Young-earth creationism is no better than any other form of malicious gossip

I’m not arguing here that young-earth creationism is heretical. What I’m pointing out here is that it is immoral.

Young-earth creationism is not an exclusively intellectual error. It is not a harmless mistake or an innocent confusion. Young-earth creationism is a sin.

The degree of that sinfulness depends on the extent to which one becomes invested in promoting or defending this untruthful scheme. At one extreme are the hucksters and charlatans — the bunco artists and shameless fraudsters who are transparently lying for money. At the other end of the spectrum are the followers least complicit in this malicious deception. Their complicity and culpability is more interesting.

“And it’s not just the biologists and geologists and astronomers … they’re ALL in on it.”

For the followers, participation in this falsehood tends to be mostly passive and receptive. For many it may be only tangential or in passing — a matter of accepting what one is told or of not making waves. And yet this passive, receptive role still requires them to participate in what is, at it’s core, a malicious slandering of others, a slothful disregard for the truth, and the prideful puffing up of one’s self.

In other words, young-earth creationism is no different than any other form of contemptuous gossip. Some play an active role — inventing the gossip, fabricating false witness against others, propagating those lies and aggressively seeking to deceive. But these active bearers of false witness are powerless without an audience. They cannot commit their sin unless they have the support of others who agree to listen — to accept such gossip without question and without challenge. Without such a receptive audience, malicious gossip cannot function. The passive listeners and followers play the same supportive role that bystanders play in mob violence or in permitting a culture of bigotry.

My focus here, again, is not on the simple factual errors and mistakes that young-earth creationists accept about the natural world. My focus, rather, is on the factual errors and mistakes they accept about other people. Those false assertions are not an innocent matter of getting the science wrong. They involve a willingness and an eagerness to spread malicious assertions about other people, without caring whether or not those assertions can be defended, and while refusing to consider the evidence that shows they cannot be. That’s not simple ignorance, it’s a choice — a choice that requires and reinforces contempt for others, self-absorbed pride and a rejection of the duty to love.

Young-earth creationism requires that choice, and that is why it is a sin. It requires one to make that choice, and to keep making that choice, which is why the more one participates in it, the worse one becomes — the more contemptuous, prideful and cruel.

It is not a sin to believe that the universe is only 6,000 years old. You can believe such a thing earnestly and innocently and that belief is not, in itself, either moral or immoral. It is incorrect, but such an incorrect belief is no more or less morally significant than any of the myriad other beliefs that all of us hold at any given time.

Provided you never learn anything more about the world around you, you can maintain such a belief and maintain your innocence while doing so. The incuriosity this requires is not commendable, but it need not be willfully immoral. (In another context I would argue that such incuriosity about the world is also a kind of moral failing, but that’s a separate discussion for another time.)

But eventually, inevitably, such innocent ignorance will be confronted with counter-evidence contradicting this belief. Responding to such evidence with hostility or disdain may be morally suspect as well, but we’ll give that a pass here because it is the next inevitable step I want to focus on. The next step is the one that introduces an explicit, conscious and deliberate moral choice. That step and that choice cannot be avoided forever, even for the most sheltered fundamentalists doing their best to guard their innocent ignorance in a hermetically sealed subculture.

Up until that step, that choice, you can innocently believe that which is false because you truly do not know any better. But that changes once you encounter others who do know better. That encounter presents you with a moral fork in the road, a clear choice between two divergent paths.

Suddenly you are faced with others who claim to know of things you know nothing about. Can you accept that this might be possible? To reject such a possibility is to make a moral choice.

These others present evidence and claim to be bound by the implications of that evidence. Will you look at it? Or will you refuse to even consider it? This, too, is an inescapably moral choice.

And then comes the largest and most important choice of them all, because this is where the hucksters and the fraudsters re-enter the picture and begin to do their worst. Here they will offer you another choice.

They will tell you that all of these others — these outsiders with their “evidence,” these people who claim to “know” things — are evil liars. They will explain to you that these others are part of a conspiracy. It is a huge, vast, global conspiracy of wicked people that encompasses everyone — everyone except, of course, them. And they will invite you to join them in opposing this conspiracy. They will invite you to join them in believing — without basis or evidence — the very worst things you can imagine about millions of people whom you have never met. They will invite you to join them in celebrating yourselves as uniquely righteous and as better than everyone else — the sole remnant of innocence in an irredeemably wicked world.

