Sunday, December 03, 2006

Spanking creationists

Spare not the rod

Oh, dear. I'm about to pick on three teenagers and I don't feel entirely good about it. I will try to avoid unnecessary roughness, although I know they come from a culture in which corporal punishment is warmly embraced.

These teenagers are budding creationists, which is hardly their own fault. They are the winners of an Answers in Genesis essay contest. Each one addressed the assigned theme, “the war of the worldviews,” and their efforts were plucked out of a stack of 126 entries and proclaimed the best. The essays are now posted on the AiG website, where we can all read and enjoy the youthful wisdom of the creationists of tomorrow. Remember: these are the best essays.

Let's begin with Antimatter and the Big Bang, a discourse by homeschooled 15-year-old Paul Lamicela of Pennsylvania on the intractable baryon number problem. Since regular scientists have yet to settle it to everyone's satisfaction, it is clearly a triumph for creation. Paul explains this in the introductory paragraph of his first-place essay:
This is an example of the War of the Worldviews in action! As I researched the baryon number problem, I found that many brilliant, evolutionary scientists indicated that this problem has basically been solved. It is a fairly technical, theoretical subject, so I had to learn many new terms and ideas. I became somewhat discouraged and almost gave up. But after more research, I found that it is not solved. Since these scientists are committed to naturalism, they have to cover up the many problems in their naturalistic, anti-Biblical models in order to still hold to their underlying belief. They are willing to use fudge factors, theoretically violate scientific laws, and discard the Standard Model of particle physics before admitting that naturalism is causing major problems in their models. Despite much experimentation, the baryon number problem is still a major problem for the big bang! God's Word is true!
Where to begin? Paul packs a lot into one paragraph, but I suppose you have to do that if you want to support as bold a conclusion as the validation of God's word. Perhaps I have not studied the Bible diligently enough, but I missed the part where God proclaimed that he was opposed to a nonmagical resolution of the baryon problem. Paul has fully imbibed the argument that every unsolved problem in science is automatically evidence of divine agency.

Let's go back to the top of Paul's initial paragraph and take note of the particulars of his indictment of naturalistic science. First, he refers to physicists as “evolutionary scientists.” This must be because scientists who work in the field of particle physics and the nature of matter are exponents of a universe billions of years old. (There is a tiny handful of exceptions to this rule: Jason Lisle is one of the few astrophysicists willing to embrace young-earth creationism, so no one should be surprised that Paul has to cite him later.)

Paul says that scientists must “cover up” the flaws in their naturalistic models to preserve their belief system. They must not be very good at concealing these scandalous shortcomings if a high school student was able to ferret out their dark secrets. In reality, as too many people do not know, scientists are always publishing their data, including even evidence that goes contrary to the general consensus. Everything is grist for their mill. It is not an indictment to say that they might even abandon the Standard Model of particle physics. Rather, that is exactly how science is done. If and when the preponderance of the evidence tilts the balance against the current Standard Model, a new model will become the standard. We are hardly there yet, however.

Fortunately for Paul, he need not worry about such upheavals in his own cozy little world of creationism. If any problems arise, you just hand over the responsibility to God. Very neat, very tidy. And not science. Not even a little bit.

The main topic of Paul's essay is the dearth of antimatter in the universe. As best we can tell, the observable universe is dominated by regular matter. Since nature appears to operate in accordance with several parity laws, why don't matter and antimatter occur in equal proportions throughout the cosmos?

An inkling of a possible solution arose when humanity first discovered that parity was not necessarily conserved in physical interactions. Our essayist points out, however, that parity-breaking cannot really answer the question because parity violations are orders of magnitude too small in their effects. Hence the antimatter problem remains unresolved, despite hints that the outline of a solution is taking shape. Paul is not patient enough to wait. He has the answer already: “God created matter in the beginning, but He did not create much antimatter. God did not want all the matter to annihilate with antimatter. He designed the universe to function.”

See? Problem solved! Paul seems to appreciate that God is the perfect answer to any question. Omnipotent beings are like that, you know. Our young essayist does not seem to appreciate that “God did it” is no answer at all in a quest for scientific answers. If no one had ever questioned the God-did-it answer in the past, we would have remained little more than the animals, rather than little less than the angels. The sinful quest for knowledge has brought us a long way.

What is this science stuff, anyway?

