Conspiracy Against Creationism and Ken Ham’s Intollerance

The BBC have been running a series called Conspiracy Files. The basic premise is that half dozen people who subscribe to a conspiracy idea are taken on a bus trip across America to visit various experts who can counter the conspiracy claim. At the end of the programme each person gets a piece to camera to see if they have changed their views.

Its not an especially great programme to be honest, you can tell that there is an element of manufactured conflict in that the people picked to the bus trip often have conflicting views themselves.

I watch it because I have in interest in conspiracies, not because I believe them, quite the opposite. Its because I don’t believe them, but I am interested in the arguments that conspiracists use so that I can better understand the argument and how to counter it. Classic conspiracies like 9/11 and UFOs have been covered.

Creationism as a Conspiracy

I very intrigued when I saw there was to be a programme on Creationism. Not just because I wanted to see what the people believed and who would be rolled out against them, but because I wanted to see what came up as compared with my previously held version of Christianity and Creationism. I was also puzzled by the inclusion of Creationism in the series; I don’t especially object to its inclusion but I’m not actually convinced that Creationism is a conspiracy theory in the way that 9/11 and the existence of crashed alien craft are.

A conspiracy theory requires agents actively working against the idea in an effort to hide the truth. I don’t think this is really the case. I certainly never believed that people were trying to hide the truth of a literal Creation from the wider public. I believed that evolutionary theory was a misreading of the evidence. Surely if scientists knew of a literal creation they’d become Christians and there would be no need to hide the fact of creation from the rest of the world.

The idea of the government and scientists actively trying to teach evolution and hide the truth of a literal creation just doesn’t make sense to me. I also don’t think I’ve ever read of anyone claiming this to be the case.

On to the Trip

Conspiracy or not, the programme rolled out a handful of folks from Ol’ Blighty. One hardened Christian Creationist, one hardened Muslim Creationist and some other people who, as far as I could tell, were a bit more ‘woolly’ in their faith, one I suspected was more spiritual than religious. Their creationist credentials did seem more suspect, though if they had filled the bus with identical Christian Creationists its wouldn’t have been a very interesting programme because the same arguments would have rotated round everyone so I can see why diversity was desired.

Predictably, the Christian Creationist sounded very much like I must have in my early argumentative years. It was interesting see those arguments come out in the way that I would likely have put them. Hearing them made me laugh. They sounded weak, and when countered with the detail of the science from the relevant expert in the field, the creationist arguments really had no foundation. It was clear as day.

Towards the end of the programme, one of the girls did appear to show a softening towards evolution and I did have hope that she would continue that journey.

The biggest giggle came from the ending comments from the two hardened creationists. The Christian claiming that his beliefs were shown to have held up and that the Muslim was shown to be false. The Muslim claimed the reverse. It was a classic case of preconceived bias leading one to interpret an experience to their own advantage, ignoring what actually occurred. Despite it providing me entertainment, I did genuinely feel sadness for them both as they were clearly unable to see beyond their beliefs.

Ken Ham’s Intollerance

I see that Ken Ham has made a comment on the programme (http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2012/10/22/more-intolerance/).  He headlines it as intolerance against creationism, which is frankly baloney. There was no intolerance shown, simply evidence and argument. If evolutionists are intolerant because they attempt to explain to Creationists why they are wrong, then Ken Ham’s comments are equally intolerant for declaring evolutionists wrong.

That aside, Ken Ham makes a basic Creationist error, one that I have seen made many times.

 

His determination to deal only with “natural forces” eliminates God automatically. In other words, he started with the assumption that God and His Word have nothing to do with explaining reality. He started with a bias against anything to do with the God of the Bible. He did not start by looking objectively at the evidence.

 

This is a basic understanding failure. The fact that its made by a leading Creationist apologetic is damning and pathetic. He really should know better. Scientists who claim there is no god do so because of the evidence they see. Its this evidence that has lead them to the conclusion of evolution and its this evidence that falsifies the Biblical accounts of Adam and Eve and The Flood. Its not then unreasonable to conclude there is no god. Science looks at natural processes because that is all that we can see and gather evidence from. That evidence is explained by those natural processes only and therefore its an easy conclusion to make that no god was involved. There is no predetermining the non-existence of any god and then building a theory which excludes it, as Ken Ham would have people believe.

Scientists reach their conclusions from the evidence and if the evidence does not fit a hypothesis, then its abandoned and a new one is formed. The evidence always dictates the conclusion, not the other way round. It is the Creationist who starts from the end result and looks for the evidence that matches the result or comes up with a hypothesis for fitting the evidence into the end result. Ken Ham wrongly asserts that because his idea of science is all arse over tits, so must the scientists’.