They will present you with a choice. It is the same choice that every malicious gossip presents to everyone they suspect will be receptive to their lies. You can choose to accept that invitation or you can choose to reject it. One of those choices is a sin.


"Maybe "because" women are uncontrollable hussies who will destroy men unless men impose their good ..."

Intra ecclesiam nulla salus
"i've seen a Chinese Presbertyrian church downtown. Not sure if that's evangelical or mainstream Protestant."

Intra ecclesiam nulla salus
"Or you were remembering the scene from "Flashdance": "The lobster sucks"."

Intra ecclesiam nulla salus
"Not for much longer, by cosmic reckoning."

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  • Joshua

    One like is not enough praise for this post. Information theory for the win!

    Also airports. And honesty: that’s the root of it.

  • I consider premise 3 to be incorrect at least in part, premise 4 to be a misrepresentation and premise 5 to be flat out false.

    So, um, no. And you’re dumb.

  • Joshua

    The media sometimes suggests that the discovery of life on other planets would have religious implications. 

    For the life of me I’ve never been able to figure out why.

  •  Here’s the trutgh as it actually is:

    1. The idea of a distinction between “macro” and “micro”evolution is not supported by anything at all. It’s somethign creationists make up to get out of the logical trap they set themselves by believing in the efficacy of antibiotics.

  • Joshua

    4) Tell a company that excavates fossil fuels.  Armed with a more accurate picture of relevant phenomena, they would be able to find fuels that other companies can’t. 

    I can’t remember the details or provide a link, but I read that this has actually happened. Some guy started an oil prospecting company based on biblical prophesy rather than modern geology.

    He raised enough money to do some initial drilling in Israel, found nothing, went broke.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The media sometimes suggests that the discovery of life on other planets would have religious implications.

    For the life of me I’ve never been able to figure out why.

    If the first extraterrestrial intelligent species we encounter has a religion we can recognize as Catholicism, and they have that religion before they meet or communicate with terrestrial Catholics, that would be one king hell of an argument for the truth of Catholicism. Not necessarily a convincing argument, but more convincing than anything Catholics have thus far been able to muster. The more closely the extraterrestrial religion parallels terrestrial Catholicism, the more convincing the argument.

    If their religious diversity looks pretty much like ours in that two groups having similar beliefs are either offshoots of the same group or have cross-pollinated, and otherwise none of their religions look much like any of ours at all (with the probable exception of atheism and agnosticism, if we for sake of argument count those among religions, as they certainly do count among religious diversity), that wouldn’t say anything about the truth of any given religious belief. It could be raised as supporting evidence for the argument that religion is all shit that someone hallucinated and/or invented and convinced others to believe, but that argument is adequately supported by terrestrial religious diversity.

  • AnonymousSam

    God cannot lie or be mistaken? Someone hasn’t read Exodus much. Among other things, it features Moses contradicting God quite often — and usually being right.

    Jesus contradicted the Old Testament on numerous occasions as well, which is a good thing, because one of the examples he thumbed his nose at included the law that you should kill your children if they mouth off.

    Whether or not the resurrection really happened cannot be proven. It is also mutually exclusive to the fact. Jesus could be the heir and offspring of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all the difference it makes upon the age of the Earth and the evolution of species, as he never said anything about the age of the Earth.

    The resurrection, if it happened, also doesn’t necessarily prove Jesus is God, merely that he was resurrected. Perhaps instead it proves that he was one of the Starborn ones. Elohim, after all, does translate to “those who came from the sky.” Or it mightly only mean he didn’t actually die in the first place — forensics weren’t exactly very well developed back then and we’ve had numerous accounts of people being buried alive because they were mistakenly thought to be dead. This presumes he existed in the first place, which we have no way of knowing.

    Furthermore, as Fred has pointed out, the Old Testament doesn’t affirm that the earth is 6000 years old, and assertions that it do not only stretch the text well beyond any reasonable level of authority, but also requires that anyone who says otherwise either be mistaken or lying, and that the numerous forms of data which all indicate the same established fact all be purely coincidental (even though their data lines up quite neatly).

  • The_L1985

    “Jesus (God) believed and taught the Old testament as true”

    This is an ambiguous statement.

