Oh, I do grow tired of the word “evolutionist.” It’s the kind of word only a creationist would invent. The creationist / evolutionist dichotomy was designed at every stage to imply that the two ideas are exactly the same thing, implying the same level of slavish devotion to a doctrine and the same level of prima facie plausibility for both. It’s one of the movement’s most obvious calling cards, and one that makes its adherents trivial to recognize.
With that in mind, the recent much-ballyhooed and much-derided performance piece between Ken Ham and Bill Nye provided the Internet with a variety of new bits of creationism-related entertainment. One of the better bits of comedy to come from this event, besides the glistening fury of Ken Ham’s bat-strokes against the pulverized flank steak that used to be his dead horse, is this BuzzFeed list of questions posed by smug-faced creationists to their sensible brethren. I’ve provided it here in text with the spelling and grammar corrected.
1. Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?2. Are you scared of a divine creator?3. Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature? i.e., trees created with rings…Adam created as an adult…4. Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?5. How do you explain a sunset if there is no god?6. If the Big Bang theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?7. What about noetics?8. Where do you derive objectivemeaning in life?9. If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?10. I believe in the Big Bang Theory. God said it and BANG it happened!11. Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-God-believing people reject the idea of there being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extraterrestrial sources?12. There is no in between…the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “official proof.”13. Does metamorphosis help support evolution?14. If evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is evolution taught as fact?15. Because science by definition is a “theory”—not testable, observable, nor repeatable” why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?16. What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase in genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?17. What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?18. Why have we found only one “Lucy” when we have found more than one of everything else?19. Can you believe in “the big bang” without “faith”?20. How can you look at the world and not believe that someone created / thought of it? It’s AMAZING!!!21. Relating to the big bang theory…where did the exploding star come from?22. If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?
As you can see, we have the classics here handily covered, along with some dishonest argumentation and a few reruns from my last visit to a list of creationist false controversies.
Let’s have a rather harsher look than that simpering accomodationist Phil Plait decided to take:
1. Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?
Alas, I can’t speak for Bill Nye, so I won’t say whether Bill Nye thinks he’s influencing the minds of children in a positive way. I, however, am rather a fan of Bill Nye’s work, and hope he continues to do what he does best: share science with interested laypersons. Bringing the joy and wonder of our world, the amazing things that dedicated observers have learned about it, and the equally wondrous process by which new knowledge is gleaned from material happenings—we should all be so lucky as to be so influenced.
2. Are you scared of a divine creator?
Are you scared of the mokele-mbembe? The toothfairy? Ravana? Fu Leng? Fionn mac Cumhaill? When you figure out why none of those names inspire fear in you, you’ll understand why your “divine creator” holds no threat over us.
On a more serious note, asking why someone is “scared” of the idea you’re pushing says a lot more about you than it does about the person you’re accusing. It says that you operate at the level of being terrified that this world actually might be a place of physical laws and physical solutions, a place where doing is infinitely more important than praying, a place that isn’t, from beginning to end, all about us. That’s called projection.
We are not afraid to consider your ideas. We already considered them. They’re crap.
3. Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature? i.e., trees created with rings…Adam created as an adult…
Does it seem likely to you that the entire universe burst into existence one second ago, and that all of our memories and recollections and sequential filing systems all emerged in that one singular moment with the appearance of having years and years of history behind them? Does it seem likely to you that everything you remember about your own life, from your childhood up to the lunch you’re currently digesting, happened in a flash that somehow resulted in it looking, for all appearances, like it happened over a lifetime?
To put it mildly, there is no evidence that this is the case, and defined in your terms there can be no evidence that our world is such a world. You just described a universe that came about one way but whose every attribute, up to and including the strange old book on which you base your assertion, indicates that it came about some other way, meaning that there is no reason whatsoever to think that it didn’t arise gradually, even if we accept your preposterous assumptions.
To put it another way: your own memories are a record of past events that you have experienced, indubitable proof that our universe is not static and changes over time. We have records and evidence of changes that go back before our own lifetimes, records that grow slowly and then quickly scanter as we advance backward through the ages. You are proposing that, at some point, going back further is pointless, because all signs of the past above a certain apparent age were included pointlessly by a capricious deity.
You are proposing that your god is a liar, as a reason why I should base my views on its supposed words.
4. Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?
The second law of thermodynamics, for the uninitiated, states that the entropy of a closed system almost always increases over time. The “almost” there is for a handful of very extreme circumstances that are not relevant to the parts of the universe that support life. The only closed system known to science at the moment is the entire universe. Planet earth is what we call an open system: a system into which energy constantly flows. That energy comes almost exclusively from our nearest star, the sun, which sends a stupendous amount of electromagnetic radiation our way, including the kind we know as visible light. By using this energy, living things can build more complex and ordered structures, in seeming violation of this entropic principle. However, in so doing, they dump heat into their environment, and the net effect on the universe’s entropy is positive.
