A few weeks ago, a friend from our local Atheist Meetup, posted a pic on Facebook about Noah’s Ark. Another friend, let’s call her BiologyLas, made this comment:
I am still wondering how they had enough room for the vials of the billions of species of bacteria that inhabit this planet
Now these two people are my science minded, atheist friends. I’m not an expert at sarcasm, but I figured that I’d join in the fun and poke at the Creationists a bit. I wrote:
“Bacteria” count as 1 “kind” so you only need 2 microbes. Easy peas.
I thought it was funny. I also thought that, knowing me as a science minded atheist too, they’d get that I was making a joke.
NO there are at least 100l million species of bacteria that we know of… and given that bacteria are STILL from the earliest days of evolution, the most common life form on planet earth, I am guessing that there are a few more 100 million species unknown to our human science. Bite it Bubka!
And then she replied.
The diverstiy of bacteria is greater than the diversithy of all other species of life on earth. If you were a Bilogist you would have learned this in your studies. But alas since you are possibly (since you are Jamaican at some poiint you may have had a better ecucation than Americans..) a victim of American education you know almost nothing about Science much less Biology.
Uh…. what the hell just happened?
One minute I’m joking with two of my friends and the next I’m an ignorant American??!?!
So I wrote back:
totally kidding btw lol
But that didn’t quite do it for me. I walked away from the iPad, but something still nagged at me. Something that said I really shouldn’t leave it there.
So I added:
Or more clarification, I was making a really bad joke about how creationists have really fuzzy definitions about “species” and “kind” that focus more on phenotype rather than genotype. But since there was know knowledge of microbiology back then… they probably would have missed that opportunity.
I felt that I kinda had stand up for my American education. You know, demonstrate that I did know a bit about biology. I wasn’t an expert, but I wasn’t dumb either. But for some reason, I still felt bad. The display of intelligence didn’t seem to address the real issue.
It wasn’t just that she called me stupid. It was that she was so quick to go for really hurtful responses. It was so effortless for her to jump to the ad hominem.
So I concluded:
By the way BiologyLas, your response is actually quite rude for missing my joke. Very excessive.
That got her:
very sorry no offense meant Shawn!!!
nex’ time mek yuh joke dem moh obvious!
No offense meant? That’s like walking up to someone, telling them that their mother is a whore, and when they get offended saying “Oh no offense meant”.
The whole encounter really… I dunno… it did a number on me. I mean, I get that we atheists will argue about anything. But this wasn’t a debate. This was just plain mean. And if she’s this quick to move for the kill with someone who (by all accounts) is “on her side”… jeez… how is she with Christians?
Am I like this?
This past Sunday’s sermon had a few words about doubt, and how it was okay for Christians to doubt. I thought this was a rather hollow sentiment because usually doubters are only allowed to have one resolution to their doubt: more faith. When doubt emerges, the common response from the Church is to encourage the doubter to pray more, or go to small groups, or read some apologetic books. The admonition is to do anything that will make the doubt go away. Everyone doubts, you just can’t doubt successfully.
So on Facebook, I posted this:
“It ain’t a true crisis of faith unless things could just as easily go either way.” – Thor Shenkel. It’s okay for you to doubt. But is it okay for you to doubt successfully?
I didn’t expect anyone to take the bait, but surprisingly, a guy from our Church did. Lets call him TruthSeeker.
TruthSeeker responded that God is, so doubt and faithlessness were meaningless. It seemed like there was some confusion over the point I was trying to make, so I clarified:
Here’s what I’d expect to see if a Church community was okay with someone successfully doubting (Scenario 1): Doubter expresses doubt to Pastor. Pastor encourages Doubter to seek out best arguments and evide…nce from all sides, as many religions as possible, and even atheist/skeptic groups; weigh the evidence; and go with the best conclusion.
Here’s what I’d expect to see if a Church community was not okay with someone successfully doubting (Scenario 2): Doubter expresses doubt to Pastor. Pastor recommends small groups, apologetic books, one on one counseling, more prayer, so that their doubt can be resolved.