    Does this mean that every word of the Old Testament is literally true?  It cannot, for my eyes are eyes, not doves (Song of Songs 1:15).  Rabbits and hares do not chew the cud (Leviticus 11:6).  (Gross-out time:  rabbits and hares do eat their own poop, in order to ensure every bit of digestible material is indeed fully digested.)

    However, it could also mean “The Old Testament contains truth.”  Whether this statement refers to literal historical/scientific fact (“The life of the flesh is in the blood”) or spiritual truth (“He who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”), it is clearly a far more accurate statement.

    “The included Genealogies and the creation account demonstrate the Earth is young.”

    The included genealogies are incomplete.  Compare any one to the others, and you will see gaps and misplaced generations.

    Also, there are two Creation accounts.  Gen. 1 has God creating everything in 6 days, with an unspecified number of humans created after the animals.  Gen. 2 has God creating everything in an unspecified amount of time, with a single male human, then all the animals, then a single female human.

    Gen. 1 and Gen. 2 cannot both be literal historical fact.  It is impossible.  So which one is right and which one is wrong?

  • The_L1985

     And we’ve told you that what you’re seeing is extremely limited.

    Frankly, I think if we’re going to teach the controversy, that our children should know the truth: that the earth was created by the All-Father out of the remains of Ymir the Frost Giant, and is bound together by Yggdrasil and by the serpent who encircles the world.  At the end of time, the Midgard serpent will squeeze the world in twain, the giant wolf Fafnir will escape his bonds, and the Frost Giants will kill off all the gods of Asgard in the horrible apocalypse called Ragnarok.

    Or the other truth: that Prometheus gave fire to humans so that they would be able to survive among the various dangerous creatures out there, and was punished by Zeus by having his liver endlessly devoured and endlessly renewed.  Also, Pandora is the last person on earth you want to entrust with a box full of nasty things.

    Or the other truth:  that Pacha and his three warrior-sons accidentally caused widespread flooding when they killed a giant snake that proceeded to vomit up massive quantities of water.  Pacha, his sons, and all their wives found shelter atop the highest peaks of the Andes, but said nothing while they were there.  When the floodwaters receded, the 4 couples were unable to communicate with each other, and so they and their descendents formed 4 different nations of South American natives.

  • God cannot lie or be mistaken? Someone hasn’t read Exodus much. Among
    other things, it features Moses contradicting God quite often — and
    usually being right.

    And don’t forget all the “God mendaciously put these fake fossils in to test our faith” folks.

  • Jenora Feuer


    Gross-out time: …

    I believe most rodents practice coprophagia.

    Instead of having a long, multi-stomach digestive system like the larger ruminants, rodents ferment and break down cellulose by running it through the shorter digestive system twice.  It’s also worth noting that this only gets done twice: the once-through droppings and the twice-through droppings are quite different, and the latter do not get eaten.

  • Joshua

    God cannot lie or be mistaken

    Jesus (God) believed and taught the Old testament as true

    I’d argue that using these statements taken together are an example of the docetic heresy that holds that Jesus only seemed to be a human being.

    He was a human being, as well as being divine, and had a human brain with human limitations. Jesus while he was on Earth was not omniscient, the gospels show him asking questions just like anyone else does. (Mk 8:27ff for instance.) I do not believe he ever lied, but he certainly spoke on the basis of limited knowledge.

    The included Genealogies and the creation account demonstrate the Earth is young.

    And that is clearly bunk. If you read poetry as literal history, you come up with nonsense. I think ancient cultures were better at figuring that out than our modern one, and Jesus certainly was an able and persuasive speaker, so I expect he knew this.

    However, seeing as the universe we live in clearly looks old for a wide variety of reasons, if your line of reasoning held water it would have even more disturbing implications, as least for me. God made a universe that deliberately deceives us. It looks old, but is young. He gives us a book that belies the clear evidence of our senses and tells us it contains his will and our way to salvation. He’s either lying in the book or lying in the universe he’s created.

    What a jerk. Such a god would not be worthy of worship. Nor would such a god be consistent with what the Bible says about God’s character. If I accepted your line of reasoning, I would be compelled to abandon my Christian faith.

  • Joshua

    Er, I didn’t mean to have all that bold. I blame Disqus. Curious how it appears in some paragraphs and not others.

  • Joshua

    So, um, no. And you’re dumb. 

    Dan Da Man did not identify the argument as his own, he merely outlined an argument. He may not even hold it, he may merely be summarising an opposing point of view for clarity of discussion.

