, anecdotes, tales – even myth and legend. From which I found myself thinking that perhaps it is unwise to completely dismiss a very widespread and commonly held idea, merely on the grounds that there is no verifiable evidence for it. But if there is no verifiable evidence, surely reality demands rejection?

    And then I remembered reading “The Screwtape Letters”, in which C S Lewis’s character, the devil Screwtape, tempts a mortal to damnation by convincing him that “real life” (never let them ask what they mean by “real”, advises Screwtape) must necessarily demolish the idle speculations that might occur to one in a secluded study. I confess, a frisson passed over me at that. Who was I listening to, here?

    See where this stuff leads? Not to rejection of God, nor to belief in Him, but only to agonised indecision, and a meeting of one’s self on the stairs coming in or going out, both or either by turns. Sometimes I envy outright theists. They think they know. I don’t think they do – but I know I don’t. But I ask you, what good is that?

  4. In a casual conversation with a friend, who thinks that Creationists are a kin of Flat-Earthers, but doesn’t share my interest, I tried out a standard creationist argument.
    Intelligent Design Creationists have argued like this: Scientists over all these years have not been able to design even the simplest form of life; therefore life must be Intelligently Designed.
    My friend offered the objection: hasn’t that been done?
    I said that if it had been done, then the creationists would surely point out that that proves that life is designed.
    My friend laughed at that. But he still didn’t get my point.
    I tried a little more, but it was clear that I wasn’t making my point. So we just went on to other stuff.
    My concern is, if I can’t make my point to a sympathetic audience, I have to change. I’m doing something wrong.

  5. Here is something completely different. I was just now reading something which commented that so-and-so was surprised that certain people “didn’t even know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims.”
    I question how many people know the difference between Arabs and Persians, and Turks, or between Muslims and Sikhs.

  6. chris schilling

    The differences are trivial compared to what they have in common. A Muslim and a Sikh, for instance, have more in common with each other, than they do with an atheist.

    But theists of any persuasion like to accentuate the differences. It makes them feel more special.

  7. For that matter, I remember my Presbyterian minister father asking me at age fourteen (me, not him) what I thought was the essential difference between Protestantism and the Roman church. It wasn’t what I thought, I’ll say that much.

    If you can be brought up in the Presbyterian manse, and have spent every Sunday morning from five years old and upward listening to Presbyterian sermons, and stood second in the State on “Scripture”, and not know that much, it is hardly surprising that certain people don’t know the odds between Sunni and Shia Muslims. I’d go further: I very much doubt that most people who do not come from Muslim tradition themselves, know that.

    As to making points, perhaps definition might be useful. What, exactly, is the point you wished to make? That creationism is unfalsifiable, at least by science creating a living thing?

  8. One of the oddities of Abrahamic religion is that the closer two beliefs or traditions are, the more furiously they urge their differences. Another is that the origin of the differences is often not found in doctrine, but in acceptance of authority, power and control. That was what caused the Great Schism in Christianity, and also the later Protestant schism, and it’s usually found at the root of all the divergences in the latter. The same is true of the Sunni-Shia split in Islam.

    I’m not sure how Buddhists, for instance, handle the differences between Theravada and Mahayana, or if they even bother. Hindus, too, seem to get along fine with each other, despite vastly differing traditions of practice, observance and even belief.

  9. chris schilling

    @Dave L writes:
    “One of the oddities of Abrahamic religion is that the closer two beliefs or traditions are, the more furiously they urge their differences.”

    Excellent point.

  10. @ChrisS: “… have more in common …”
    How do you measure that? How do you guarantee this is not just a reflection of your own bias?

    @DaveL: “That was what caused the Great Schism in Christianity”
    A bad simplification. The Great Schism was the result of a development that lasted many centuries and already begun in Late Antiquity (assuming you’re not talking about the Great Schism in the RCC of the 14th and 15th Century). That’s not to say that “acceptance of authority, power and control” didn’t play any role at all, but historical events hardly ever have just one cause. Other causes are language (Greek in the east, Latin in the west) and the loss of the Western Roman Empire plus everything that went with these two causes.

    “Hindus, too, seem to get along fine with each other”
    Mainstream hindus (of caste-system fame) don’t get along too well with aryan-hindus (those from which Mr. Schicklgruber stole its mythology).

    Monotheism tends to be less tolerant because it’s exclusive. Polytheistic religions easily can accept newly invented gods in their pantheons.

  11. Dutch YEC-outfit reflects on creationist history and recognizes a Golden Age of Creationism. As the article is rather confused I’ll drop some names.

    John Woodward (1665 – 1728)
    Thomas Burnet (1635 – 1715)
    Nicolas Steno (1638 – 1686)
    William Whiston (1667 – 1752)
    Johann Beringer (1667 – 1738)

    Truly, modern YECers stand on the shoulders of giants!

    This one is fun:

    “Zij verdedigen dat de god van de evolutie dezelfde is als de God van de Bijbel. Toch is het verschil evident. Waar God eigenhandig schreef in zes dagen geschapen te hebben, claimt de god van de evolutie er bijna 14 miljard jaren mee te hebben aangerommeld.