In Scenario 1, doubt is a process by which the best arguments are evaluated and (hopefully) the best one wins.
In Scenario 2, there is an expected conclusion and all efforts to resolve the doubt are done in a way as to always arrive at the expected conclusion.
What I see most often is Scenario 2.
If you’re talking about doubting the existence of God, and what the Truth is then that’s a different argument. In your Scenario’s, the Pastor’s role is to direct the person to the truth. There is only 1 truth, so to encourage you to examine all the versions of the untruth is pointless.
From there, I kinda realized where this was going. It’s the same issue I’ve been running into over presuppositions. I then wrote:
I guess the next question would be, how can one be sure that their “Truth” is the actual truth? You’re just as convinced that your God exists as I am convinced that your God doesn’t exist. I think your beliefs are untruths just as you think my beliefs are untruths. I can assert my beliefs as fact, just as you can.
I think my way of discerning truth is more effective than yours, and you think your way of discerning truth is more effective than mine. You think your evidence is more valid than mine, and vice versa.
So, how do we tell who’s right?
Partly rhetorical, part earnest. The conversation then went into what my beliefs are and how exactly I thought we differed in our standards of evidence and our ways to find truth. Somewhere along the way, I mentioned that while I had some reservations over whether Jesus was an actual historical figure, the research and debate behind it was kind boring to me. I’d tried to review the literature and the opposing sides, but just didn’t find it interesting. TruthSeeker jumped on this:
So you aren’t seeking truth are you?
You’re looking for proofs to sustain your preconceived understanding.
You’re closed to the truth.
That didn’t go over well with me at all:
Yes, Peter. By your definition, I suppose I am closed to the truth.
I thought he was just using a very narrow definition of the word truth, one that made truth the exclusive province of Christianity. He clarified:
Well if you claim to seek the truth, it simply isn’t genuine if you automatically reject exploring the evidence as presented. If all mainstream religions are void based upon your own premise, then you’re only seeking that which confirms your belief. I believe in Christ both as a tangible relationship and as a logical explanation in light of no better explanation.
He was actually referring to my beliefs that there was nothing supernatural. No ghosts or spirits or demons or souls. Nada. In my opinion, until it can be demonstrated (or even observed) that mental conciousness can exist outside of machinery, there’s no sense to assume that spiritualism is a better explanation to naturalism. And yes, I think the existance of the supernatural is a fundamental aspect of most mainstream religions. Take away supernaturalism and most religions are moot right out of the gate. It’s like quibbling about what color roof you want when the whole other 2/3rds of the house was swept away.
I completely failed to discuss this because by then I was too upset. I took his bait.
At the time, I also thought he was referring to my boredom with historicity discussions:
If you say… you’re not interested in the historical accuracy or authorship of the Bible, then how can you say you are seeking truth?
I tried explaining that boredom doesn’t equal a priori dismissal, that I actually tried reading it. It was just hard to get through so I haven’t made up my mind on the issue.
By then it spiraled out of control. TruthSeeker then switched to what he though were flaws in “Darwins Evolution religion”, but were simply strawmen that demonstrated that he didn’t know what evolution was.
The problem with Darwinism is modern science has undermined the basis for his theory.
Firstly if FROG wants to turn into a DOG it must shed the dna that makes it a frog and then acquire dna to become a dog. That’s impossible. No observed law of nature demonstrates this. In fact a frog’s cells only contain frog dna so aga…in where does the new information come from?Secondly, genetic mutations always involve the loss of data or corruption of data. Never has a genetic mutation been a positive thing.Thirdly, a species is wired to mate with its own kind. If a frog is looking for a mate, it would reject a dog as a potential mate. So how much ‘dog-ness’ would a mate accept before the new version dies out?Fourthly, Darwin said that by necessity every layer of the earth would have to be chock full of intermediate transitional fossils that clearly show the transformation from one kind into another. He was confident that the future would reveal that. 150 years later & no such evidence has been found.