    Attack the argument, not the person. 

  • Joshua

    If the first extraterrestrial intelligent species we encounter has a religion we can recognize as Catholicism

    In my view, the likelihood of that (for Catholicism or any other flavour of faith, including my own) is exactly as likely as was Columbus finding it in America, or Cook finding it in New Zealand or Australia. Zero. That fact didn’t mean anything for the probability of Catholicism or any other faith being true then, nor would it in the future if aliens are discovered.

    Christianity as a whole is a proselytising religion which assumes that people who haven’t heard it from us don’t know about it. Hence the end of Matthew 28, and of course Paul’s entire career.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If we don’t find Catholics among the extraterrestrials who have never before encountered terrestrial Catholics, then of course it means nothing. If we do find Catholics among the extraterrestrials who have never before encountered terrestrial Catholics, then either somebody’s mistaken about the date of first contact or Jesus really did come to our planet and theirs and leave Catholicism behind on both planets. That latter, if true, might be the most significant discovery anyone on either planet ever made. Certainly I can’t think of anything offhand that’d compete.

  • AnonymousSam

    Considering the obstacles we’ll have to surpass in order to ever make it to a planet with intelligent life comparable to our own, I think first contact would be a heck of a lot more significant than anything following subsequently. XD


    If the first extraterrestrial intelligent species we encounter has a
    religion we can recognize as Catholicism, and they have that religion
    before they meet or communicate with terrestrial Catholics, that would
    be one king hell of an argument for the truth of Catholicism. Not
    necessarily a convincing argument, but more convincing than anything
    Catholics have thus far been able to muster. The more closely the
    extraterrestrial religion parallels terrestrial Catholicism, the more
    convincing the argument.

    Interestingly enough, the official position of the Catholic church is that there is no reason to expect aliens would have christianity or need it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Interestingly enough, the official position of the Catholic church is that there is no reason to expect aliens would have christianity or need it.

    Huh. I think I knew that at some point but I’d forgotten, and it doesn’t make any sense anyway. The only reason I can think of for Catholics to say someone doesn’t need Christianity is if that someone can’t sin. So are they assuming that extraterrestrial intelligences are incapable of misbehaving in any of the ways humans do?

  • Joshua

    Well, yes, if.

  •  The explanation goes on to say that Adam’s fall only affects humanity, and aliens would be exempt unless they had a fall of their own.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If you agree that finding Catholic aliens would be hella important, why did you say it wouldn’t be?

  • EllieMurasaki

    …so, yes, they are in fact saying that extraterrestrial intelligent folk are incapable of misbehaving. With a possible bonus of saying that such folk are dumb as a box of rocks, since if such folk never had a Fall then such folk must never have eaten the forbidden knowledge apple.

    Which still does not make any sense. And is, if the bonus applies, self-contradictory.

  • AnonymousSam
  • Joshua

    Joshua; this may suprise you but I have gone through Darwins book; On the Origin of Species.

    Yes, it does surprise me. Good for you.

    However, I am unable to understand how, if you understood what he was talking about, you could summarise it with the words:

    The observable world has come into existence by totally natural, unguided processes and specifically WITHOUT the involvement of  an intelligent designer.

    That just isn’t so. He didn’t say it, as far as I’ve read, neither has any bio textbook that I’m familiar with. Unless you were taught using creationist textbooks that argue against evolution, in which case, yeah, they misrepresent it all the time.

    Or maybe you got it from reading Dawkins? He’s the only author I’ve read that could be construed as saying that. In which case, he doesn’t write textbooks, he writes books for a general audience that cover not just evolution but also his atheist beliefs, and it pays to separate the two. I, personally, felt that the distinction is clear enough in his writing, in what I have read by him.

    If not, then I don’t particularly recommend him, I’m not a fan.

    As to your other points, they are a bunch of crap. The evidence for the modern theory of evolution, which is broadly similar with Darwin, is insurmountable, and comes from multiple independent lines of enquiry. All the major facets, speciation, beneficial mutations, new anatomical features or abilities, have all been seen in the lab and in real life. Modern genetic studies independantly corroborate the fossil record, which is plenty complete enough on its own. Bio textbooks, or at least non-creationist ones, accurately convey this. There is no competing scientific theory.

