Recently, PZ Myers ripped Gordy Slack for “bad” articles on creationism. Gordy Slack’s reply is revealing in its own way.
It surprises me that PZ is so pissed off by my efforts to understand why so many Americans reject evolution. If you ask them, and I have bothered to ask hundreds or thousands over the past two years, many will tell you that more than anything else, it’s the arrogant zealotry of cocksure ideologues that turns them off to evolution. They see people calling their intuitions and worldviews retarded and corrupt, and they march the other way. That’s one reason why we evolutionists have done such an abysmal promotions job even though we’re armed with the most delightful and seductive and potent theory ever. If we can’t sell evolution, we must be doing something wrong. Right? I’m just saying that we might start by resisting the urge to spit bile in the face of potential buyers.
Gordy Slack’s original article, such as it was, painted creationism as a form of legitimate skepticism. It conferred respect on creationism for its truly adversarial relationship to science, noting things that apparently creationists pointed out, and science eventually proved them right. PZ Myers’ point was: no, scientists were saying the same things, and unlike the creationists, they found the hard evidence to prove it.
Creationism is fundamentally reactionary and denialist. The line between honest skepticism and denialism can usually be discerned by asking a simple question. Both the skeptic and the denialist will claim there is not enough evidence to support a particular claim, what differentiates the two is their answer as to what evidence would be necessary to change their belief. The true skeptic will be able to produce a few pieces of evidence that would convince them. A denialist will sometimes openly say no amount of evidence will convince them, or if they are more sophisticated, they will just leave it at an unspecific more.
The fact of the matter is that the theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the best and heavily supported scientific theories we have. The rejection of evolution rests on a logical fallacy, the fear of its ramifications, not the lack of evidence. The arrogance of the atheist, or the evolutionary scientist is the mere questioning of the unassailable church doctrine. The thinking goes, if those atheists weren’t so arrogant and just accept the fact that the bible is unerringly correct, then there wouldn’t be a problem.
There are many that believe there is some way to reconcile the theory of evolution and religion. I am not denying that there are ways to reconcile the two beliefs, but there are none that I find particularly intellectually satisfying.
What the creationists of the world seek from the scientists is simple: accommodation. And this is what makes atheists so angry. It sends the message that if one is petulant enough, stubborn enough, loud enough, irrational enough, that it is possible to get the most reasonable of institutions to cave. Science, as an ideal, is imperfectly implemented by humans. We try our best, and sometimes we fail, but the central tenet is that we try to succeed, and we are fundamentally honest.
I used to believe standing by a principle was easy. Science was some forgone conclusion, why wouldn’t someone want to be rational? Why wouldn’t someone want to know more about the physical world around them? My upbringing was religious. I saw going to church on Sunday as some sort of insurance policy. I thought there was some ancient break where god was regularly intervening in the world and then he quit for some reason. Later, I realized that the person who went to church on Sunday was the same on Monday. The tales of great miracles occur regularly, but when examined closely they more closely resemble hoaxes or tales of the credulous, not divine intervention. Finally, I was able to stitch together a coherent, rational view of natural history that exposes the very strange creatures that we are and what we believe.
I admit it. I’m a little bit bitter about that. I can only compare and contrast my own experience of confirmation with this statement from the Brights.
Hello, parents/guardians! Please read the following Brights’ Net’s “rules” for youngsters signing up to be counted in the constituency of Brights.
1) The decision to be a Bright must be the child’s. Any youngster who is told he or she must, or should, be a Bright can NOT be a Bright. [The Brights’ Net doesn’t wish to count children who are not taking the step for themselves.]
2) Children should know they can change their mind at a later time (as can any person).
3) A child must be able to independently sign onto the Brights’ Net site, read and understand the definition, conclude they are a Bright, and then locate and complete the sign-up form without assistance. (Parents should feel free to discuss likely implications of “being a Bright” with the child, but the child must be capable of abiding by the guidelines.)
Can you imagine a church adopting such a policy before we start labeling children Christian?
Religion is at war with the world. At war with the truths we discover. Has religion ever endorsed some new discovery and gone, wow, this is better than we thought? The universe is far older, larger, grander, more complex and elegant than our prophets led us to believe.
This willful ignorance is something to be angry about. Furthermore, I will not lie, mislead or deny the truth as I see it to accommodate those who want to wallow in a delusion. If this makes me arrogant, so be it. I ask nothing less than an intellectual revolution towards rationality, a new permanent enlightenment of our species to replace the decadent thinking of the here and now. Thinkers unite! You have nothing to lose but your superstitions and an undimmed view of universe to gain and explore.