The first runner-up penned an essay titled Worldviews and how they Affect Science. (That's her capitalization.) Sarah F. is a 17-year-old homeschooler in Colorado. Forgive me for giving away Sarah's punch line, but it may help to know where she plans to go before examining some of her statements. You see, Sarah thinks that evolution is a religion. Let's see how she comes to this conclusion:

“Evolution is the theory that man evolved from apes.” Well, that is part of the theory of evolution. Sort of, anyway. Scientists actually believe that man and apes had a common ancestor. In fact, people who understand even a little about evolutionary theory know that it says all living creatures share a common ancestry. Read The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins for some of the juicy details. Still, Sarah hasn't gone completely off the rails year. She's just being a bit parochial to limit it to humans (and at least she didn't say “monkeys”).

Sarah then appeals to authority to establish the religiosity of evolution: “In reality, evolution is a religion. Ken Ham writes...” Good move! She's quoting the head of the organization sponsoring the essay contest. And what does Ham say? It's the usual creationist cant about the supposed symmetry between evolutionists and creationists: Evolutionists won't admit the “possibility” that God did it, and creationists will never deny God's role. Since scientists are supposed to be open to the falsification of their theories, this proves they cling to evolution by faith rather than by reason. (Creationists are exempt from this because they admit to being faith-based from the start. To them, evidence is just an unnecessary bonus.) Let's hear from Sarah again:
Not only is evolution religion, it is a theory which science involves. A theory is when one takes the facts and interprets more than the facts actually reveal.
You may be surprised to learn that I think I know what concept Sarah is groping toward in that opaque passage. A well-developed theory usually makes predictions (“more than the facts actually reveal”), whereupon the experimentalists go hunting for confirmation of those predictions (the missing “facts”). Like Paul, Sarah seems to think that this is a weakness rather than a strength of science. That shows you what a creationist upbringing will do to one's reasoning powers.

Having identified evolutionary theory as a religion, Sarah goes on to say, “The other theory is creation.” You have to love that. The “other” theory. Creationists forever struggle to establish a false dichotomy. Sure, evolution and creation are polar opposites, but it does not follow that each gap in the evidence for evolution is automatically a building block for the edifice of creationism. This ploy is born of necessity because creationists live off the leavings of mainstream scientists: they pick through the results of scientific research and seize on every shortcoming as if they just discovered something. It's a sad way to do business.

But what about those genuine scientists who are also true-believing creationists? They do exist, but are scarcer than hen's teeth (themselves an evolutionary throw-back), so creation believers make do with anachronistic examples such as Isaac Newton: “Sir Isaac Newton was a firm believer in creation and the Bible.” But Sir Isaac was dead and in his grave for more than 66 years before Darwin was born. Pray tell, how could Newton have been anything other than a creationist?

Sarah then discusses the eye, proclaiming it as a perfect example of God's handiwork. She scoffs at claims that the human eye is wired backward (citing evolutionist Frank Sindler: “As an organ designed and created by an infinitely wise deity, the human eye in inexcusable.”) She explains that God created our eyes the way he did to protect the photoreceptors by setting up the retina in an orientation the critics call “backwards.” This is all very nice, until you realize that eyes come in dozens of different forms in nature. If our eyes are perfectly designed, then the eyes of invertebrates are the backward ones. Something is terribly wrong—and it's the idea that all of these things were carefully designed.

In addition to eyes, hearts are also obviously designed and therefore impossible in terms of evolution. Sarah seems to think that the variation in the number of chambers (from 2 to 5) is evidence for God's creation of different species. “How could this happen under evolution?” asks Sarah, offering the argument from incredulity.
With these examples, one can see how creationists and evolutionists take the same facts and come up with different conclusions in order to support their religious perspective....

This, therefore, is not a debate on which scientists are right; it is a debate on which religion is true and which is false. Evolution vs. creation is now a debate over whether man is inherently good or bad, if he needs a Savior.
Remember, evolution is religion. Ken Ham says so.

