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by Alec Kohut,  The (Not So) Angry Atheist

Last week, during some mild insomnia, I found myself unable to sleep at 3 am. While scrolling the TV channels menu, I saw the listing “Darwin,” flash by. Even more surprising was that the listing was for the Trinity Broadcast Network, a network almost solely devoted to shaking down believers for donations by people like John Hagee, Pat Robertson, and Benny Hinn.

My curiosity got the best of me and I tuned in to see what kind program labeled “Darwin,” would be on a religious based network. It turns out that the pseudo-science “documentary,” Darwin’s Dilemma, produced by neo-creationists in 2009 was the program. The video aims to refute the theory of evolution, using what is known as the Cambrian Explosion, a period when many of today’s biological phyla first appear in fossil record.

The neo-creationist argument is called “intelligent design,” and is just a creative way of repackaging the age old argument that life is just too complex to not involve a supreme being. But I am not going to cite the numerous ways in which intelligent design is a hoax, nor will I argue about the fossil record.

The thing that struck me as I watched Darwin’s Dilemma, was just how much the creationist argument has changed, or evolved, in recent years.

No longer is the Biblical creation described in Genesis considered remotely true. The idea of a young Earth has been completely abandoned. And any idea of human beings created in their present form, in god’s image is long gone.

Not even the idea of humans living with, and riding dinosaurs with a saddle survives.

No, today’s neo-creationist such as those at the Discovery Institute, dismiss any Biblical idea of creation, and instead argue that creation occurred around 540 million years ago, when the Cambrian Explosion occurred over a period of tens of millions years. It is this period they argue, when the basic “body types,” of today’s life on Earth were initially created.

In fact, today’s neo-creationists no longer even dispute that evolution does occur on a very grand scale. A look at the life that existed in their Cambrian creation moment, compared to now, is proof that even they accept the enormous evolution of life that has occurred in the past 500 million years.

But they still desperately cling to the idea that somehow, somewhere, in someway, god had to be involved. The intelligent design argument just shows how far real science has pushed pseudo-science.  

Originally posted to Politics and A Beer on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:34 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  That is just one kind of creationism (24+ / 0-)

    Young earth creationists are still very much in evidence.

    "Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation..."--David St. Hubbins

    by Old Left Good Left on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:41:28 PM PST

  •  Evangelicals learning from science? God forbid! ;) (5+ / 0-)
  •  Here's the $64 question: (6+ / 0-)

    Are they aware that what they are saying is a radical departure from what they have claimed in the past? Are they aware that they are now DIRECTLY contradicting the Bible?

    •  Well, directly contradicting (0+ / 0-)

      a strictly literalist reading of the Bible, anyway.

      •  Correct. Directly contradicting the bible. (0+ / 0-)

        I see the "oh that part was intended as a fuzzy feel good story to give you a vague idea of sort of what happened-ish, rather than an actual factual description" thing as a bit of a dodge.  People call it "metaphorical" but what they're really doing is waiting until millennia after the passages were written, when humanity finally knows the answer, and then fitting that backward into the text to make it look like that matches what the original authors meant.  It's a dodge designed to make it so nobody ever has to utter the uncomfortable words "the Bible is wrong about this".  It's done to prop up its supposed infallibility.  

        If it's allowed to be treated as a normal bunch of non-divine documents written by normal non-divine humans, which is what you have to do to be able to say the honest thing which is "these humans got some things wrong, no biggie", then its value as a moral authority vanishes.  It's not a divine document.  It's stuff our ancient ancestors wrote.  Nothing more nothing less.

        •  Sorry, you're wrong (0+ / 0-)

          in that "this is not to be taken literally" has been a near-universal interpretation of the creation story since millennia before science had anything authoritative to say about the origin of the universe.

          Near-universal in Judaism, that is, which has never advocated a strictly literal no-interpolation-allowed reading of any narrative part of the Bible.

          Your assumption that the "metaphorical" reading is retroactive is understandable, but incorrect.

          •  The problem is that even the widest (0+ / 0-)

            most fuzzy way to interpret it still doesn't align with fact.  The biblical metaphoricalists of whom you speak were not claiming that "god made the world' is a mere metaphor - just that the exact implementation details were.  They were not claiming that god creating man specially and of a different category from the animals was a mere metaphor - just that the exact implementation details were.  It's not just the exact details that are proven wrong - its the entire wide fuzzy claim itself.

            •  The problem is (0+ / 0-)

              that you feel qualified to talk about what historical biblical scholars claimed and didn't claim, when you haven't the first notion what any of them actually said.

              The problem is also that you're not talking about the comment I was responding to anymore, so I'll say good day here.

              •  Hypocrite. (0+ / 0-)

                You can't try to shoot down what I said with an argument claiming you know better than they did what they were thinking and then accuse me of doing the same.

