Tuesday 10 February 2009

Questions Creationists can't answer

I write my personal reponse to the SMH article at Here's Why: 
Today I found a Christian Theologian attacking Richard Dawkins in the Sydney Morning Herald. The article was actually an advertisement for the Creationist's new book. Was it a free ad? Or was he a paid contributor?

 It was no surprise that an article entitled "Questions Darwinism cannot answer" was written by a Creationist. "Darwinism" is a word only used by Creationists. Perhaps the article should have been labelled as the advertisement for his book that it surely was?

 What are these questions for "Darwinism"? After slogging through a personal attack on Richard Dawkins and implying that every atheist is an evil murdering fascist, it turns out they're Christian Apologetic questions and not scientific questions at all. I'll start with the questions and get to the slog afterwards.

The first question was "When does design become domination?" If the Universe is an artificial artifact as Mr Creationist insists, then it emulates a wild natural environment extremely well and we are living in The Matrix. If we are living in The Matrix, then any "Act of God" like a murderous bush fire is an infringement of free will - which is domination. The administrators of fake reality would be cruel and unethical to impose so much suffering without the consent of the free beings who inhabit the fake world.

 This question assumes that that the world we are informed of by our senses, our instruments and each other is fake. If the world is a simulation then its either being run by non-human aliens, or its being run by our post-human descendants as an ancestor simulation. If the persons running the simulation impose suffering and limit choice, then they are dominating.

 "Why did God create human beings, lay a good life out before them and then include the capacity to behave otherwise?" he asks. Again this assumes that the evidence of our senses is faked. Evolution and geology and nuclear physics show that life developed through small changes over very long periods of time. They show that the universe is full of things moving around in random ways, except where humans create artifacts. Humans were not created, they evolved from earlier forms of hominid and the hominids from earlier primates, the primates from earlier mammals, all the way back to the earliest self-replicating molecules that weren't properly alive. However, as a good theologians we should ignore the evidence. If we didn't have free will we'd be zombies who just reacted to stimulus from a pre-programmed script. That answers your second question. If we live in a simulation as Creationists insist, then the persons who run the simulation didn't want zombies. There's no evidence that we live in The Matrix.

 Finally, "Would knowing why there is something rather than nothing make a difference to life?" Darwin's answer is that curiosity is a behaviour that promotes the spread of genes, so it was selected for in the random evolution of our ancestors. Most of us want to know the answers of our origins, and we are not satisfied with silly stories about a stork or a dove.

 Mr Creationist claims that evolution cannot explain the origin of life. We have seen self-replicating molecules start replicating from non-living matter. We have found the organic molecules essential for life in distant clouds of interstellar gas. We can scientifically explain the origin of life. He concludes that evolution cannot cast light on life's destiny. Evolution shows us that life doesn't have a destiny, the Watchmaker is blind. Evolutionary processes can build eyes up, or blind them, depending on the environment that animals live and breed in, but the process is random, and the environment changes randomly.

 "Evolutionary theory" does NOT require or imply "continuous creation" Mr Creationist. Evolution doesn't require any intervention by magical persons at all, its the inevitable outcome of mutant survivors of disasters breeding their inheritable traits into the next generation. Mutation and sexual recombination produce variation, predators and changing environment provide the random selection. The inevitable outcome is that some variations will breed more than others and species change over very long periods of time.

 Mr Creationist, quoting notable people is an Argument from Authority. With your high academic station, you surely know that its a logically invalid argument, so why did you use it? "These lines of reasoning do not prove God's existence". Could it be that you simply don't have a valid argument?

Ad Hominem attacks are not valid arguments, either, but this doesn't stop you from personally attacking Richard Dawkins.  Of course the attack is simply a disguise for the same vilification of atheists as mass murdering fascists as used by Toongabbie Anglicans a few weeks ago in their sermon "Does God exist?". Mr Creationist vilifies atheists as supporting "imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, forced sterilisations and infanticide." He then admits that reality doesn't match his opinion, because his vilification is false. Instead of apologising and explaining his error, he accuses Richard Dawkins of lacking commitment, courage and philosophical conviction. It looks like a classic case of Freudian projection.

Mr Creationist uses arguments which he admits are invalid, vilification which he admits is invalid, claims of definition which are easily shown to be invalid, and questions which are for his contradictory Creationist cosmology and not validly for Darwin at all. Perhaps Mr Creationist lacks the courage of his own philosophical convictions? Could he have abandoned valid methods of argument and persuasion because he doesn't believe his position can be validly argued? Or is this just the usual request to open your wallet?

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

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