In fact if every species that has ever… existed is the result of such evolutionary changes there should be trillions of fossils. As yet, not one single species can be demonstrated to have evolved.
Fifthly, irreducible complexity rules out the incremental forming of complex organs. Components that require all the parts in order to function cannot function when incomplete. The species would die out. If arms become wings there has to be a point at which the apendage is no longer useful as an arm or wing & that would cause detriment to the species.
Electron microscopes have revealed the complexity of cells, & they are also irreducibly complex.
And by then I was so pissed off that I got snarkier and ended up offending him.
You have “Darwinism” and evolution all wrong. It’s true that a frog going to a dog by shedding dna is impossible. No modern animal can change into drastically differ…ent modern animal. That’s not what evolution says. That was never what evolution said. Pokemon maybe, not evolution.
Evolution says that frogs and dogs share a very distant common ancestor that diverged in development millions of years ago. Some of that ancestors descendants eventually became frogs and some of those ancestors eventually became wolves (which we then domesticated into dogs). And some of those ancestors ended up becoming other modern day animals. That’s what evolution states.
Second, here’s an example of a genetic mutation being a positive thing: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html Natural selection displayed in the lab, where bacteria mutate to be able to metabolize citrate.
Third, yeah that’s what the definition of a species is. Again, Darwin never said that one species mates with a second species to make a third species. I have no clue where you got that, but that’s not evolution. Natural selection (a mechanism by which evolution works) creates variations in offspring through the passing of genes. Each successive generation is a little bit different. So drastic changes take millions of years.
Fourth, show me where Darwin said that. Not only that, but part of the implications of evolution is that every fossil is a transitional fossil, just as every animal is a transitional animal. Us humans, we’re transitioning too! Millions of y…ears from now (if we’re still here) we’ll probably be very different. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what transitional means in the scope of evolution.
Fossils are actually quite rare and we’re lucky to have them. The funny thing is, if we had more fossils, it would have been harder to discover evolution because all the species would have blended with each other and we wouldn’t be able to tell the subtle differences!
Fifth, irreducible complexity is also quite ridiculous. Think Voltron. Combined all the lions produce and awesome force, but separate the lions are still functional, just with job duties different from Voltron itself. Not only that, but Darwin himself described the possible evolution of the “irreducibly complex” eye: a patch of cells that are light sensitive increasing in sensitivity, forming a pit, hardening mucus, etc. It’s actually pretty easy stuff to an unbiased mind.
So we concluded the conversation in a whimper.
Like I said. No argument here. I’m just a deluded christian who is really an ignorant simpleton which is where these discussions always end up. Atheists are so much smarter & way intellectually superior.
I ended up not feeling very good about the convo, particularly how I let myself get baited and lose my cool. It was a really frustrating discussion since he used a kinda scattershot approach: ask a whole bunch of questions in succession and simply move on if I got him in a corner.
He made reference to two things that he claimed Darwin said that would show that evolution was wrong, and yet he didn’t provide quotes when asked. He just moved on.
I talked about how I viewed beliefs as “anticipation controllers” dictating what I should expect and shouldn’t expect to see, followed by a long list of specific things that I would expect to see that would make my beliefs false. I asked him if there was anything that would convince him that Christianity was false. No response.
He hammers me on my boredom with the historicity argument, saying that if I don’t follow it through I’m not really seeking truth and yet I can tell he’s probably never read anything about evolution. Or if he did, it doesn’t seem like never read anything from the opposing side.
Clearly his definition of truth is different from my definition of truth. Here’s what I go by:
1. the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
In your Scenario’s, the Pastor’s role is to direct the person to the Christ (truth). There is only 1 Christ (truth), so to encourage you to examine all the versions of the unChrist (truth) is pointless.How about this…most Atheists I have encountered have no desire to seek the Christ (truth).I wonder where we disagree on standards of evidence & appropriate methods of discerning Christ (truth).So you aren’t seeking Christ (truth) are you?
