Thursday, July 14, 2011

Look what I found while moving!

My old early-morning seminary "Scripture-Scholar" plaques.

And before I threw them away, I snapped these photos for the next potato-brained TBM who decides to accuse me of "not understanding" mormon scripture.

(And yes, I know they're aligned every which way...stupid cell phone camera:P)

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I can blog again! (!!!) :)

So I watched a couple of Creationism/Evolution debates on YouTube tonight. It's almost 5:30am and I haven't managed to go to sleep yet. It's not all bad...I'm listening to a song off the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack. It's called Discombobulate! :)

But I digress...

One of these debates featured the illustrious Christopher Hitchens. Now tonight was my first taste of Hitchens (I'm aware that makes me somewhat late to the party.) and he handled himself well. Technically that debate was "Theism vs. Atheism" rather than "Creationism/Evolution," although since it was ninety minutes long parts of it did wander into that territory. But the Theist's main position was that if one were to examine specific parts of life, humanity, and the universe then those specific pieces fit more easily--or "were more readily explained"--by the existence of some sort of creator. Hitchens handled the debate quite effectively, with a careful balance of humor and disdain; but I found myself surprised that he left out the most important point.

Science is not interested in those theories that best explain specific pieces. If the theory does not fit the entire picture, then it is not correct.

A few minutes later, something else occurred to me: this individual knew that. He wasn't debating a scientific theory, and he wasn't trying to. He was arguing a position, and he was trying to win.

The second video was somewhat frustrating: the creationist was a Young-Earth-Christian who apparently earns his living through debating. The man arguing "for evolution" was not a skilled debater, and failed to point out several jaw-dropping pieces of misinformation.

That second video was so frustrating, in fact, that I decided to offer this impromptu breakdown of a few of the more annoying tactics that a Creationist would utilise to defend their indefensible position. (*cough*Intelligent Design*cough*)

Note that while I'll mostly be focusing on attacks against the Theory of Evolution, you can use these tips (Oh yeah, there are going to be tips, too.) for several other related topics.

1: "Evolution can't explain how life arose from lifeless matter. It had to have all happened at once, too! You can't just make the cell, either; it has to feed itself, so a cell without mitochondria would die. No cell, no life. The simplest form of life has 428 genes, and nothing could survive unless it has at least 300, so you have to go from inorganic matter to 300 genes in one generation!"

I swear on a stack of biology books--and my copy of Lord of the Rings--that the guy in the video actually said something like this.

What's wrong with this argument? would actually be easier to point out what's not wrong with it. The punctuation looks good. Other than that...

Okay, this was clearly one of the more obvious and egregious (It is pronounced "egg-GREE-jious"!) examples. But how to you respond to something like this? (Besides with laughter?)

First of all, Random-Dude-From-the-United-Christian-Learning-Academy is wrong. Like really wrong. Like "it would be ethically irresponsible of me to not point out to you how wrong you are" wrong.

You see, evolution is something like a staircase: small changes made one step at a time eventually add up to larger changes. His argument can be boiled down to "Your staircase isn't real because you don't know where the front door is, and how can you go upstairs if you can't get in the house!?"

Yeah...he's that wrong.

But in fact, he's even wronger than that. Actually, the vast majority of bacteria do not have mitochondria, rendering that branch of his argument moot. (Not "mute," although when someone uses an argument like this it would be convenient if they came with a button to that effect...) Furthermore, there are in fact forms of life that do not have cells at all--viruses, for example. And thirdly, he is also utterly incorrect about the simplest form of life having genes at all: the simplest objects that scientists consider "living" are called prions, and they are comprised entirely of protein fragments. No DNA, no RNA. Just bits and pieces of amino acid chains.

Now why did this individual say these things when they're not actually correct? Is he stupid? Well the truth is that you don't have to be stupid to repeat incorrect information. (Repeating it during a televised debate? Yeah; that's stupid.) The majority of people who say these things simply don't know that they are incorrect. (All of a sudden I'm really having to walk a fine line to not call these people stupid...)

Wow...this has already run longer than I meant it to. Maybe you should get up and go to the bathroom or something.

I'll wait.

I'd also like to address the infamous "the Big Bang means that everything came from nothing" argument, if I may:

No it doesn't.

See how easy that is?

Okay, that's never going to satisfy Mr. United Christian Learning Academy. I'll try a little more.

The Big Bang does not mean that everything came from nothing. It simply means that everything used to be squashed into a really tiny space. If I blew up a car with explosives, would you be walking around going "How could all of this broken glass and twisted metal have come from nothing at all!?"

I sure as hell hope not.

Another one that was alluded to--though mercifully the poor man at least knew better than to play it straight with Hitchens--was the "without God, morality would be completely arbitrary" argument. And frankly, that's stupid. Plato knew that thousands of years ago, when he wrote what has become known as the "Euthyphro dilemma." Roughly modernized, it asks the question of whether God commands a good action--or forbids an evil one--because it is good or evil, or whether the action becomes good/evil because God has commanded/forbidden it.

In short, we all agree that murder is wrong; Christians believe that God has forbidden it. But did God forbid it because it was wrong, or is it wrong because God has forbidden it?

If the accusation about atheists and morality ever comes up, ask that question. Because if God merely forbade something which was already wrong, then what made it wrong? Discuss that, because by definition it means that right and wrong are innate, and not dependent on the instructions of a deity.

On the other hand if they claim that God's command makes it wrong, then ask this follow-up: "If God commanded someone to drown her three children in the bathtub, does that make it the right thing to do?" If possible point out that this is the very definition of arbitrary, but keep in mind that someone who holds this view is unlikely to take disagreement very calmly. (And keep him/her away from your children...)

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late) I couldn't sleep tonight, so I watched a couple of YouTube videos about Creationists debating atheists. And then I wrote this. And then you read it. And I think that brings you up to speed...