Evolution and other bad things

Our third prize winner is Josiah Magnuson, an apple-cheeked 14-year-old homeschooled kid from South Carolina. (That homeschooling sure is a common denominator, isn't it?) His ambitious topic is nothing less than Let Freedom Ring: Life, Liberty, and the Worldview Wars. Unlike Sarah, who defines evolution in terms of apes and men, Josiah construes “evolution” very broadly, as a stand-in for just about everything that is wicked and ungodly in the world. Even these few excerpts will challenge your ability to tally all the ways in which evolution is a bad, bad thing—as well as a “worldview” opposed to God. Josiah devotes the second paragraph of his essay to a word from his sponsor, the oracular Ken Ham:
As Ken Ham, a leading proponent of the creation science movement has written: “Secularism, with its moral relativism, is in direct opposition to Christianity and its absolute morality. The battle is between these two worldviews: one which stands on God's Word and one which accepts man's opinions.”
Josiah then cites the statement in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and concludes “Thus, freedom depends on which creator we believe in.” Obviously.

Josiah explains that after Adam and Eve failed their test in the Garden of Eden, the Ten Commandments were issued to govern mortal human life (mortality having been imposed as punishment for disobedience) and government was ordained by God to discipline those who violate the commandments.
Rulers exist to punish wrongdoers and thereby protect rights.

However, violating others' rights is inevitable for natural men, which is where the salvation message comes in. The grace of God through Christ's atonement makes it possible for a Christian to respect others' rights, and God's rights, as contained in His Law....

Societies based on God's Creatorship should thus be free, republican organisms, thriving and happy in a liberty based on the presence of absolutes and rights. Is that the case? Let us examine creationism in history.
Josiah appears to believe that only Christians are empowered to respect the rights of others. If that's true, he must be quite afraid of anyone who does not believe as he does. After all, they live to do evil. (Perhaps we should round them all up.)

Josiah recounts the biblical account of Noah's flood, although without a word about God's penchant for large-scale slaughter, and explains how the diversity of human languages arose as punishment for the hubris of the builders of the Tower of Babel. It's all in the Bible, dutifully footnoted by Josiah. (He has a lot of footnotes, thirty-three in all; he really should have been the grand prize winner. My favorite footnote is the one about the Tower of Babel having been designed to withstand God's judgment. It says, in full, “Various legends from around the world.” That's scholarship for you.)

And what happened after the confusion of languages at Babel? It's time to pay tribute to the either/or world of dichotomy:
Two lines of thought were developed; one affirming the existence of a supreme Creator, the other formulating a relativistic pagan philosophy with a basis in naturalism.
Just two lines of thought, pro-God and anti. Josiah identifies the Creator followers as including Britons, the Hwang-Ho Chinese, Abraham's clan, several Native American tribes, and some Greeks. The bad guys? Those include Sumer, Assyria (soon, however, to do God's work by punishing the ungrateful Israelites), Egypt, Babylon, and the Hittites. Josiah claims that the Creator-based tribes began with a patriarchal structure and “Eventually, many became surprisingly republican.” I think Josiah forgot to capitalize that last word, and I wonder if he meant to include Native Americans in that statement, but perhaps Ben Nighthorse Campbell is an example. I'm pretty sure the Britons are excluded. (God save the Queen!)

Israel, of course, went the other way, choosing to have a king, although “God objected to a monarchy for Israel, citing the probability of over-taxation, forced labor and army service.” That's right, God quoted the crawl-text from the beginning of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace at the tribes of Israel, but they ignored him anyway and crowned Saul as their sovereign. God then had no choice but to call on Assyria and Babylon to despoil the lands of his Chosen People and enslave them. It's tough love.
Perhaps the most well-known ancient republic was Rome. This nation seems to have been founded on the principle of the Creatorship of a Supreme Being, although other gods were later added.... [A]s long as the people were moral and held their rulers accountable, it prospered.

It may be that the rise of every free government in history can be attributed to a revival of belief in a supreme Creator and absolutes.

Even Constantine's nominal Christianity brought a wave of religious freedom and restoration of power to the Roman Senate.

The Protestant Reformation preceded the Dutch and German Revolutions.

The Puritan and Separatists movements preceded the English Revolution.

The Great Awakening preceded the American Revolution.
And the Huguenots preceded the French Revolution, and the mad monk Rasputin preceded the Russian Revolution, but those are clearly invalid post hoc arguments and don't count.