You’re looking for proofs to sustain your preconceived understanding.
You’re closed to the Christ (truth).
Everyone starts as a doubter until an event, a revelation or aquired knowledge brings assurance that Christ is the Truth.
You are, by occupation, a campaign manager, and you’ve just been hired by Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, the Green candidate for Mayor of Hadleyburg. As a campaign manager reading a blog on rationality, one question lies foremost on your mind: “How can I construct an impeccable rational argument that Mortimer Q. Snodgrass is the best candidate for Mayor of Hadleyburg?”Sorry. It can’t be done.“What?” you cry. “But what if I use only valid support to construct my structure of reason? What if every fact I cite is true to the best of my knowledge, and relevant evidence under Bayes’s Rule?”Sorry. It still can’t be done. You defeated yourself the instant you specified your argument’s conclusion in advance.
I’ve been reflecting on my recent discussion with my friend MexicanLove about his Logical Argument Refuting Evolution. There’s this feeling of contentment and peace that has washed over me after I got off the phone with him. Closure perhaps?
I respect MexicanLove a lot. He’s a really nice guy who has a big heart. And he is one of the few people in my life that really took the time to try and understand my atheism. That really meant a lot to me. And since I have a hard time resisting the urge to reciprocate, I too tried really hard to keep an “open mind” when it came to the things he had to say; or at the very least, consider his beliefs fairly and on their own merits.
Unfortunately, what that has lead to is this urge to fairly consider everything he says and does. He’s pretty active on the Facebooks, posting provocative Christian and Republican material. And I’ve had to repress the urge to consider it and respond as to why I think it’s… well… wrong.
So when he said he’d developed a super powerful, logically sound argument against evolution… well there’s no better way to say it… I felt threatened. Maybe this time he was on to something?
I’m not a biologist, but I know a bit about evolution. I’ve done some reasearch, read some books and articles. But I was genuinely concerned that his argument would stump me.
Boy was I wrong!
His argument was bad. Really bad. Embarrassingly bad.
It essentially amounted to an equivocation of terms used against a strawman and an innocent bystander. Not only did he demonstrate that he didn’t know what evolution was, but he spent a big chunk of time arguing against something that evolution doesn’t even apply to: abiogenesis, the creation of life from non-life.
In hindsight, I don’t even know why I was concerned. I should have guessed that he didn’t really know what evolution was. Oh and it gets worse. In the days leading up to finally hearing the argument, I was getting pretty anxious, mostly because of the way he described it online:
God has really been using the past few days hone my apologetics. In fact, God has helped me develop a very sound argument against evolution using purely scientific terms. I don’t even mention God in the discussion. The reasoning actually came out while I was talking with an agnostic optometrist. And he actually agreed completely with the force of the logic.
Really? God helped you with that? God? The God? Yahweh? Daddy of Jesus?
That dude helped you develop this? You’d think the creator of the universe, an all-powerful and all-knowing deity, would understand evolution enough to help explain it to MexicanLove so that his argument would actually be good.
You’d think that such revealed knowledge, such divinely inspired guidance would amount to more than a really bad argument against the Christian strawman version of evolution that no actual biologist thinks is actually evolution.
What’s more likely? That god really exists and gave MexicanLove a really bad argument? Or that god doesn’t exist at all and that MexicanLove made it up on his own based on his own misunderstanding?
So I guess that wave of calmness and contentment I feel is relief that I really don’t have to take his religious beliefs seriously anymore. And that feels good.
One of my good friends at church, we’ll call him MexicanLove, has come up with a logical argument refuting evolution. He’s been trying it out with friends and has apparently been getting some good responses to the soundness of his logic. He’s particularly proud because it doesn’t reference god at all. Clearly I just had to hear it, but it’s taken a few days for us to link up so he can tell it too me.