 

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‘ere There be Dragons

I’ve mentioned previously that I like to read blogs of those whom I disagree with. Included in that list are a couple of creationist blogs. Its interesting reading posts that lay out what I used to believe and balancing that with what science actually says. There is a very common theme and its basically creationist claims are weak on science and strong on apologetics. That may work for theology but it doesn’t cut it in the hard-nosed world of evidence based reality.

Every now and then a post will come along that flummoxes me and recently I had one of those over at Bible-Science Guy. Read it here, especially the embedded PDF, its not very long (http://biblescienceguy.wordpress.com/articles/2012-articles/2012-05-dragons/).

Basically its an attempt to link the myth of dragons into the biblical narrative and exit with something along the lines of Dragons were once real. Old myths, such as George slaying the dragon, are referenced along with obscure biblical references to Leviathans and the such. Other dragon traits such as fire-breathing, flying, gold hoarding and magical are quickly brushed over, if they are mentioned at all. The whole thing is a very intriguing read and the mental loops required to take it in as believable are quite fantastic.

I do especially like the cartoon image. The insinuation that they could have been in an egg really did make me chuckle. How did Noah sex the creatures that were in an egg?

In my creationist days I never once considered that dragons were anything but mythical. I don’t really see any reason why a creationist would consider otherwise to be honest. It just seems so silly. Its fine to speculate on the various reasons why the dragon myths came about, that’s a worthwhile field of study in my opinion. How myths and legends change over time and in retelling helps us learn more about what we as humans have become and shapes our understanding of language and belief.

The BSG post takes it all a step too far. What next I wonder, werewolves and vampires were real too? What about the yeti and the chupacabra?

God takes the Good People Early

This week I found myself in conversation (over the internet) with a Christian and we got onto the subject of death. I was then told that some people believe that God takes his people early and leaves the evil to live longer to give them more of a chance to repent.

I was stunned. It was a proper jaw hit the floor WTF! moment.

I didn’t ask if the person concerned believed that or if they knew anyone who did or even where the information came from. Quite frankly it wasn’t a subject I wanted to discuss, so I let the conversation move on.

The comment did get me thinking though. Why would anyone think that? And more importantly, is there actually a theological precedent or biblical passage that supports this idea? I certainly can’t think of any reason why this could be deemed a reasonable theological position to hold. I concede that I’m not exactly the world’s leading bible commentator, however with my years as a Christian and the number of sermons and Christian talks I’ve heard, you’d think that I’d have heard it if this was a reasonable position to hold.

Given this is the first time I can consciously say I’ve met this particular line of thinking, I think I can safely say that it’s something that is in the minority. However, what makes it concerning is that either there are some people who do believe and teach this, or there are some people who choose to believe this, despite not being taught it.

Of course there is the simple fact that looking at the evidence of deaths of history proves this particular line of thought to be utterly wrong.

It is not a comforting theology

The conclusion I have come to is that people who believe this only do so because it must be comforting to them. It taps into the ‘in a better place’ mentality, that being that those Christians who have died are enjoying fellowship in heaven and ultimately that’s where all good Christians want to be and death in this life is a relief, a good thing even, something to be rejoiced in even. This is denialist theology, it’s what happens when people invent things to try and ease the pain of a deeply unfair happening.

On a personal level, the only good thing about my mother’s death in her early 60s is that she is no longer suffering with cancer. If God was a merciful god and took the good people early then he should have taken this servant of His in that first year and not left her to suffer an appalling cancer for three years before finally going unconscious and dying a week later.

There is nothing good about her sons missing her terribly and there is nothing good about her never getting to see her granddaughter grow up. The suggestion that the loving God she worshiped all her life took her that way and at that time because he loved her and she was good is utterly wrong. The more I think about this, the more I get upset and angry about it. Time to go to my happy place….

Things that make you spit your coffee!

I just had to share this, as it really is one of those things that is funny at first and them, well a bit creepy. Its a good job I didn’t have a mug of coffee in my hand when I saw this so I suggest you put your down right now before you continue.

Today’s WordPress stats show a hit to this blog with the search phrase “free fornication with my stepmother for free”.

After recovering from the shock of what I could have written to get that hit my mind then wandered to the question of why would anyone put THAT in a search box!

I hope its just a search spider dropping such phrases into searches and hoping that the hits will prompt curiosity and when a human sees the phrase they’ll search it back and get the website that is trying to generate its own traffic.