To dispute this is to claim that the entire field of physics, and by extension every single thing about the world that humankind has ever learned (including the second law of thermodynamics itself), is a conspiracy to make your god look bad. Good luck.
5. How do you explain a sunset if there is no god?
Much more easily than you do with god-notions bouncing through your mind. I don’t have to wonder why a benevolent creator god would condemn half of the surface of its chosen species’s home world to darkness at all times, when predators and injuries thrive in the dark. I don’t have to wonder whether our benevolent creator would think that a display of pretty reds and oranges each morning and evening could possibly compensate for making the air that much more palatable to mosquitoes (humanity’s most dangerous predator) for so many hours every day.
Instead, I can recognize that the sun is a floating nuclear fusion reactor around which a series of oblate-spheroidal planets orbit, and each of those planets is also spinning on an axis, and as the planet spins the half that faces the sun constantly changes. At the edges, the angle of the sun’s arriving light means that, instead of scattering high-energy blue and violet light around the atmosphere as happens during the day, low-energy reds and oranges get scattered as the sun retreats below or rises above the horizon. No god required, no god even helpful.
6. If the Big Bang theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?
See #4. The universe in the instant of the Big Bang would have been infinitely compressed in space, having the lowest entropy it could possibly have. Universal entropy has been increasing since. The theory is based on, rather than violating, the laws of thermodynamics. Of course, modern physics has advanced to some degree past the Big Bang, so you might want to do some reading.
7. What about noetics?
Do you mean the branch of philosophy interested in what minds are and how they interact with the world, or the branch of sympathetic magic pretending to be philosophy that holds that people’s thoughts can alter the state of the rest of the world in convenient ways?
Because one of those is a serious field of inquiry that is not at all threatened by minds being the product of evolution in the handful of species that appear to have them, and the other is bullshit with or without God.
8. Where do you derive objective meaning in life?
I like how you underlined objective, to emphasize that you don’t think the purposes people choose or make for themselves are legitimate. Since it’s so important to you that the direction of your life be imposed on you from outside, might I suggest a life in the military? You may find such a life far less terrifying than one where you’re permitted to choose what you regard as valuable, and what parts of your life you’ll reminisce on when you sort out your legacy on a palliative bed in your 90s.
As for me, I recognize that I am here, and that that statement has no other intrinsic meaning than that. I exist, and I’m entangled in this great framework we call “society” in a specific place and time, and I’m making of that reality what I will and what I can. I value knowledge, fairness, compassion, truth, and empathy, I draw happiness from good company, stirring discussion, delicious seafood, and from being surrounded by flowing water and contented fish. I am building a life based on that, a life protected by the fact that successful societies throw the proverbial book at people whose values and happiness come in ways that put the rest of us in danger. That’s objective enough for me.
9. If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?
I’m acutely aware that, when people like you say “by chance,” you mean “instantly with no obvious cause,” the irony of that being a far more accurate description of the creationist than the scientific version of things being totally lost on you. With that in mind, no, the first organism did not emerge “by chance.” It emerged out of a chemical environment that the actions of living things have since removed from this planet, wherein complicated organic molecules could form from simpler molecules via the input of enormous amounts of heat and electrical energy from lightning and in the absence of atmospheric oxygen. Scientists are still studying the matter, so it’s not yet clear which of the various suggested precursor molecules is the one to watch. What is clear is that proposing an entity more complex than any life form currently known to science as the source of all of the others does not answer the question of how life originated, but rather pushes it up one level—how did God originate? And if God was always around or emerged on his own from a then-godless world, why does a similar idea about known life not content you?
10. I believe in the Big Bang Theory. God said it and BANG it happened!
See #4 and #6.
11. Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-God-believing people reject the idea of there being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extraterrestrial sources?
What I’m about to tell you might blow your mind, but the belief that aliens designed life on earth in the manner that creationists assume God did is actually extremely rare. Its most common proponents are Mormons, whose God is a physical being who resides elsewhere in the universe, and Raëlians, members of a tiny UFO cult who proudly call themselves both non-theistic and creationist. The overwhelming majority of people who accept the fact of evolution do not believe that an extraterrestrial species somehow created life on Earth, though a larger number haven’t thought the issue through and remain “open” to that possibility.
12. There is no in between…the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “official proof.”
I take it you haven’t paid any attention to the field of Cenozoic palaeontology for the past 40 years. Scientists have had a LONG time to add to the pile of prehistoric hominin remains on which we base our understanding of humanity’s origins, and they have amply delivered. Your ignorance is not proof of their failure. Not even “official” proof.