While waiting for our chance to talk, I pondered what his approach would be. I wasn’t sure how you could logically refute something that has physical evidence. Like, how would you refute the theory special relativity on logic alone? That seemed kinda weird.
I was hoping he could type it out to me on Facebook, but he said he had to tell it to me. That wasn’t a good sign, although to be fair, blogging has made it clear to me that it’s much harder to write out your thoughts than it is to blurt it out.
But I finally got a chance to get the full version. I took notes.
He said that the argument is presented as a series of questions.
Question #1: “Are you an evolutionist?”
Right off the bat, I didn’t like where this was going. Evolutionist seems like a really loaded term, possibly implying a bit of rigidity or dogmatism in said evolutionist. Maybe better to ask “do you accept the theory of evolution?”
But since he already knew I was an evolutionist, we went to the next one.
Question #2: Do you believe evolution is a process or a force?
I didn’t like this question either, mostly because I’m not sure what he means by process or force. I didn’t write down his definition for process, but he defined force is something like electromagnetism or the force of gravity. He clarified that something had to drive evolution.
I didn’t like that word either… drive. All of these things seemed too loaded for what I know of as evolution. He kinda said that the loaded terms were intentional to make the argument work (?).So I clarified that I think evolution is a theory and that the process would be “natural selection”. Although I could quibble further, I said “process” just so we could hear the rest of the argument.
Then switched to statements
Statement #1: If evolution is a process, then it requires a force to drive those processes.
Statement #2: For a force to be scientific, it has to be quantifiable.
Statement 3#: Since you can’t quantify evolution, it’s not scientific
Whoa boy. I wasn’t too sure about this quantifiable stuff, so I asked him to define quantifiable. After some discussion over terms he mentioned that quantifiable is essentially scientifically explainable. I offered the term, “mechanism” which he agreed is kinda what he means by quantifiable.
I replied that evolution has a mechanism, it’s called natural selection.
After some side chatter, I wondered to myself if we both had the same understanding of what evolution is. So I asked him what he understood evolution to be. He had a hard time answering this, but in fairness, I figured it was as difficult as asking an atheist what they understood god to be.
Evolution is the theory of the creation of life through random mutation
Oh! See, that makes sense that he doesn’t accept the theory of evolution. Because what he just said isn’t the theory of evolution.
I think I shocked him a bit when I said I didn’t believe in that either… mostly because that’s not what I know evolution to be.
I went and gave my definition of evolution:
Evolution is the theory of diversity and speciation of live through the process of natural selection. I agreed with him that none of this is random. But I also went on to say that none of this is intentional either. So words like drive, and force sometimes have intentional connotations to them that muddy the waters.
He went on to talk about how no scientist has figured out how to make a cell from nonliving matter. And while that’s true, that’s not an issue for evolution. That’s abiogenesis. Evolution doesn’t talk about the origination of life, it talks about the diversity of life.
He mentioned that while he fully believes in microevolution, he doesn’t see how macroevolution is possible. But rather than argue for why macroevolution is possible (hint: natural selection), he kept on referring back to the formation of the first cell, as if this was a problem for evolution.
I gave an example of a deistic god who supernaturally creates the first cell and then, billions of years later, you get diverse species through natural selection. He kinda recoiled at that, as he was deliberately trying to avoid references to god. But I made the example to point out that abiogenesis isn’t a problem for evolution (just not knowing what a pre-Big Bang universe looked like isn’t a problem for the theory of gravitation).
Furthermore, I was just watching an episode of Nova where scientists created 2 of the 4 base pairs in RNA in the lab. Now that’s not a cell wall like MexicanLove wanted, but it’s a start.
After more side chatter, he asked me what I thought. I (generously) replied that while it was pretty good as an apologetic, he has to be careful talking to people who actually know a bit about evolution, because the strawman he’s arguing against, isn’t evolution.
Remember friends, before you set out to disprove something, be sure you understand what you’re trying to disprove.