It's time for Josiah to introduce the true villain of the piece. Prepare to hiss and boo, for this is a scary villain indeed.
Unfortunately, Evolution teaches that there are no absolutes. Instead, it declares the universe to be one of change and chance, continuously morphing all its inhabitants and their ideals to match the need of the “fittest” race to survive and dominate. Even the idea of fitness eventually becomes ethereal, for evolution has no prior intention of what fitness should be. “Fitness” is whatever is convenient to the perceived master race.
Jesus H. Christ on a crutch! Where did that come from? Visions of social Darwinism are skipping through Josiah's troubled mind, suggesting that science's natural selection is no different from Naziism's racial pogroms. (It's a damned shame that Darwin's reference to “favored races” continues to be read in terms of the different races of humanity, rather than as an old-fashioned description of competition among variant species. I suspect some people who actually know better continue to promote this misunderstanding because it suits their war against naturalistic science.) Josiah continues his sorry (but award-winning) diatribe:
Dictatorship exists where one person is allowed to make any decision whatsoever. However, in the evolutionary idea of it, the dictator is not at all “allowed” to be dictator, but becomes one by nature of intrinsic supremacy. Individual sovereignty and freedom evaporate.

Democracy exists where the majority of the people may make any decision whatsoever. If the individual is not a part of the fit Majority, he may be eaten alive. Democracy, the absolute rule of the people, is not utopia. Individual sovereignty and freedom evaporate.

In short, government as viewed from the evolutionary perspective creates itself, makes its own rules, and exists to dominate in whatever way possible. If the State sees fit to grant limited liberty to its weak, scrawny, less-evolved subjects, it is only to make them fall at its feet. The State thus empowers itself further. This almighty “fit” State does not exist to protect, but to subdue.
Our only hope is to merge church and state as quickly as possible, so that the loving grace of church rule will mitigate the state's awful tendencies toward tyranny, especially that problem with democratic cannibalism. (Speaker Pelosi must solemnly pledge that the House cafeteria will not offer tasty unfit humans as live snacks under her leadership. They should at least be cooked.) World history teaches us that theocracy is best.

Would someone please freshen up Josiah's Kool-Aid? He's drunk deep and his cup is empty.

Let Freedom Ring concludes with a breezy catalog of abominations that adhered to the evolutionist line. Josiah cites the city state of Athens, which descended into chaos “after its acceptance of the worldview of Evolution” (I didn't know that; did you?); the Roman empire (not at all as nice as the Roman republic, although blessed with centuries of success despite God's abhorrence); the Catholic Church, which “claims to be a ‘Christian’ religion,” although it is “a dictator over people's consciences and even thoughts” (totally unlike any Protestant sect, that's clear); and the French Revolution, which slaughtered many “pastors and republican philosophers” (to the cheers, no doubts, of the evolutionists lining the streets leading to the guillotines).
Many of the dictatorships of the 20th Century were not only founded on atheism or lawlessness, but blatantly designed from Darwinian Evolutionary positions.
Could we please have a footnote for that, Josiah? Please?

He tries to document that insidious claim, but fails in a way that is perfectly understandable. We can't judget Josiah by the standards we would apply to an adult. He's a young man, well indoctrinated in the tenets of his creationist worldview, and his scholarship is immature and unformed. He innocently relies on secondary sources (as most of us must, especially outside the fields of our particular expertise). Josiah therefore trustingly cites Sir Arthur Keith's statement that Hitler was an evolutionist, “[a]s quoted by Carl Wieland, The Blood-Stained Century of Evolution.” Well, that sounds like a dispassionate scientific treatise, doesn't it?

Josiah is probably an unwitting quote-miner when he follows Wieland in repeating only the first sentence from a paragraph in Evolution and Ethics, a book that Sir Arthur began to write while World War II was still in progress and which he published shortly after its conclusion. To avoid any taint of quote-twisting, let me give the paragraph in its entirety, making it clear that Sir Arthur Keith was not declaring the Third Reich to be the epitome of evolution and natural selection. In fact, Sir Arthur makes clear that, in his view, Hitler's regime was a distortion of evolutionary principles, both misunderstood and misapplied:
The German F├╝hrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution. He has failed, not because the theory of evolution is false, but because he has made three fatal blunders in its application. The first was in forcing the pace of evolution among his own people; he raised their warlike passions to such a heat that the only relief possible was that of aggressive war. His second mistake lay in his misconception of the evolutionary value of power. All that a sane evolutionist demands of power is that it should be sufficient to guarantee the security of a nation; more than that is an evolutionary abuse of power. When Hitler set out to conquer Europe, he had entered on that course which brought about the evolutionary destruction of Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes (see Chapter 34). His third and greatest mistake was his failure to realize that such a monopoly of power meant insecurity for Britain, Russia, and America. His three great antagonists, although they do not preach the doctrine of evolution, are very consistent exponents of its tenets.
Check it out, Josiah. Sir Arthur says he views Hitler as a deliberate evolutionist (which others might well dispute), but that Hitler was unsurprisingly outcompeted for survival because of his failure to grasp the nature of evolutionary theory. He thus put his entire country's survival at risk. One doesn't have to agree with Sir Arthur Keith to see how shamefully his statement is misused by creationists to set up Hitler as a model of evolution and natural selection—unless you mean a model of what does not survive.

