February 25, 2008

Debate Topics

Posted in Skepticism, Writing tagged , , , , , , , at 12:39 pm by lifelessonsfromwriting

It’s a bit late, but here’s a run down of some of the debates/arguments I’ve been having on WordPress:

Evolution

Of course. This one seems to crop up everywhere, despite the fact that, in the scientific community, one side has completely destroyed the other evidence-wise (guess which one!). The main thing I’ve noticed is that, overwhelmingly, those who argue against evolution know almost nothing about it. A discussion with a Creationist might run something like this:

Creationist: Show me evidence that life formed spontaneously out of non-life!

Evolutionist: That’s…not evolution. It’s abiogenesis. And actually, that’s not even what abiogenesis says happened, so you’re off the mark even if-

Creationist: You can’t do it, can you?! I knew it! Until someone proves to me that life can come from non-life without Divine intervention, I’ll smugly wallow in my own overbearing ignorance!

I may have editorialized slightly there, but you get the idea.

Of course, Creationists demand the impossible. There is nowhere where the geological column is complete, and there will always be gaps in the fossil record (if only because any fossil found to fill a gap simply creates two more; for a truly ‘complete’ picture, we’d nee d a fossil of every organism that ever lived, which obviously isn’t going to happen). What’s funny is that Creationists like to demand evidence of a far higher caliber than they themselves are able to provide. I have yet to see any physical evidence that life was divinely begun. What’s that? If you disprove evolution, don’t you then ‘prove’ that God must have created the Universe?

Well, no. Evidence against one theory is not evidence for another. You will note that, when pressed for evidence for evolution, scientists do not immediately attack the evidence for Creationism (mostly because there isn’t any). Creationism, meanwhile, is built entirely on disproving evolution.

So, here’s a challenge for Creationists: show me physical, scientific evidence (in other words, not the Bible) for the idea that God created life on Earth that could not also be used as evidence for the idea that a giant, omnipotent space-shrimp created life on Earth. You may draw on any branch of science you wish, but the evidence must be physical (for example, a fossil or genetic comparison between two species), testable, and must adequately explain the process by which life was created and developed.

And before someone says ‘oh, we don’t make any claims about which omnipotent, divine creator started life, two points: firstly, nobody believes your bullshit. You’re talking about the Christian God. Secondly, if that was your stance it would fail utterly as a scientific theory unless it described the nature and mechanics of how a Divine creator worked; claiming to not want to describe the Creator would be like evolutionary scientists saying ‘Oh, we believe in evolution, but we can’t and won’t even hazard a guess as to what mechanism it works by. Natural selection? Nope, we’re not going to research that’.

The challenge will be open indefinitely, so if you come across this six months from now, feel free to leave a comment.

Homosexuality

I’m gay, but I don’t usually get into many debates about it with people. A lot of people who dislike homosexuality are religious, and there’s little point in arguing with them; they’ve got the Bible or the Qu’ran, they believe what it says, and there’s little anyone can do to change that. The other reason is that it’s just not that big a deal. We’re coming very close to the days when anti-homosexuality sentiment will be viewed in the same light as sexism or racism, but only in some Western countries. I’ve always felt that the area people need to be making a difference in is in the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia; let’s not forget that homosexuals in those places can be imprisoned or even killed for who they are. How many of us in ‘the West’ have that problem?

However, I’ve noticed that a few people have some odd ideas about homosexuality. I’ll summarize them here:

It’s all about the sex. Actually, it’s not. This one crops up most often among religious people, who seem to fixate solely on the actual act of having homosexual sex. That’s taking too simplistic a view of it; even if a gay man stops having sex with other men, he’s not going to spontaneously stop being attracted to them. He’s just going to be very frustrated at never being able to act on those feelings.

It’s a choice. The old chestnut. I don’t know how many times religious people have to be told that it isn’t before they’ll believe it. I’m willing to bet that some people actually do choose to be gay for reasons of their own, but the vast majority of gay people don’t. I mean, ask yourself how many people would have willingly chosen persecution and distrust in sixties or seventies? If it’s a choice, why do religious people then talk about people ‘struggling’ with it? Why can’t they just ‘choose’ heterosexuality?

The inevitable comparison to paedophilia. You’d think this one would have died off by now, but apparently the Boys Beware mentality is alive and kicking. This comes in two flavours: those who think that gay men are more likely to molest children (based on the reasoning that any man who molests a boy is gay), and those who, to discredit homosexuality, put it on the same leve as paedophilia (‘Paedophilia isn’t a choice either; why don’t we let them have sex with whoever they want?).

The first has been debunked by many people who actually work with sex offenders. The second can be debunked by anyone with more than a dozen pair of brain cells to rub together; I leave it as an excersize for the reader to complete in his or her own time.

(Incidentally, is that video actually real? Several people seem to think it is, but I really have my doubts.)

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7 Comments »

  1. scgreen said,

    Good post. I happen to agree with you on both points.
    On your first topic, the term “Creationist” is no longer the term these people with to be identified with. Intelligent Design is the new Creationism. IDers I call them. I wrote an entire paper on them in college. My instructor refused to comment on the content and only graded on the structure. I later discovered that she wrote religious fiction (she called it non-fiction, but really, who was she kidding?)
    Again, good post.