13. Does metamorphosis help support evolution?
Metamorphosis and evolution are very different things, common creationist strawmen and Pokémon notwithstanding. I’m pleasantly surprised that you’ve made the distinction. As metamorphosis relies on the implementation of developmental genes that, in other contexts, are the core of how evolutionary processes can shape the overall body plan of an organism, its existence provides a surprising bit of supporting evidence for evolution. For the most part, however, it is a phenomenon that evolutionary forces are invoked to explain, with interesting results.
14. If evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is evolution taught as fact?
15. Because science by definition is a “theory”—not testable, observable, nor repeatable” why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?
Since these two are the same question, they’re getting one answer. Since I had no idea what to do with those weirdly placed quote marks, they stay.
“Theory” is a word that laypeople like to accidentally misuse and creationists like to deliberately misuse. In science, a theory is a well-substantiated explanation of a natural phenomenon that has been repeatedly affirmed and demonstrated by a wide variety of supporting evidence from multiple sources. Scientific theories spawn hypotheses, smaller-scale falsifiable predictions based on the theory, which can themselves be tested even when the theory is too expansive to test directly. A successful theory is one whose subsidiary hypotheses themselves receive experimental support. Unsuccessful theories get abandoned and replaced by successful theories.
Evolution, particularly in its modern form that includes forces other than natural selection and which takes genetics into account, is a theory, and is one of the most abundantly-supported theories in all of science, let alone biology. Creationism is not a theory, as it lacks the overwhelming body of experimental support that would make it such. Indeed, since most versions of creationism are internally incoherent, non-falsifiable, and/or make no predictions whatsoever about what sorts of new information scientists might discover, creationism is not even a hypothesis. It is a junk idea that does not belong in science classrooms except as an example of how to do science very, very badly, and as an example of deeply non-scientific thinking wishing we would treat it as though it were science.
There’s a well-established place for such ideas in comparative religion, anthropology, political science, philosophy, and similar classes where the ideas of creationism and the movement thereof can be discussed for what they are, though.
16. What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase in genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?
Who let you out, Dr. Meyer? I thought the Discovery Institute kept you on a tight leash so that you’d stop embarrassing them with foolishness like this.
Given that “genetic information” is a quantity that, like “irreducible complexity” and “genetic depth,” has never and will never be defined in a measurable way lest a competent biologist demonstrate that they don’t actually do what creationists say they will do, I shouldn’t dignify this with any response at all. But since I’m feeling charitable, there’s a fairly obvious example of the amount of “genetic information” in a line of organisms increasing: the several gene duplication events that led from an early vertebrate with one set of Hox genes governing its body plan to more derived modern vertebrates with four sets, all independently mutating since the duplication, leading to more complicated internal structures.
17. What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?
18. Why have we found only one “Lucy” when we have found more than one of everything else?
See #12. Also, the number of fossils of a specific organism has to do with how common that specific organism was, whether the area where it was found is well-excavated, and whether its body parts fossilize well, not with any parameters of interest to the evolution/creationism “debate.”
19. Can you believe in “the big bang” without “faith”?
“Faith” is one of those words that dishonest interlocutors like to use to shift goalposts mid-sentence. All of science is provisional and subject to revision if new information demands it. This level of empiricism comes naturally to the human mind. You currently believe that your favorite socks are where you last left them, and you have every reason to believe that. But, it’s possible that someone moved them without your knowledge. That makes your knowledge of their location “faith-based” right up until you check. And that’s a kind of faith, a faith synonymous with “uncertainty,” that all humans utilize. In that sense, all of science relies on faith.
But, the theist likes to turn that into the kind of “faith” that they have in their deity, which is based on no evidence at all and is often held despite evidence to the contrary. That is not the faith of the scientist, and that is not the kind of faith required to understand the Big Bang theory as, for a few decades, humanity’s most well-supported idea for how the universe came to be.
20. How can you look at the world and not believe that someone created / thought of it? It’s AMAZING!!!
It’s even more amazing if you understand that it arose without the efforts of a cosmic being who put us in this universe despite the overwhelming majority of said universe being instantly lethal to us, and who filled the one spot we CAN inhabit with bacteria that liquefy our intestines and flesh-boring worms that respond to people trying to remove them by kamikaze.
This world is amazing, and attributing that wonder to a supernatural being is a non sequitur that shows a piss-poor appreciation for that wonder.
21. Relating to the big bang theory…where did the exploding star come from?
Relating to the God Did It theory…where did the god come from?
22. If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?