Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Debating A Fundamentalist and A Creationist Part II

When we last left off the Fundie had posted some incredibly smug and patronizing drivel about how our hearts aren't able to accept his god yet. I frankly don't feel any gaps in my life, thank you very much. And now the Creationist rolls in on her steamroller of evidence denialism and patronizing faith. Enjoy.

Creationist: Well, as a geologist/geophysicist who is also a Christian, I can assure you that there is a plethora of evidence and documentation which clearly supports the idea of "Intelligent Design" and "Creationism". There are so many holes in the Theory of Evolution that it takes more "faith" to believe in it than not!

Me: I'm still curious to see your evidence about these 'holes' in the Theory of Evolution, as well as 'evidence' for Creationism and Intelligent Design. Since you are a geologist, I'm sure I don't have to explain what Theory means in a scientific context, right? Also, appealing to the bible as being infallible because it says it is isn't really evidence, is very circular reasoning, and I'm not really going to take as evidence a book that was written thousands of years ago by pre-scientific societies. Appeals to 'irreducible complexity', I'm afraid, will garner you no sympathy since every time a creationist has tried that one they refuse to accept the real scientific evidence that we have regarding how those complex structures have evolved. If there was an intelligent designer, I'm sure they wouldn't have 'designed' the recurrent laryngeal nerve or the prostate or the sperm whale. Or anything vestigial, for that matter. And appeals to the god of the gaps will truly get you nowhere, since there is a difference between saying 'we don't know, but want to find out' and 'oh look, there's god in that tiny hole in our knowledge that someone some day will figure out.' It's lazy science at very best. If your 'evidence' for intelligent design covers none of those things, or your 'hole' in the Theory of Evolution is something other than what I've listed above, by all means, fire away. But frankly, these canards are classic intelligent design/creationist tropes, have been refuted multiple times and by people much smarter than I, and the only conclusion that I can draw is that people who cling to such are being willfully ignorant. Go look at my reply above to Fundie's question about the age of the Earth, what we know about evolution, and a couple of scholars that have questioned the validity of the bible.
Tell you what, let's agree to the terms of debate outlined here.  

Creationist: Gosh, so much to say and so little space! Here are two reputable sites for scientific study and debate in support of Creation and/or the existence of God in Science. THe first is the Institute For Creation Research.  Have a peek at some of the findings under the "resources for scientists" section. The other is 4th Day Alliance. Again,check out some of the articles...not to mention the beautiful images. Reading Frame....where do I begin? Clearly, you have a way with words in that you have great command of the English language, however, I find your reasoning lacks substance. For starters you mentioned in an earlier post that the Bible was written in a "pre-science" time. Simply google the history of mathematics or science and you would find that great thinkers in both fields made huge discoveries as far back as 1900 B.C. Math as a study began in the 6th century BC...don't see anyone doubting that. The Greek philosphers Plato, Soccrates, Aristotle all made significant contributions to their fields years before Christ was born and the New Testament penned. Archimedes, Eratoshtenes, Hippocrates, Galen, Euclid all brilliant scientists and all lived B.C!!! Do you question their validity? Pliny the Elder produced and encyclopedia of the Natural World in 77 AD (around the same time that many of the New Testament books were penned). I never hear of anyone second guessing the intellect of Pliny. The idea that the authors of the Bible were nothing but "goatherders" is weak at best. As far as the holes in the Theory of Evolution goes...I need more space! Would you like me to e-mail you privately??

(Side note: Feel free to google the Institute For Creation Research and the 4th Day Alliance. All they are are faith based propaganda pieces that add nothing to the scientific  discussion except badly worded and completely false refutations of evolution. The content on those sites consists of nothing but "Evolution didn't happened the way scientists think it did, therefore Jeebus!" Pathetic really. Game on)

Me: Philosophy is not a hard science. All of the scientists you mentioned maintain various things about human physiology that were plain wrong. We didn't know we had a circulatory system until the Renaissance. Calculus, which is what we use to motion, physics, and so forth, was not developed until the 18th century. They did not know that the Earth went around the sun, a very basic tenet of science. They knew nothing of geology, antibiotics, vaccines, etc. While there were questioning minds among the lot, they got and maintained much that was inaccurate. I'm not second guessing their intellect, only their data. It is quite obvious reading the writings of Galen, for example, that he was clearly winging it. A questioning mind does not a scientist make. Hard data and understanding of the world around us did not come until long after the bible was written. As for your links..... I'm terribly sorry if I was at all unclear. I did ask for credible sources. Christian creationist websites are hardly unbiased sites, nor are they credible scientifically. Again, I urge you to go look at the Talkorigins website on creationist and intelligent design refutations.

Creationist: Reading Frame, before I decided to enter into this conversation I knew that I would be lead into a "p---ing contest" (pardon the expression) with someone who is under the impression that their opinion is superior, or their brand of science is superior. Your link "talk origins" has no more credibility and is "equally biased" as than the ones that I supplied. Your assessment (ie. opinion) of the history of math and science are, again, weak! For you to say that their discoveries were inconsequential is clearly ignorant. Of course science is more sophisticated today, but I'll tell you this, we wouldn't be were we are today if it weren't for their earlier findings. The development of Calculus required a knowledge of Algebra and Geometry, which were discovered much earlier.Anyways, the point I want to make is this: I am not interested in trying to convince anyone of anything.You are entitled to believe what you want and I am entitled to my beliefs as well. I am very interested in truth and good science and let me tell you as someone who has worked in the Earth Science field and academia for many years....there is a whole lot of bad science mixed with politics out there. I don't accept any of it. So Reading Frame, you are welcome to your very strong opinions, but they are just that, opinions. If you would like to supply me with hard evidence (Scientific fact) as to when or how the Bible has ever been refuted or substantiate why Christian scientists are less credible than atheist scientists then I will surely hear you out. Otherwise I'm just not into meaningless cerebral bantering.