    Persoonlijk gruwel ik van de god van de evolutie. Ik moet er niet aan denken met deze afgod de eeuwigheid door te brengen.”

    “They [christians who accept evolution – FrankB] maintain that the god of evolution is the same as the God of the Bible. Still the difference is crystal clear. While God with his own hands wrote that he created in six days, the god of evolution claims to have messed around for almost 14 billion years.

    Personally I abhor of the god of evolution. I can’t stand the thought of spend eternity with this idol god.”

    The author with his brilliant analytical skills doesn’t fail to reveal the true identity of the god of evolution.

    “Het is dus de duivel die mensen verleidt te geloven in de evolutietheorie.”

    “It’s the devil who tempts people to believe in evolution theory.”

  12. Ah, almost missed it. After a long string of the usual creacrap clunkers this article ends with a nice one:

    “In de studie geneeskunde moeten studenten leren hoe het lichaam in elkaar zit en hoe de onderdelen ervan werken en met elkaar in verband staan. Aan mythische verhalen over hoe de verschillende onderdelen van het menselijk lichaam ontstaan zouden zijn, hebben toekomstige dokters en hun toekomstige patiënten niets.”

    “When receiving a medical education students should learn how the body is build up and how the components work and relate to each other. Future doctors and their patients have no use for mythical stories about the origin of all the different components of the human body.”

    Yup, it’s a shame that medical students in The Netherlands have to learn evolution theory.

  13. chris schilling

    Monotheism from polytheism is not a paradigm shift. Atheism from monotheism, potentially, is. Christianity — or Islam — from Judaism is not a paradigm shift. Greek empiricism, though, is. Anything that replaces gods and myths as explanations for reality, with a naturalistic basis instead, offers good grounds for a genuine paradigm shift.

    Theistic evolution is not a paradigm shift. But “Darwinian” evolution — speaking broadly, and without getting mired in semantics — should be.

    Muslims and Sikhs — to use one example from TomS’ post — are both monotheistic. Atheism is not.

    It’s in the interest of minorities — ethnic; religious; whatever else — to emphasize their “differences” as a way of establishing their perceived identities. But we shouldn’t flatter them with the conceit of “exclusiveness.” Ultimately, they tend to have much more in common than they’re willing to concede. Especially if they subscribe to supernaturalism as an explanation for anything.

  14. @TomS: ‘ I was just now reading something which commented that so-and-so was surprised that certain people “didn’t even know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims.” ‘

    I read (but don’t know the source or how reliable it is) that George W Bush was surprised to discover that there are two kinds of Muslim. This in the wake of his disastrous policy of dismantling the Iraqi security forces before building a replacement. Nor is it possible to understand the conflicts within Syria and Yemen without knowing about the existence of at least three different kinds of Muslim, and within Israel the existence of at least three kinds of Jew.

    Ignorance matters.

  15. @TomS — I think most creationist arguments and similar religious apologetics deliberately appeal to ideas that are intuitive and therefore convincing, even though they are logically paradoxical when you drill down. I think even rational thinkers fall into the trap of accepting the argument at face value (because of its intuitive sense) and trying to refute it on other grounds.

    In other words, your approach is correct (and I have learned from it myself), but finding a way to express it so that you get through even to a sympathetic listener is the challenge.

  16. @ChrisS: “Monotheism from polytheism is not a paradigm shift.”
    Quite a random statement given the definitions I found. Two examples:

    “a fundamental change in the basic concepts”
    It can be maintained that from many gods to just one is a fundamental change indeed.

    “an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way”
    It can be maintained that from many gods to just one is an important change, leading to a new and different way of thinking.

    Btw the Greeks were hardly empricists. Even Democritus arrived at his atom theory (which had preciously little in common with modern atom theory) by means of thinking about exactly one observation, namely cutting a knifte throug a piece of fruit.
    At the other hand Babylonian astronomers (magi) could be called proto-empiricists, because they systematically collected observations about the motions of celestal bodies. The earliest example I’m aware of of someone proposing an experiment to decide between two conflicting hypotheses, ie modern empiricism, is a Byzantine scholar from the 6th Century CE.

  17. @Paul D
    When first meeting with creationist arguments I tended to accept them at face value. Quote mining – that took some getting used to – I assumed that the quote accurately reflected the person quoted. And it took quite some time to realize the inconsistency of the arguments. I am carrying over what I have learned over many years of experience of creationism into other areas of “controversy”.
    Despite many years of formal education, I did not learn the benefits of sorting quote mining and inconsistency until learning about creationism.
    @others about Muslims and Sikhs
    The point that I was trying to call attention to was ignorance of other cultures. There are differences between Muslims, not only between Sunni and Shia – and others; also between Arabs and Iranians, Turks, etc. and there are Arab Christians, dating from the first centuries CE. It is stupidity to think of all of those Muslim=Arabs as the same.
    @chris schilling
    One small point. In the ancient Jewish Christian literature, accepted by some as part of the Bible, there are the stories of “Bel and the Dragon” – see Wikipedia – which tell of the hero Daniel giving natural explanations for the supposed supernatural.