I had a breakthrough yesterday with my client that I blogged about with the arthritic knee that caused me to develop a fear of telephones. He has a new doctor who is going to try a multidisciplinary approach to address his pain.
The doctor said something very interesting to my client that really got me thinking:
“You’ve been in pain for the last 30 years. The pain will never go away. You will never be 100% free of pain. I can’t do that for you. No one can do that for you. What we can do is make the pain better, more manageable. The goal isn’t ‘pain gone’. The goal is ‘pain better’.”
You’ll never be free of pain.
Well, of course not. We need pain. Under most circumstances pain is helpful. Pain is not only the body’s way of telling us when we’re damaged, but it has an added bonus of discouraging us from activities that will cause damage to us.
People with congenital insensitivity to pain tend to have a lower life expectancy because they lack the normal signs of illness or injury: pain.
Severely painful injuries usually result in death for most animals, either by starvation or by being easy prey to a predator. Not so with humans. Thanks to science and civilization, humans can continue to live with debilitating injuries and conditions. But because their body is still damaged, they still feel pain. I guess this is what we could call suffering.
Now here’s the cruel/funny part. Because animals with serious and painful injuries usually die before they get another chance to reproduce, nature continually selects for an ever increasing pain response while selecting against a diminished pain response. We’ve evolved to feel more pain! And relative to human history, modern medicine is a grossly recent development. It’s so recent that we haven’t yet been able to evolve a diminished pain response (if we ever will).
And this brings us to god.
Chronic pain and suffering makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint, but it makes zero sense from an intelligent design standpoint.
If I were a god designing a species, knowing full well that they would eventually develop techniques to prolong life despite serious injury and illness, I’d probably design some kind of fail safe that would shut off pain response once pain no longer was advantageous. Maybe a system that temporarily or permanently burns out nociceptors after prolonged firing, so that they no longer transmit information?
Or even better, maybe I’d give people the ability to regenerate limbs and body parts like in newts, lizards, and starfish. The chronic pain response would no longer occur because the injury would be healed.
And in the case of my client, I could probably just design a better knee.
But apparently god can’t do that. This is the god that supposedly loves us and made us in his image.
Hmm… I wonder if Yahweh suffers from an arthritic knee too…
Earlier today I finished listening to the audiobook of Richard Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. While the book was a marvelously clear and engaging text explaining the ins and outs of evolution and natural selection, there was one chapter that… bothered moved me more than the others.
It was chapter 12, titled “Arms Races and ‘Evolutionary Theodicy’”. For those who have never heard the term, theodicy is an area of theology and philosophy that seeks to answer the Problem of Evil, or more specifically, why an all loving, all good god would allow evil to happen. Taking that into consideration, chapter 12 offered an explanation of why animals experience pain and suffering.
Pain, as Dawkins explains, is an evolutionary warning system that both identifies and prevents behaviors that may cause damage to an animal. Burn yourself on some fiery embers and you’ll not only know that you’re injured, but that you shouldn’t do that again.
He references people who suffer from congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA), a rare genetic disorder that prevents people from feeling any pain. They usually end up with a ton of medical problems (or die early) because they never know when they’re being hurt. Even though it may seem like a great thing to never feel pain, you’d probably wouldn’t live very long.
All life on Earth depends on the consuming of resources, and in many instances that means killing and eating other animals. Though it’d be nice to think that when a shark bites a fish in half, fish doesn’t feel any pain, you’d be wrong. Pain is just as evolutionary advantageous to fish as it is to us, and chances are that if that fish is still alive after the first bite, it’s feeling immeasurable, blinding pain right up until the moment when it finally dies.
Dawkins also talks about the ichneumodinea family of wasps that paralyze (but don’t kill) caterpillars and lay their eggs inside of them. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the caterpillars from the inside out, instinctively eating nonvital organs first as to keep the caterpillar alive as long as possible. It is entirely likely that though immobile, the caterpillar is not only aware that it is being eaten alive, but can feel every moment of it. There doesn’t seem to be any evolutionary benefit to provide an anesthetic during the paralyzing sting and natural selection is amazingly frugal.
