Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The creationist editor

A friend of mine, Anne, recently published an story in an online publication, The Opinion Guy ( Anne wrote a book called Living in the Light, a sort-of-instruction manual to help atheist parents teach their kids to resist religious proselytizing. The Opinion Guy opens his publication by attempting to skewer evolutionary theory in favor of creationism.

I love irony.

Anyway, just for kicks (and because it’s easy), I thought I’d take a few minutes to offer a rebuttal.

OP’s argument is based on this evidence:
It doesn’t seem reasonable that all this matter out there suddenly gathered in one place and exploded in the Big Bang.

Well, quantum physics has demonstrated that the actual construction of matter is almost completely energy (or perhaps completely). If you took the earth and squashed out all the empty space inside atoms and quarks, you’d have a tiny ball of intense energy you could hold in the palm of your hand. And anyway, doesn’t The Bible say, “With God all things are possible”?

If evolution is true, it must still be happening, but we haven’t seen it in the last 8,000 years, therefore it stopped. (There’s a “lack of recurring examples.”)

8,000 years is the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. Any changes we would see in this period are gonna be pretty small. Even so, in the last few hundred years, we’ve seen canis lupus familiarus develop into German Shepherd and pug. Assuming both survived, what would they look like in 100,000 years? A million? New species are being discovered on a regular basis – how many of these have emerged through a process of evolution, and weren’t there 8,000 years ago? Nobody knows, obviously. So maybe we’re witnessing evolution all the time, and just haven’t noticed, since it hasn’t been replicated in a laboratory yet. Meanwhile, the fossil record provides lots of evidence that various hominid and other species lived in the past, and are not alive now; and lots of species that are alive now, apparently weren’t alive then – unless we just haven’t found the fossils yet. If the species of the past are completely different from those of the present, then either there must be a continual, gradual change (evolution) going on, or a continual, sudden creation of new critters from ‘the dust of the ground,’ or whatever. Natural selection, which is proven, implies the first.

“… to believe evolution, one has to believe that evolution suddenly happened and strangely stopped in strange bursts throughout history. Isn’t that far-fetched?”

Well, actually, no. That is exactly what evolutionary theory says, and what common sense implies. It's a pattern recreated throughout nature and life, from the growth of kids (they crawl for months and months, then, in a few days, they're walking) to seasons to economic cycles to supernovas.

In periods of environmental stability, such as we’ve enjoyed for the last 10,000 or so years, there is very little evolutionary change, and it’ll most likely happen in minor ways, such as the natural selection OP admits we’ve witnessed. In periods of climactic shift (such as the global warming we are now beginning to encounter) and intense environmental pressure, evolution occurs in bursts as the species dependent on their specific climates change rapidly or die out (become extinct).

The funny thing is, from an objective viewpoint evolution isn’t in doubt. The fossil record and process of natural selection are indisputable. What we can argue about rationally is how and whether it is directed. The real question is, Does evolution occur by random chance, or divine intervention? If you don’t read The Bible literally, it begins with a pretty good allegorical description of Big Bang-style creation (“… and God said Let there be light, and there was light,” etc.), so I don’t see why you can’t believe in The Bible and evolution at the same time. But it really doesn’t matter. Resolving that issue has bearing only on personal questions of faith. I see no reason to resolve it in the public realm.

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Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our