    And scientists use the term “fact” to describe observations or the results of experiments, not the ideas that explain them. Those are called theories. Speciations, new capabilities, fossils: Facts. Darwinian evolution: A theory that explains them. Falling apple: fact. Gravity: theory.

    So it’s not the amount of evidence that might lead a person to describe Darwin’s theory of evolution as a scientific fact, it’s a confusion of vocabulary.

  • Joshua

    I didn’t say it wouldn’t be important if it happened, I said it wouldn’t happen.

    And therefore, it doesn’t play a big role in my thinking about aliens.

    And, as before, the reason I do not believe it will happen is not that I am not Catholic, I do not believe we’ll find Anglicans or any stripe of Christian out there either.

  • P J Evans

    Some creatures, like worms and snails, are hermaphrodites

    There are fish that are male at one stage and female at a different one.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am confused. And overtired, which is doubtless encouraging the confusion. I present a hypothetical to clear up someone else’s confusion, without saying anything about whether my hypothetical might be factual or what probability I assign to the possibility of it being factual. You counter the hypothetical, not by engaging with the hypothetical itself or with anything the someone else said that prompted me to present it, but by denying any possibility of its being factual. (I agree that there’s a ninety-nine point bar nine chance that it is not factual, but that’s beside the point.) There is a key logical connection somewhere in here that you made and I did not and I am not seeing it.

  • Turcano

    If you go to the bottom of a Talk.Origins article, you’ll find these
    little things called “references.”  If you want clarification or
    elaboration on something, then go to the original  source, which in turn
    will also have references you can explore.  Do not confuse your own
    incuriosity with a lack of evidence.

  • Actually, that turns out not to be the case.

    That makes me wonder, have you by any chance read The Gripping Hand?

  • The_L1985

     Yes, but lagomorphs aren’t rodents. ;)

  • The_L1985

     Frankly, I think he needs that bolded.  It ensures he can’t ignore it without deliberate effort.

  • The_L1985

     I didn’t want to make that post even more hideously long than it already was–he already didn’t read it as it is.

    But yeah, I’m aware of those fish. :)  I just thought that oysters swapping sexes every single year was even more impressive.  I sort of had to leave something out–you’ll notice I didn’t talk about the diversity of plant reproduction, either.

  • Evolution refers to one and only one thing:  the process by which ancestral species gradually change into descendant species.

    Minor nitpicking quibble: There’s the observed fact of evolution, both from the fossil record and ongoing experiments like the bacteria aforementioned in this (I think) thread.  Then, there’s the theory of descent with modification & natural selection, to explain the observed fact.  Both are commonly referred to as “evolution” for short.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Let us know when you can prove that your god and Jesus actually exist, and can provide reason that anyone should actually care. Til then, all you’re doing is quoting a myth and sounding like a condescending prick. 

  • Go_4_tli

    Looks like you let us know, as I asked you to, theot58. I am saddened that you have opted to take the dishonest choice.theot58: “1) There is insufficient scientific evidnece to call Darwinian/Macro evolution a scientific fact.”And this is why I know you’ve done no “deep research”. There is more evidence to back up the theory of evolution than almost *any other theory science supports*.There is more directly-observable evidence that common descent is true, for example, than there is directly-observable evidence that the Earth revolves around the Sun. In spite of the fact that, potentially, every gene, every organ, every morphological feature, and every organism has the power to dismantle it once and for all. If you feel that there is room to doubt it intelligently, then you must also concede that there is no basis for atomic theory, or the theory universal gravitation, or atomic theory, or any of other countless theories that enjoy empirical support in the same way.theot58: “2) There are many scientific problems with Darwinian/macro evolution that have not been answered and will probably never be answered”You know what? It’s not the function of a scientific theory to provide answers to every problem. If that’s your standard for evolution, you’re holding it to a different standard from *all of science*. Why?theot58: “3) The text books should be re-written to reflect my points 1 and 2″Why? Based on your say-so? That’s ridiculous. You’ve been pointed to evidence that is strong enough to point out that evolution is true *even without some other competing notion to prove false first*. So far, you’ve given us absolutely zero reason to believe that you even *understand* that evidence (never mind believing that what you say is true); your response to asking for that reason has been to repeat again that you, personally, find the evidence for evolution insufficient.That’s not a reason to change the textbooks. If it were, we’d have to allow room for geocentrism and astrology in the science textbooks as well.If you expect us to take you seriously, *demonstrate* to us that you understand the evidence as it exists, and present the evidence that shows that you have any empirical footing to stand on whatsoever.theot58: “4) We should stop deceiving our trusting students by teaching them Darwinian/Macro evolution as a scientific “fact””Should we stop deceiving them by teaching them the Earth revolving around the Sun as a scientific “fact”? (How does a “fact” differ from a fact?) Should we stop teaching them that matter is made of atoms?You’ve given us no evidence; you’ve merely declared things to be true by fiat. That’s the pattern of a very bad sermon, not the pattern of a very good teaching lesson. The idea of research is incompatible with the idea of dogma. So show us some *evidence* that you’ve conducted the “deep research” you claim to have conducted.Because, as I’ve mentioned, here’s the thing: We’ve *directly observed evolution taking place*. You’ll have to overcome a *lot* to convince us that we have no idea what we’re talking about.