Now, I don’t do well with pain. Not at all. Indeed, my biggest fears aren’t of dying. By biggest fears are of dying slow, painful, agonizing deaths. Or even worse, staying alive in pain and agony. So this chapter premise of pain not only being normal, but being necessary, provided me with little consolation and great distress.
Every now and then I have these moments where the stark indifference of the world strikes me to my core. We have created an illusion of safety, security, order, and justice because of our advanced brains. But it is simply that, an illusion. The danger of life is ever present, it’s always there.
And what’s worse, it’s normal.
It’s abhorently expected. And it’s also how we ended up becoming the dominant species on the planet.
This is reality, and I’ll admit that I struggle with dealing with it. Life isn’t just fragile. Fragile implies that if you’re really careful it will go on forever.
No, life is death. Life is impossible without death. Fear and pain is absolutely necessary to stay alive.
Who the fuck would deliberately make a system like that?!?! I mean, honestly? How sick, twisted, and demented do you have to be to actually make the universe like that.
It actually makes an ass ton of sense that the universe is indifferent to us, that we are just something that happened along the way. I don’t like it. I don’t like pain and suffering, and I sure as hell don’t like thinking about how I’m gonna die. But it’s reality, and I can deal with it. I can cope with it. I can keep living my life the way I choose, in spite of it.
Anyways, it was a really good book and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get a better handle on what evolution and natural selection are.
My wife and I watched Creation last night. I thought it was a marvelous movie, and she liked it too. I have to admit, I was a little surprised that she was interested in watching it considering the content. After the movie was over, I understood why.
Wife: So, what book did he write again?
Me: He wrote a book called On the Origin of Species, which is the first major work documenting evolution.
She was unfamiliar with the basics of evolution, so I took a few moments to explain the general idea: small changes over a massively long period of time add up to very drastic differences. All the different animals you see today came from a common ancestor.
She understood that part as it was pretty intuitive for her.
Wife: So what’s the big deal?
I tried to be as unbiased as I could in my explanation of the “debate”. I explained how some people think that evolution removes the need for god and makes humans as animals rather than special creations (either viewing this as truth or a threat to faith), and some people think evolution and the bible are compatible (accommodationalists). She seemed to agree with the second group of people.
As we took out the NIV bible to review the creation of the universe as told in Genesis 1, what followed was a pretty frustrating discussion. Somewhere along the line I got on a tangent about how Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 tell two different creation stories that contradict each other in terms of the order in which stuff was created. She responded that I was thinking too logically and to literally and that I have to look at it in context. In particular we spared over Genesis 2:18-19:
18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
I said this contradicts Genesis 1 in which animals are created before man. She responded by saying that god had already created the animals and brought them over to Adam.
I asked why they couldn’t have just said that if that’s what they meant. She said that I can’t think in linear terms and have to look at in context. I said asked what good is the bible if I can’t take 3 lines in sequential order on face value, but instead have to go back for some hidden meaning.
BTW: If you want to read more about the two creation stories, check out: Skepticfiles.Org: The Bible Has Two Creation Stories and The History of Genesis and the Creation Stories
At one point she said that whenever something disagrees with science, the world collapses. I said that this is what religion does! Science is actually the opposite. Science loves change and new ideas! I was getting hot now.
It devolved from there and we just agreed to disagree.
As we tucked in for bed, she told me that nothing I’ll show her will shake her faith and that she’s fine watching atheist stuff with an open mind. She asked me if I’d feel the same if I watched say.. the ten commandments. I was particularly offended by this revisionist history as, save this blog, she’s been adamant against reading or watching ANY atheist material. While on the other hand, I have both been voluntarily and involuntary inundated with Christian material.
I went to bed stunned and boggled.
I woke up this morning unfulfilled at where we left of, with more questions to ask than I realised. I typed them out in an email to myself so I’d remember them for later.