If I just ruined your coffee, then I apologise, but I hope it made you laugh as well.

Magical Light

From another blog I read the following entry at Answers In Genesis (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v6/n1/distant-starlight) and it reminded me how weak the creationist argument is. I do occasionally go back and read the arguments for things I used to believe and I realise that they are silly. The science behind them is flimsy at best and the page linked to is a typical example. All the more shocking that its written by someone with a PhD in astrophysics.

The article is about distant starlight and how could it have got to earth from millions and billions of light years away when nothing is older than 10,000 years.

Distant starlight is a problem for creationists and there are several ways in which its been tackled. The one talked about in the article is just one.

The article speculates on the possibility that the speed of light is not constant, that light can suddenly accelerate and cover vast distances instantly.

The example that is given is shining a torch at a mirror. We can measure the round trip of the light using very sophisticated equipment and get the speed of light accurately. This has been done many times and each time the speed of light comes out the same. The light gets from the torch, to the mirror and back again at the same speed. The distance can be changed and the time taken will adjust accordingly to give the same speed for light.

All good so far and exactly how science works. Measure, test, predict and measure and test again. That is how we know how fast light is and that’s how we know how far away from us the Moon is and that its average distance is increasing at about 2cm per year.

Then the article takes a very bizzar twist.

What if the light went to the mirror at half the speed we think it does, and then, on reflecting makes the entire journey back instantly. That would give the same results as the constant speed that we are all taught in school.

That’s true, if this scenario were correct. So what evidence is there that this scenario might be correct and testable?

None.

What we have instead of evidence, is a discussion of why testing it would be impossible.

This is not how Science works!

This is sloppy by any standards.

The assumption that the speed of light remains constant when reflecting back off a mirror is sound and entirely reasonable. To invoke the untestable to try to back up an idea smacks of desperation.

How does this affect distant starlight?

Light that gets to us from the stars only comes in one direction, it doesn’t bounce off a mirror. So, the example given to us as how light might (or might not) change its speed on hitting a mirror doesn’t seem relevant. That’s ignoring the gaping hole that is there is no explanation as to how this might happen.

The whole purpose of the article is to set in your mind the possibility that light could cover a vast distance instantly. Once that idea has been planted, the author then asks, what if the starlight from those distant stars travelled here instantly?

The answer is, of course, that if the light did, then it would be an answer for a young universe. Bingo!

However, what is conveniently forgotten is that there are two hypothetical speeds of light mentioned. Not just the instant travel, but also the half speed light, what if the light travelled here at half the speed? Ooops, suddenly the universe is twice the age we think it is.

Then there is a logical own goal that the author set up earlier on the article. The author talks about the round trip of light always being constant; the round trip is the journey from the source to receptor. In the example given, that’s from torch to mirror and back again.

In the issue of distant starlight, its from star to eye. There is no giant mirror to reflect it back. The entire journey of the starlight is pretty much in a single direction.

The author uses the example of the torch light bouncing off the mirror to set the light going in two directions and calls it a round trip. When he moves to talking about starlight he talks about a single direction and leaves clues to lead the reader to make the connection that the single direction is only half a journey and that journey could be instant.

The error here is that the journey of the torch light to mirror and back is a whole journey and the light getting from star to eye is also a whole journey. Each whole journey is what the author calls a round-trip, and must end up with a total speed equally to that which we know of as the speed of light.

So, no, light can’t get to us from a distant star in an instant, and not can it get to us at half speed. It gets to us at the speed of light, regardless of what happens to it along the way.

No amount of imaginary physics or intentionally confusing language can change that.

For someone who hold a PhD in astrophysics, I find this article reprehensible because it intentionally misleads.

The Most Insensitive Blog Posting Yet?

Today I stumbled across this blog posting: http://celebs911.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/princess-dianas-message-to-prince-william-on-his-engagement/

The writer claims to be able to channel the thoughts, desires and wishes of dead people. So today, conveniently, the late princess Diana pops up with a special message for her eldest son.

How utterly insensitive. In fact its worse than that, its devious in its blatant untruthfulness. To be so brazen as to claim to have received a message from beyond the grave like that, on a day when William would probably very much like to have her around, is despicable in its deceitfulness.

Amusingly, a quick google search reveals that there are several deluded individuals that claim to have channelled Diana’s spirit. I wonder how much consistency there is between the various messages. That ought to reveal the truth that dead people don’t have spirits, let along the ability to communicate to the living or tell the future.

Grrr, nonsense makes me angry sometimes.