  • Go_4_tli

    Also: Disqus sucks.

  • Joshua

    Back on page 4, your hypothetical was in reply to my statement that I could not see why people, specifically the media, suggest that the discovery of alien life has religious implications.

    Now I grant that if the hypothetical was true, it would indeed have religious implications, but since I don’t believe it will ever occur, I do not believe those implications can be realised. So I’m still left with zero implications.

    I mean, one could devise many hypotheticals about many things, but those that have zero chance of being true should not influence our thinking. Or at least, thinking about real life such as the media are supposed to do. I love science fiction, and a big part of it is taking outlandish ideas and running with them, but do not expect to find it in my newspaper.

    So to me, the probability of your hypothetical is key to understanding whether alien life can give rise to religious implications, rather than being beside the point as you say.

    Now I suppose that it might be that the people in the media writing about this disagree with me, and feel that your hypothetical is a possible scenario, and this explains their decision to give it airtime, even if I do not share their assessment. However, I haven’t read that myself, maybe you have?

  • Tricksterson

    I think that if/when we encounter alien life they will all be Scientologists. ;D

  •  Yay, yay, yay, yay, yay! I have, although I think I’m quoting from Mote here, and I wandered around quoting this bit for days upon reading it and it has stuck with me ever since, though I rarely bother citing it when I use it because the explanation is something of a derail. You are now my favorite person. (This status will not last very long, admittedly, but is better than nothing!)

  • The_L1985

     Yes, but again, both refer to species evolving from other species, not to the origin of life on Earth.

  •  (shakes head) Ninth-day Adventists.

  • Jenora Feuer

     You’re right.  And I did know that, I just wasn’t thinking.  My bad.

    Though, back more on subject, I think the sheer number of cases in biology of having the same problem solved in subtly different ways is one of the biggest slam-dunks against any sort of ‘intelligent designer’.  Take a look at digesting cellulose: ruminants ferment it before it gets to the main stomach.  Most of the herbivorous primates ferment it afterwards.  Rodents and lagomorphs start fermentation afterwards, then run it through again to get the results.  Humans act more like carnivores in that we just punt the whole problem, getting something else to digest the cellulose and then eating them instead.

    Heck, the obvious example is the eye.  Sure, human eyes and octopus eyes look remarkably similar for such completely different creatures.  That similarity ends when you look at how the retina is laid out.  The human retina is backwards: light has to go past the nerve cells before reaching the light sensors, resulting in a blind spot where the nerves gather into the optic nerve, while the octopus eye has the light sensors out front of the nerves.  While this gives the octopus no blind spot, it also leaves the sensor cells far more vulnerable.

    Speaking as someone trained in engineering with enough side training and interests to avoid the Salem Hypothesis, no sane designer would ever actually make anything the way most biology works.  So much of human biology falls into the ‘Russian Dancing Bear’ category of working.  (That being, people do not applaud the dancing bear because it dances particularly well; they applaud because they are amazed it can dance at all.)  Biological systems tend to be very good at graceful degradation, continuing to work even as things go wrong.  This is necessary because things go wrong a lot more often than most of us notice.

  • Fusina

    Why do we have to be better than everything else in order to be any good?

     I tried to make a case to Mum that every human being on the planet is special. Her response?

    “If we are all special, then no one is.”

    Which is where the biggish problem comes in. Because I believe that if we aren’t all special then no one is, only I include the whole planet in the specialness.