- You say that there are things you experienced that make you a believer that I would not understand. Can you share with me so I can understand?
- Likewise, there are basic aspects of science that I’m not sure you understand that not only help influence my atheism, but also help increase my understanding of the world. It helps me navigate the world better. As time goes on, can I share it with you to help you understand?
- You say that you would absorb atheist content and it would not shake your faith. Would you ever feel comfortable enough share with me if you ever began to doubt your faith? Or would you hide it in the event that I would pounce on it? Who would you feel comfortable talking to if you had doubts about your faith?
- Have you ever considered what would cause you to lose your faith?
- I’ve thought about what would convince me that god and/or Jesus was real. Also what would convince me to become a follower. Can I share it with you?
- Would you be open to learning more about atheism with me?
- Would to consider a book trade? I read a christian book while you read an atheist book?
I’m going to ask her these tonight and see what she’ll say. If you’re a Christian reader of this blog, perhaps you’ll consider what your responses would be.
My No Regrets post got me thinking about a pet peeve of mine.
I’ve noticed, especially with parents who come from humble beginnings and who lift themselves up from hard times to become successful and prosperous, that their kids are self-indulgent brats. Real shits.
Though there are probably many reasons why this happens, I’m going to offer what I think is the central reason. It can be summed up in one sentence:
“I want my child to have the things I didn’t get to have”
What usually happens is that the parents had such a “deprived” and “empty” life growing up that they shower (spoil) their kids with stuff. Worthless, unfulfilling junk in a pathetic attempt to fill a hole that never really was there in the first place. Parents think that because they couldn’t afford that fancy car or those designer clothes or a big ass house, that they are less… without… lacking. So they try and make up for that by living vicariously through their kids, never realizing that all that crap doesn’t ever make anyone happy.
Even worse is when parents shower their kids with undeserved praise and admiration, inflating their egos so big that their kids can’t handle genuine criticism, can’t handle failure, can’t handle hard times.
What the parents constantly forget is that learning to overcome adversity, challenge, and struggle is what made them successful in the first place. Learning to succeed made them appreciate the value of a dollar, the value of hard work and teamwork, the value of family bonds and connections, the value of sacrifice. They forget that hard times made them great!
WWII spawned the greatest generation because the world was going to shit! They overcame Hitler! And what did we get after that? Baby boomers. Self-absorbed baby boomers.
Life is tough. Life is hard. Life is uncaring and unforgiving. And it’s not because of The Problem of Evil, but because this is how things played out since the big bang. Humans evolved basically by being better than other species. When we faced competition, we didn’t whine or cry about how unfair things were. We improved! We got better! And we over came!
The problem is now for the first time in Earth’s history, failure to adapt does not equal extinction. We have abundant resources and good medical science and we’re at the top of the food chain. Whole generations of lazy, self-absorbed, unproductive people can perpetuate their genes because the prosperous system we’ve built keeps us relatively safe… and stagnant.
Every now and then something happens that challenges us, encourages us to strive to be the best we can be. That something is usually painful, horrid, upsetting, and tragic, but we overcome.
Now let me go ahead and say I’m not advocating culling or genocide or deliberately causing disasters or anything rediculous. What I’m saying is that when life gets tough, just remember that there’s always something you can learn from it, some way you can gain from it and improve yourself. Some “silver lining”.
Rather than teaching kids how to cope with hard times, parent try to protect them from hard times, forgetting that hard times are valuable for what they can teach us.
Let children feel pain, let them suffer. Let them make mistakes, get bruises, break bones. Let them fail!
Just don’t let them do it alone.
Be there with them. Support them, give them strength. Teach them how to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again. Teach them how to adapt, to roll with the punches. Show them that its okay to screw up, to be wrong, to make mistakes. Because this is the only way we’ll learn. This is what it means to truly be pro-life, to have family values. It’s caring enough about people to teach people how to live life to its fullest.