Me: This conversation is not based on opinion. I could in theory go through the entire website that you gave me and deconstruct each of the statements that the website gave me. But I thought I would provide you with a website that actually did instead of taking all of that time myself. That website is based on scientific fact. As a scientist yourself, you should appreciate that biases and opinions do not last long in science, and whatever is left are facts. There is a formidable amount of information that explains evolution. As for the history of science and math, I never said their discoveries were inconsequential. They clearly got some things wrong and clearly made stuff up. The point I was trying to make is that the knowledge we have today, or even in the last 400 years, far outstrips that available to people in the bronze age. This particular argument is irrelevant to the topic at hand in any case.

If you want to see some of the evidence I gave Fundie above on how the validity of the bible has been questioned, I invite you to look at everything, watch all of the videos in detail, and then come back. As I told him, I present facts so that you can see them all in context. I will not paraphrase anything. I will answer questions, but I urge you to look at all of the evidence. I never said that christian scientists are less credible than atheist scientists. I do think that creationist scientists are questionable scientists depending on their field of expertise. I still don't know what these 'holes' in evolution are that you claim are enormous; we've spent far too long bandying over an irrelevant phrase in a previous post. But I will say that all those sites you sent me say, over and over and over again, that science is questionable and biased at best, goddidit, and that's that. There is no new data, no theories to look at, no hard science to evaluate. There are bold assertions, misrepresentations of the actual evidence, and serious problems with their conclusions. There aren't even any authors or papers to read or evaluate. If there were true refutations of evolution, then scientists would be all over it, sifting through the evidence and judging it based on its merits. That's how science works. As a scientist, you should know that. But all there is on these sites are blanket statements that just say "That's not how it works!"  

Creationist: sigh....well, after having a night to sleep on this I have come to the realization that we will probably never agree....and that is ok. Everything that you feel is lacking in my scientific assertions, I feel is lacking in yours. We need not... belabor that any longer. If I provided you with a dissertation of what I (yes, as a competent scientist) believe to be holes in the Theory of Evolution, you would merely refute it. Therefore any effort on my part would be shear vanity. I do want you to know just a couple of things about me, as a person who prayed about this conversation. I am a Christian woman first and a Geophysicist second. 18 years ago I was a diehard evolutionist and human secularist teaching my stuff in a well known university in Mass. At a particular point in my life God made himself known to me and changed my heart of stone into one of flesh (spiritually speaking of course). That is a supernatural transaction which requires faith in order to receive it or understand it. I also came to realize that secular humanism is a philosophy (a religion) of sorts that also requires some semblance of faith in order to receive it and accept it. Regardless, I do know this: The God of the Universe created you in His image and you are priceless in His sight! You have great value! Therefore you do in my sight as well. Conflict does not sit well with my nature and it bothered me all night. I have not changed my views of science, however, I have adjusted my views of you....Be Blessed and may God touch your heart someday, just as He did mine. 

Me: Why is it when I present you with facts and evidence,you come back with how I'm a child of your god and your fervent wishes that I convert some day? How, precisely, is this meant to make your case or accomplish anything besides your sounding patronizing? It is obvious that we disagree on the whole religion thing, and frankly you wouldn't have taken kindly to me proselytizing to you. Why then do you think it is appropriate to do the same to me? My world view requires no faith,(defined as belief without evidence) only evidence. I'm sorry that our conversation bothered you, and I'm afraid that I still don't understand how someone with your scientific credentials could be a creationist. I hope you have a very nice day, and take care.

And that's it. Instead of providing concrete examples, she bases her entire argument on faith and nonsense, and drives off the deep end with non-sequiturs. And then she concludes the debate with a smug and patronizing wish that I become as religiously blind to reality as she is. 

I do not think it is possible for a scientist and rational thinker to completely subsume their intellect into the kind of faith that this woman has. I think that she was already religious and then dove into it head first. If she is a geophysicist as she claims (I actually have doubts) then she has got some powerful cognitive disconnect going on there.  

If I had put something on there about how I hope she finds the light of reason and realizes that we are alone without a magic sky daddy to watch our every move, she'd have become religiously offended. But since she was proselytizing to me, it is perfectly acceptable. 

Let me tell you something about how to evaluate facts. If the website you are looking at is faith based and has an agenda to perpetuate that faith, and has no references whatsoever, it probably isn't worth accepting those facts. If the website you are looking at has scientific credentials, with lists of papers to read and lists of scientists that have contributed, it probably more reliable. Forgive the argumentum ad popularum here, but if the National Academy of Sciences says that evolution is a fact, then it probably is. And I would trust their facts much more than some random religious dude that wants to block scientific fact in order to maintain control over his flock. 

As Tim Minchin said, "Science adjusts its views based on what's observed; faith is denial of observation so that belief can be preserved." 

So what do you think? What did I do well? What could I have done better? 

Coming up soon: parts 2 and 3 of action potentials, as well as some articles I found about religion and medical students. 

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