    Look at trees, the utter immense coolness of them. They lower the temperature of the air directly around them. They eat light, okay, and water and minerals from the ground, but they EAT light. And they are beautiful.

    Animals too. The whole vast complexity of living organisms, all doing their own thing. And, in some cases, being entirely too cute for words–Polar bears come to mind here–hams for the camera every last one of them–majestic–watch a lion pacing round even in a zoo–that is a king, oh yeah. I was at the Bronx Zoo a few years back, and some baboons were running flat out–it was beautiful.

    I don’t want to get into a zoo, good or bad? discussion, my point is that the whole of creation is good. However it came to be, I’m glad to be here and a part of it.


     I tried to make a case to Mum that every human being on the planet is special. Her response?

    “If we are all special, then no one is.”

    You should get your mom to watch “The Incredibles”, and remind her that when one’s philosophy is a word-for-word copy of a cartoon supervillain (or for that matter, a giant stone head that barfs guns), one should reconsider.

  • Damn, I thing you’re right about that being from Mote, not Hand.  I would’ve sworn it was from one of the dinners on either Maxroy’s Purchase or Sparta.
    Anyway, though, I can see why you might have said that, then.

  •  I think it’s from the Big Important Meeting to discuss The Fate of the World at the end of Mote. IIRC the exchange goes something like:
    “Dude, you cannot tell the Really Important Person that he’s just wrong!”
    “No? So what do you say when the RIP is just wrong?”
    “You say ‘That turns out not to be the case.'”
    “Oh? Heh. I like that. OK, then.”

    I had essentially this conversation many times when I first started working in corporate America, and getting into endless trouble for correcting my superiors, so it tickled me.

    My boss once called me on the carpet because of my habit of asking, when it seemed to me that we’d resolved the question that we’d come together to resolve, “So, are we done?” He viewed it as disrespectful. So I asked him what he would prefer I said, when I wanted to know whether we were done, but did not wish to be disrespectful. He kind of blinked at me, and I suggested “What if I said ‘OK, what’s next?'” and he allowed that that would be OK. And I nodded and said “OK, I’ll do that, then,” and there was this pause, and I said “OK, what’s next?”

    Admittedly, this was the same boss who, after I’d worked for him for six months, mentioned to me in passing that when I first started working for him he’d thought it was ridiculous for me to be in my job, because I was entirely unqualified for it, but that after watching me work for a while he’d been surprised to realize that I was actually pretty good at it. (I stared at him for a while and replied “Um… thanks. I think.”)

  • We’ll move right past the tone and insults to a key point. Although it is popular to point out that the Genesis creation narratives are written within certain genres and they have a different order of events (which, actually are not really hard to synthesize if you are interested in that sort of thing), I don’t know very many creationists (young-  or old-earth) who base their belief in creation as opposed to evolution primarily on Genesis chapters 1 and 2.

    If you want to address the issue that really resonates for creationists, it is important to address the different idea of God that comes from an evolutionary approach as opposed to a creation approach. As a Christian who accepts evolutionary explanations, one must somehow manage to hold that the triune God, who is Love, who showed up in Jesus, who taught his disciples that they must love one another as they love themselves, who taught that a person loves well if they are willing to lay down their life for their friends, who taught his disciples to turn the other cheek and to share with others, who taught that death was an enemy to be overcome, who claimed to have concern for every sparrow, who promised that a time was coming when the lion would lay down with the lamb; that this God chose to bring about all of life (with the capstone images of God) through a system built on competition, the survival of the fittest, and arms race of eat or be eaten. I promise you, if you can find a sufficient answer to reconcile these claims you will be able to win many creationists over.

  • Carstonio


    a system built on competition, the survival of the fittest, and arms race of eat or be eaten

    That’s part of the problem – none of those terms properly describes natural selection, but instead are merely misinterpretations based on the false assumption that the theory is a value system. “Fittest” in this context simply means most adapted to the local conditions at the time. The plants and animals don’t see it as a individual competition so it’s a mistake to view it as one.

  • Samuel G

    I understand the process of natural selection, that animals do not see themselves as locked into a competition, that fitness refers to being well-adapted, etc. But, I am not claiming that evolutionary theory is a value system. I am simply pointing that it presents many Christians with difficulty to reconcile a loving God who encourages and expects sacrificial love, cooperation, and support of those who cannot support themselves from Christians, with the method of using an approach that requires the opposite of those qualities from creatures in order to survive.