                The bending over backward that people do to try to avoid having to admit that the Bible has made false claims and that's all there is to it is really annoying.  It's only because it's a religious book that people give it such a wide berth of undeserved respect.  The ancient greeks helped advance human civilization a lot and came up with some excellent new ideas, but we don't feel the need to therefore try to defend every claim they made and every thing they did.  They also had a lot of utterly bonkers ideas and some morally reprehensible ideas but there's no shame in that because so did most of humanity.  Judged versus their contemporaries they come out looking pretty good.  But doing that requires that we treat their history in a secular way.  They weren't divine they were just people.  Just like the authors of the biblical scriptures.  They got some stuff right and some stuff wrong.

  •  Intelligent design... (8+ / 0-)

    is intended to be a one-size-fits-all argument that can support both young-Earth and old-Earth creationism.  Most of those wanting to gain some shred of scientific credibility will maintain a position that the Earth is old, but they know that many of their supporters are young-Earthers.

  •  I'm OK (9+ / 0-)

    I'm actually OK with someone reconciling evolution with faith. If you want to believe that there is a supreme being that has guided evolution, more power to you.  You can also believe that there is a supreme being that keeps a heart pumping and has ordered the orbits of the planets around the sun.  

    What I am not OK with is trying to advance that religious philosophy in a science class.

    •  The Perfect Way to Reconcile It is to Say That (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      penguins4peace, Hamby

      since we're not God we can't see creation his way. When we look at it, it's a 14 billion year old universe, evolution on earth, and looking at it our way is what we have to do to learn how to make our own way in the world as God commanded we'd have to do by the sweat of our brow when he ran us out of the garden.

      There's not got to be absolutely any conflict between creation and science.

      But the fundamentalists have so many other forms of human-visible Godly magic they claim as part of our everyday lives that they won't take human-visible magic out of creation.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 01:39:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  People can believe whatever they want, sure (3+ / 0-)

      People can laugh at or simply disregard those beliefs as silly side-effects of the human imagination and the implicit carrying of cultural points rarely questioned, too.

      I'm not a better person than "believers," but I find associations of metaphysical fantasies with scientific endeavours to have more in common with middle school "what kind of superpower would you want?" types of discussions or creative musings, rather than anything to accept seriously.

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 04:44:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There are still plenty of people who believe ... (3+ / 0-)

    that humans and other life forms were created in pretty much their present form, and have been in pretty much the same form since the beginning of time.  According to Pew and Gallup polls, the percentage of Americans who believe that is somewhere between 33% and 46%.

    Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

    by leevank on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 01:34:39 PM PST

  •  Review of the Book Darwin's Doubt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Politics and A Beer, P E Outlier

    There is a 2013 book by Meyer called Darwin's Doubt -- Intelligent Design is obsessed with Darwin despite him being long dead -- that covers the same material. Here's a review in the journal Science by the Director of the Museum of Paleontology at UCB.

    Meyer's book ends with a heart-warming story of his normally fearless son losing his orientation on the impressive scree slopes that cradle the Burgess Shale, the iconic symbol of the Cambrian explosion, and his need to look back to his father for security. I was puzzled: why the parable in a book ostensibly about philosophy and science? Then I realized that the book's subtext is to provide solace to those who feel their faith undermined by secular society and by science in particular. If the reviews on are any indication, it is achieving that goal. But when it comes to explaining the Cambrian explosion, Darwin's Doubt is compromised by Meyer's lack of scientific knowledge, his “god of the gaps” approach, and selective scholarship that appears driven by his deep belief in an explicit role of an intelligent designer in the history of life.
  •  ON Moyers & Co. this past weekend Neil DeGrasse (2+ / 0-)

    Tyson said that if god is defined by the gaps in scientific knowledge, then he will continue to shrink as new discoveries come to light.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 03:20:32 PM PST

  •  I just now went to the listing for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Politics and A Beer, Dopetron

    Darwin's Dilemma at IMDB, the Internet Movie Database, to see how it was presented. It has a Creationist summary. Perhaps someone who has seen it can add a scientific synopsis.

    I added the keyword "pseudo science". Of course, the other side will assume that I was referring to Darwin. What can you do?

    Their problem is that evolution is not a theory, but a vast array of facts about millions of species. This was understood well before Darwin. Darwin's theoretical contributions were the mechanisms of Natural Selection and Sexual Selection. The current theory includes portions of cosmology, astronomy, and geology, and all of molecular biology.

    The part of Creationism I have had the most fun with is the Light Travel Time problem. Creationists generally agree that the stars and galaxies are as far away as astronomers say, but come up with the wildest notions of how light got here from billions of light years away in under 10,000 years, and how light got to the Garden of Eden from at least 4 light years away in only two days. Every proposed solution has to explain why there is no physical evidence of whatever mechanism is suggested, while carefully ignoring the question why God would lie to us by faking the appearance of an old Cosmos.

