Mar 8, 2011

response to a facebook thread

A Facebook discussion (the same that sparked the previous entry) was growing out of hand, so rather than taking up a friend's wall, I'll repost here:

The discussion began on a news article dealing with a claim of extraterrestrial microfossils and was slowly sidetracked.  You can read the discussion on the right if you're interested in the context of this entry.

There are a lot of reasons why origins are important; first, there is the truth factor--if we have on the one hand people claiming that the age of the Earth is measured in thousands of years, and on the other those who claim that billions are more useful, then knowing the truth has value in and of itself, especially in cases where the knowledge in question has such wide-ranging ramifications.  One such ramification is the truth of religion--many religious systems have predicated themselves on a young earth.  That's a testable, falsifiable claim--surely a religion subjecting itself to such scrutiny is worthy of consideration?*

There are two more big issues for me personally: first is a particular personality quirk of mine.  I find it relatively easy to forgive people who lied to me, with one exception--if they got me to believe them.  If they're just hawking snake oil, meh, what's one more charlatan?  But if I believed them, and believed them well enough to get emotionally involved in what they were saying, then that is another matter.  I got a hold of a copy of this book as a child.  I never understood, on a gut level, why victims of abuse so often felt ashamed until I made the connection with how I felt about having actually believed its contents.**  I was also subjected to a lecture about Intelligent Design while I was in college.  I admit, with no small degree of shame, that my younger self was actually intrigued and even a bit excited by what seemed the exciting discovery of irreducible complexity in the flagella.

I can still raise my blood pressure at will by concentrating hard enough on either memory.  That in itself doesn't make me wrong or right--just motivated.  And sometimes a wee bit acerbic.

The other point is that, as I am still a Christian, I view creationism as a personal disgrace.  To quote Augustine:
Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
Gentle readers, that IS creationism.  I don't judge the folks in the thread: to me, they are nothing more than a thumbnail and letters on a screen.  They sounded sincere, and I'll leave it at that.

However--and there is simply no nice way to say this--the people up there on the stage, in the videos, setting up websites, and hawking their wares are without exception frauds or idiots.  I've no idea where the information comes from that people on both sides of the fence seek out AiG; on this side, their name is synonymous with lying for Jesus [edit: and for demonstrating their respect and love with ads like this].  I've made my own case against them here, here, and here.***  Other groups and personalities fall elsewhere on the spectrum, but they're all on there.

So I just don't believe that AiG acts in love or respect--they are hucksters, and that's their shtick: that, and criticizing the other hucksters.  The fact that a salesman nicely tells you that the competing brand of snake oil is useless does not make him honest.  I simply have no respect for any of them: no more than for Peter Popoff, psychic surgeons, cold readers, and Scientology:

*In practice sadly, this more-or-less amounts to asserting that 'the Earth is young because my theology is correct.'

**I don't mean to literally equate it with abuse, but there was a certain 'aha' moment when I realized that the experiences were similar in kind if not quite in degree.

***The short version is that in order to calculate the 'assumptions' present in an article one must solve logarithmic equations, whereas to believe the conclusions one must be in ignorance of the shape of an exponential growth curve; that fact will admit of no other conclusion than bad faith.

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