Here's a paragraph from Josiah's concluding section. Those of us who pray might wish to send up petitions that Josiah will some day achieve enlightenment. Secularists like me will have to content ourselves with opposing Josiah's fellow travelers whenever they run for office, whether school boards or legislative bodies, in hopes of protecting the freedoms that we enjoy and that they truly do not understand.
The worldview of Evolution indeed grants a type of freedom. It is a freedom for Stalin to drive a sledgehammer into Trotsky's head. It is a freedom for Hitler to force millions into death camps. It is a freedom for Mao to torture and kill anyone who would even dare to have his hairdo.
John 11:35.

11 comments:

Blake Stacey said...

Actually, I always liked Fritz Lang's version of the Tower of Babel story. Metropolis portrays Babel as controlled by an entrenched oligarchy; class warfare eventually destroys the social order and topples the unfinished Tower. Hey, at least it's relevant, infinitely more so than versions hinging on the vengeful storm-god of a Bronze Age culture.

The Science Pundit said...

Brueghel was great, but Escher was better.

hobot said...

I consider them resoundingly spanked.
Spanked, spanked, spanked.

Anonymous said...

OOOoookaayyyy....

To be fair though, human flesh tastes like pork. Could be a tasty snack.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think it significant that the teens beat out the two adults?

Anonymous said...

Forgive me, but I had to share this quote from Volha Dziubina's "Myth vs. Fact regarding Homosexuality." Ms. Dziubina writes "The Bible is the Word of God, And Genesis is literary history. Its science can be trusted. Therefore, we have an absolute authority." Not only does religion supersede science, but it is itself science. Talk about assuming facts not in evidence.

Zeno said...

It's just my guess, PiD, but I think AiG preferred the younger entrants because there's a better p.r. angle with precocious kids than with college-age students. They certainly do write better than your typical mid-teen, even if what they write is bilge.

I considered included some comments about the other runners-up, but the post had gotten long enough and how can you possible follow Josiah's utterly amazing essay with anything else?

Anonymous said...

Zeno as you say, Josiah's essay is truly "inspired." Yet, I hesitate to criticize a teen-ager too harshly.

However, I have no problem criticizing adults, and even less with the scholars at AiG who deem these essays worthy of publication. Because so very, very much is worthy of ridicule, I'll limit myself here to the warning that follows the link Dziubina's essay on the AiG website. It reads, "PLEASE NOTE: Due to the topic of this paper, the content may not be suitable for younger readers." Evidentially, the mere "topic" of homosexuality is somehow dangerous to young minds; oddly, the scurrilous claims Dziubina makes merit no special warning. Two of my favorite are her assertion of a "relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia" and that the "professional psychiatric and psychological associations [...] have moved n [sic] recent years toward normalizing pedophilia."

Of course, I would prefer if all such arguments came with a similar warning. It might run something like this:

"PLEASE NOTE: Due its imbecilic argumentation, ludicrous evidence, laughably self-righteous tone, and hackneyed prose, this paper may not be suitable for readers prone to thoughtfulness, intellectual curiosity, appreciation of the written word, or high-blood pressure."

Warren said...

Paul is not patient enough to wait. He has the answer already: “God created matter in the beginning, but He did not create much antimatter. God did not want all the matter to annihilate with antimatter. He designed the universe to function.”

Of course that's how it happened. God's testicles create only matter, so when He spewed the universe forth from His mighty penis, thus forming the Milky Way on the bedsheets of the cosmos, only matter was left.

I mean, duh. It's obvious to anyone who's not an atheistic evolutionary scientist.

darrell said...

My brain shut down halfway through to protect me from the stupid.

dogscratcher said...

"This ploy is born of necessity because creationists live off the leavings of mainstream scientists: they pick through the results of scientific research and seize on every shortcoming as if they just discovered something."

Something about that imagery I find to be very disturbing, and yet apt.