    ID just pretends to allow a time scale of hundreds of millions of years. When they aren't paying close enough attention, IDers are always letting it slip that Young Earth Creationism is the goal.

    Their explanations make as much sense as the semi-official explanation for everything impossible on Xena: Warrior Princess.

    A Wizard did it.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 03:55:10 PM PST

  •  I dont have a problem with (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Batya the Toon

    "God had to be involved" so long as it's the argument that God created evolution.

    Again, I don't believe in God, but God is about the why, science and evolution is about the how.

    •  I don't have a problem with it either (0+ / 0-)

      but I do have a problem with people who try to frame "God had to be involved" as an inescapable scientific conclusion, or to teach any sort of creationism as science.

      Framing it as a religious/philosophical position that can be viewed as compatible with science is fine.  Framing it as science in itself is not.

      (And I'm saying that as someone who does believe in God.)

  •  Ignoring the Edicarian? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Politics and A Beer

    That and the small shelly fauna show that modern phyla were established well before the Cambrian.

    The god of the gaps has a smaller and smaller hiding place.

  •  This actually is an improvement... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Make no mistake, most people on TBN and those who watch it still sell the "young Earth" myth but the very fact that they even allow an opposing view speaks volumes about how desperate they are to hold onto power. Sort of like the evangelicals who are now willing to work with mormons to stop gay marriage. Ten years ago they didn't think they needed them and the mormons were desperate for christian cred. Once the supporters walk away, they'll take anyone they can get.

  •  Recent article on innate lack of logic with ID (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Politics and A Beer

    Can Intelligence Bring Universes Into Being?

    By Jason Rosenhouse

    . . .

    One of Pitman’s talking points was the idea that natural selection is not capable in principle of crafting complex biochemical systems. Of course, this is standard fare for ID folks. Pitman made the claim that there is some level of functional complexity beyond which natural selection cannot go. His only actual argument for this was that a mechanism based on variation and selection has only been observed to produce relatively small amounts of complexity (leaving aside for the moment any questions of precisely how we define complexity.)

    A lot of ID writing is devoted to putting meat on the bones of this idea. Michael Behe’s notion of “irreducible complexity” and William Dembski’s notion of “complex specified information” were both intended to provide the missing “in principle” argument for why natural selection cannot produce complex systems. In neither case were these authors successful. Among people who understood some biology and mathematics, Behe and Dembski were quite properly laughed at, since their arguments were really quite bad.

    . . .

    So the situation is this: With regard to natural selection, we start with the fact that there is no theoretical reason why it cannot craft complex systems. Once you grant that selection has been observed to craft small increases in complexity in short periods of time–and how can you not–then it is hard to find an in principle argument for why it can’t craft more complex systems over longer periods of time. We also have the successes of evolutionary algorithms in solving problems in engineering and medicine, as well as computer simulations of evolution, to serve as a proof of concept. Moving on, for many concrete systems we have strong evidence for how they evolved gradually, and the fact that virtually every complex system studied to date shows clear vestiges of its evolutionary past. It is the universal experience of the scientists who do this work that complex biological systems are incomprehesible from the standpoint of engineering, but become comprehensible as soon as their histories are taken into account. And, most persuasive of all, you have the many practical successes of adaptationist reasoning in biology.

    ID folks respond to this by folding their arms, shaking their heads, and repeating ad nauseum that we have no evidence that natural selection can do what we say it can do.

    But when it comes to intelligence they are willing to make groundless extrapolations from what is seen to occur, and to hypothesize into existence an awesomely powerful supermind that can do just about anything with acts of its will. This they brazenly claim to be clearly the best explanation for the universe and for life, and they accuse scientists of rejecting it only because of their morbid, anti-religious bias.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 04:49:38 PM PST

  •  I believe that we should be very clear on (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Politics and A Beer, terrypinder

    the motivations for Creationism and ID, because answering their pseudoscientific arguments has no effect on their real reasons for holding these views. Answers in Genesis is explicit on one motive:

    If one does not regard Adam as a real historical person but as a mythical figure, then one can consequently not accept Jesus’ work of redemption as real.
    This is of course false, as all other Christian churches than the pseudochristian Creationist Evangelical churches can explain to you.

    The other motivation is frank racism, from churches that still hold to Curse of Ham theology. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum explicitly denounces this theory. Unfortunately for his argument, he tries to push it too far.

    Well, unfortunately for these and other terribly wrong bloggers, the idea that racism originated with the Bible is unfounded.
    The Southern Baptist Convention has apologized for its past racism, supported with Curse of Ham theology, and also denounces this theory. SBC has actively recruited minority members, and has a Creationist Black President. But there are other churches that still maintain the old Southern Christian racism.