  2. lifelessonsfromwriting said,

    Yeah, the description I gave of ‘Creationists’ was more in line with Intelligent Design proponents (the part about refusing to comment on the nature of the Creator in particular) but I don’t make any particular distinction between the two. Every IDer I’ve met has been a Christian with a vested interest in getting the Biblical account accepted as science. There are shades of grey, of course, but I don’t think there are any IDers who aren’t in it for religious reasons.

    Thanks for stopping by again!

  3. eyegillian said,

    Regarding Creation/Evolution/whatever: First of all, I’ve been a bit astonished to see so much about this topic in the “blogosphere”. I’ve never picked up much more than a shrug about the subject here in Canada, but in the States it seems to have become some kind of a “last stand” debate defining the right and the left.
    Mind you, as a Christian with some theological training, I’ve met very few true literalists when it comes to the Bible (and those who are literalists I would call willfully ignorant, as they consider every word in Genesis 1 to be the literal truth yet they don’t take the time or care to practice the holiness code in Deuteronomy, for example) and most fundamentalists are just following what they’ve been told. The real issue, I believe, is around power and certainty: who gets to say that they are right and everyone else is wrong. I personally don’t want everyone else to be like me (well, ok, maybe sometimes I do) and I think that the kind of hatefulness that wells up during debates like this is a sign that some people feel really insecure. And that all goes back to the very human need to define ourselves as different from – or as against – someone else… I’ll stop before I go off on that tangent.
    And, by the way, I personally believe that however God created the earth is beyond our understanding, but that the ancient Jewish stories (there are actually 2 creation stories in Genesis) are their attempts to understand and explain the significance of the event, much the same as evolution or whatever scientific theory is our modern-day explanation. Jesus avoided getting drawn into the literalist traps set by the Pharisees in his day, and we could do a lot more good and cause less harm in this world if we followed his example as closely as we claim to do!

    And regarding homosexuality, I think it is a choice: a choice to be honest rather than to live in hiding and self-denial. That’s my choice.

  4. lifelessonsfromwriting said,

    Of course, that’s a choice that everyone needs to make at some point or another. In an ideal world, there’s wouldn’t be anything stopping homosexuals being true to themselves, but unfortunately our world is far from perfect.

    Thanks for the comment, it’s interesting to hear the opinions of someone in the ‘middle ground’, if you will, when it comes to the evolution debate. It can be difficult for those who aren’t deeply interested in science to understand why it tends to get people riled up so much, so I appreciate your even-handed perspective.

  5. Nimravid said,

    I’m an ex-creationist myself, so I’ve seen the controversy from both sides. I blog here on science (heavily loaded on evolution) but I’m trying to keep my blog non-confrontational. For me the evidence was sufficient to convince me of the reality of evolution, I hope it will be for others as well. There are certainly enough people handling the debate and related politics on the blogosphere for me to pass on it–plus I get kind of sick of all that.

    Creationists come in two flavors, the young-earth creationists and the intelligent design proponents (there are also old-earth creationists, but they are a minority and not very vocal, having less to object to). ID is in fact a way of “re-branding” creationism (Google “cdesign proponentsists”) but the high-profile names in ID have sent that movement in a direction that would definitely not be appreciated by young-earth creationists. ID is essentially theistic evolution with more meddling on God’s part–old earth, old universe, common descent, descent of humans from apes, and other non-YEC-approved features.

    As a creationist I did become alienated by the failure of creationism to build a coherent model of the past, since creationists instead concentrate on assaulting supposed flaws in the theory of evolution. The reason there is no coherent model is, of course, because the evidence is not present to build such a model. Creationists are creationists not because of the evidence, but because of a prior religious conviction. This is also the reason why most creationists are so adamant about rejecting evolution–accepting it requires a restructuring of their worldview, and for some this restructuring would result in the loss of their ability to believe in God. This is nothing to take lightly, since it can mean virtual exile from one’s family and friends.

    I’ve been amused by mainline Christians who think fundamentalists/evangelicals are ignorant for rejecting the scientific evidence for evolution. The creationists turn the tables on them by thinking that the mainline Christians are spiritually bankrupt and biblically illiterate (and from my observations it is true that Bible reading is more valued among fundamentalists and evangelicals, although this reading is filtered through pre-accepted doctrine). I think from a secular point of view better scientific education will help teach people the truth about evolutionary theory, but right now from a religious point of view there is no authority figure capable of synthesizing evangelical teachings and evolution, and there may never be. Mainline Christianity has failed in confronting the issue of creation vs. evolution.

    Biblical literalism is fairly consistent. The disregard of Old Testament religious laws is consistent with a New Testament establishment of a new covenant–see Hebrews and Galatians.

    Oh, and creation/evolution is certainly not a right/left debate! Right-leaning scientists everywhere deplore that depiction!

  6. lifelessonsfromwriting said,

    Thanks for the great comment! I particularly agree with you about science education. Here in Ireland the standard biology textbook has only a single page on evolution (hardly in proportion to its importance in the field!) and the only exam question we were ever expected to answer on it was naming a single source of evidence that supports evolution. I’m certain that many of my classmates left secondary school with no idea at all what evolution actually is. Is it any wonder then that so many people can be swayed by Creationist arguments?

  7. […] priceless. I’ve also noticed that no Creationists took a shot at the challenge in one of my previous posts, so to reiterate: I was being entirely serious with it. Come on, you guys love to take shots at […]


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