  18. @TomS, “It is stupidity to think of all of those Muslim=Arabs as the same.” indeed. Of the three most populous mainly Muslim countries, Iran, Pakistan, and Indonesia, none are in any sense Arab. Nor are Turkey, Malaysia, Bangladesh, or Nigeria (Moslem population around 100,000,000).

    The name of Daniel is also associated with experimental testing of a prediction (vegetarian diet, chapter1), and with the separate interrogation of witnesses (Susannah)

  19. @Paul Bratermann
    Thank you.

    The story of Susannah has been called the first detective story.

  20. @FrankB
    John Woodward (1665 – 1728)
    Thomas Burnet (1635 – 1715)
    Nicolas Steno (1638 – 1686)
    William Whiston (1667 – 1752)
    Were early students of fossils and geology in general. Burnet and Whiston published histories of the Earth somewhat compatible with a literal Noah’s Flood. Steno is particuoarly remembered for his four rules of stratigraphy, such as the law of superposition. He later retired from science, to work in Counter Reformation of the Catholic Church
    Johann Beringer (1667 – 1738)
    As far as I know, Beringer is unfortunately remembered only as the victim of a hoax, “Beringer’s Lying Stones” – see Wikipedia.

  21. chris schilling

    An Abrahamic monotheist believes it’s a big deal to go from polytheism to monotheism, because they think everything that came before led naturally up to them. They probably can’t conceive that something else may come along at some future time to replace their ideology, because — how could it? It’s perfect.

    But a reduction in the number of gods — from many to one — is small fry, in the greater scheme of things. It doesn’t alter our understanding of the world; it’s still contingent on supernaturalism. Getting rid of the notion of a god altogether might. That’s what I mean by a paradigm shift.

    I’ve met JW’s who think Catholics aren’t true Christians (and some of them were former Catholics, themselves). They think it’s a big deal –based on how they interpret the Bible — to have gone from one denomination to another. Not to me, it isn’t. It’s piddling stuff.

    Moreover, no-one is saying that we think all Muslims or Arabs are the same. But at some basic level Muslims, for instance, must all adhere to certain fundamental tenets of the faith — whether it’s the Koran, or something else — otherwise, why identify as a Muslim in the first place? It’s those fundamental, unifying tenets that I think need to be addressed, and critiqued. Any distinctions they make amongst their own sectarian beliefs are, finally, beside the point.

    I think Dave L’s observation of core doctrines that are simply interpreted differently, essentially stands. But this doesn’t necessarily make those different interpretations interesting. It might be interesting to those inside the circle. To an outsider, no (unless you’re into anthropology; or you’re a wide-eyed student of the near infinite variations on world religions).

  22. Michael Fugate

    It is interesting how monotheism created its own problems – like what to do with evil. Who do you blame when you can’t blame the only God?

  23. @chris schilling
    Yes, I realize that JWs – but also several other Christians – who don’t think that Catholics are Christians. I assume that they also exclude Orthodox (who also include Susannah & Bel and the Dragon in the Book of Daniel).
    And there are evangelical Christians who don’t tink that JWs – or Seventh Day Adventists or Mormons are Christians.
    I disagree with your statment that no one thinks that all Muslims and all Arabs are the same. I would guess that a majority of USA doesn’t have a clue about even a difference between Iranians (whether Moslems or even Parsi or Baha’i) and Lebanese (whether Muslims, Maronite Christians or Druze) and Egyptians (including Copts). (As far as how many people have any idea of what Indonesia might be, even people in position of power …).

  24. What happens when Ahmanson decides to stop the moneyflow?
    Is there any future for the DI and ID without his money?

  25. This one fell of the screen:
    Is there another millionaire to save the day?

  26. The Tooters have a very small footprint and a teeny, tiny, narrow audience. Without a few big donors they’d be toast. The ID wad was shot at Kitzmiller; Shaka, when the walls fell. Loss of their crazy billionaire donor would be the End Times for them.

    They’d be like John Calvert’s “Intelligent Design Network” run out of his house in Kansas. Never heard of him? Exactly! Calvert’s claim to fame was during the Kansas Kangaroo Kourt when the SBOE was infested with creationists and they were trying to overturn the science standards. He threatened to “sue” if Kansas didn’t adopt intelligent design. Nothing came of it, of course.

  27. Karl Goldsmith

    The latest 990 for Answers in Genesis is online to be viewed, but the one for the Ark is not yet online despite having the same financial year. So cant yet see the income increase for the Ark Encounter.

  28. Techreseller

    No religion is as good at accepting almost all beliefs as Hinduism. Allah is just another manifestation of Brahma. Want to believe x. No problem. Want to believe Y. No problem. Brilliant if you think about it. Accept all comers, denigrate no one who accepts overall Hinduism. Surprises me they do not get more converts.