    Darwin's greatest sin, when he published in 1859, was the fact that evolution means that all Whites are descended from Black Africans. They pretend that their complaint is about descent from apes or monkeys, but those are well-known Dog Whistles.

    Curiously, Young Earth Creationism did not really take over the Evangelical Churches until the 1960s, with the spread of Flood Geology pseudoscience. Is it a coincidence that this happened at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement? I don't have a smoking gun, but I wouldn't think so.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:42:48 PM PST

    •  you still miss their real motive (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IowaBiologist, terrypinder

      The creationist movement, particularly its politically-active form, was formed and supported by the Christian Reconstructionist movement, which has the explicit goal of disbanding the US Constitution and placing the country under "Biblical law". The Discovery Institute's entire "Intelligent Design" campaign was funded basically by one man, Howard Ahmanson, who is a Christian Reconstructionist.

      Their goals are not religious or scientific--their goals are entirely and solely political. They are, literally, the American Taliban. They want to do for the US what the Ayatollahs have done for Iran.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 04:35:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Allow me to add to your argument (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        From Wikipedia:

        Barbara Forrest contends such statements reveal that leading proponents see intelligent design as essentially religious in nature, not merely a scientific concept that has implications with which their personal religious beliefs happen to coincide. She writes that the leading proponents of intelligent design are closely allied with the ultra-conservative Christian Reconstructionism movement. She lists connections of (current and former) Discovery Institute Fellows Phillip Johnson, Charles Thaxton, Michael Behe, Richard Weikart, Jonathan Wells and Francis Beckwith to leading Christian Reconstructionist organizations, and the extent of the funding provided the Institute by Howard Ahmanson Jr., a leading figure in the Reconstructionist movement.
        However, other Creationists reject ID as insufficiently Biblical. Again from Wikipedia:
        Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, a proponent of Old Earth creationism, believes that the efforts of intelligent design proponents to divorce the concept from Biblical Christianity make its hypothesis too vague. In 2002 he wrote: "Winning the argument for design without identifying the designer yields, at best, a sketchy origins model. Such a model makes little if any positive impact on the community of scientists and other scholars… The time is right for a direct approach, a single leap into the origins fray. Introducing a biblically based, scientifically verifiable creation model represents such a leap."[90]

        Likewise, two of the most prominent Young Earth creationism organizations in the world have attempted to distinguish their views from those of the intelligent design movement. Henry M. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) wrote, in 1999, that ID, "even if well-meaning and effectively articulated, will not work! It has often been tried in the past and has failed, and it will fail today. The reason it won't work is because it is not the Biblical method." According to Morris: "The evidence of intelligent design… must be either followed by or accompanied by a sound presentation of true Biblical creationism if it is to be meaningful and lasting."[91] In 2002, Carl Wieland, then of Answers in Genesis (AiG), criticized design advocates who, though well-intentioned, "left the Bible out of it" and thereby unwittingly aided and abetted the modern rejection of the Bible. Wieland explained that "AiG's major 'strategy' is to boldly, but humbly, call the church back to its Biblical foundations… [so] we neither count ourselves a part of this movement nor campaign against it."

        But recognizing the connection between ID and Christian Reconstructionism does not answer the question why CR supports ID. R. J. Rushdoony said, in A Creationism Classic: The Necessity For Creationism,
        Men will either presuppose God, or they will presuppose themselves as the basic reality of being. If they assume themselves to be autonomous and independent from God, they will then wage war against God at every point…If God's creative work is denied, then God's governance and redemption are also denied…
        So we are back to the Redemption theology I first pointed to, requiring that the Bible be history.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 10:36:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've got news for these guys ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... you can regard Adam as a historical figure and also not accept Jesus's work of redemption as real.

      You can also, shockingly, regard Adam as a figure of myth and parable while simultaneously regarding later Biblical figures and events as historical.

  •  all of that has very little to do with "science" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and everything to do with "law".

    The court rulings in Arkansas in 1982 and Louisiana in 1987 listed several characteristics of creation "science", then ruled creation "science" to be illegal to teach.

    Ever since then, creationists have dropped virtually every characteristic listed in those court rulings, and thereby claimed that the new and improved "intelligent design theory" does NOT meet the legal definition of creation "science".  Alas, that legal ploy failed spectacularly in Dover.  So now, most creationists no longer bother at all with any form of creationism whatsoever--as a legal ploy; instead they now claim that all they want to do is teach "criticisms of evolution".  That new ploy was actually passed into law in Louisiana a few years back, but because its illegal aims and goals are so crushingly obvious (it makes the very same arguments that the creationists have always made), no school district there has ever tried to actually teach it, since they know it won't survive ten minutes in court.

    Creationism has almost nothing to do with "science", and almost nothing to do with "religion" either.  It is a legal strategy, with a political goal.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 04:30:04 AM PST

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