Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Evolution never happened

Posted by Paulo on November 6, 2009

I posted this on a comment thread a few posts back, but I realized that it needs its own post if it will ever get a chance to be heard:

– Rant Alert –

With the entire fossil record and a mountain of evidence before us in the 21st century, I don’t see how any intelligent, educated person can deny that evolution happened (guided by a divine hand or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s not something we can measure anyway and it’s purely a matter of faith). Why would anyone go around telling children that evolution is a lie and that the earth is only 6000 years old? What is so unbearable in admitting that your grandfather came from a monkey and that Adam and Eve were just a myth of a more primitive era? The reason is because fundamentalists have made the mistake in believing that the Bible is the actual word of God, word for word, and therefore, it cannot be wrong. Instead of acknowledging the evidence smacking them right in the face, these people would rather bury their heads deeper in the sand. Why not own up to the fact that the Bible is flat out wrong about the origins of man and what really happened? Why not join the 21st century? We welcome you with open arms…

– End of Rant –

Can you hear me now?
chimp

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23 Responses to “Evolution never happened”

  1. The Chaplain said

    Dites quoi?

    • Paulo said

      – Alerte d’harangue –

      Avec l’entier des restes fossiles et une montagne d’évidence devant nous dans le 21ème siècle, je ne vois pas comment aucune personne intélligente et éduquée peut nier que l’évolution a eu lieu (guidée par une main divine ou non, c’est égal. Ce n’est pas une chose qui en tout cas peut être mésuré et c’est purement une affaire de foi.) Pourquoi est-ce qu’une personne dirait aux enfants que l’évolution est un mensonge et que la terre a seulement 6.000 ans d’existence? Qu’est-ce qui est si insupportable en admettant que ton grand-père est descendant d’un singe et que Adam et Eve ne sont qu’un mythe d’une époque plus primitive? La raison c’est que les fondamentalistes ont fait l’erreur de croire que la Bible est réelement la parole de Dieu, mot par mot, et donc ne peut pas être trompée. Au lieu d’admettre l’évidence qui les claque dans la face, ces gens préfèrrent enfoncer leurs têtes plus profondement dans le sable. Pourquoi ne pas accepter le fait que la Bible est pleinement incorrecte concernant l’origine de l’homme et ce qui a vraiment eu lieu? Pourquoi ne pas joindre le 21ème siècle? Nous vous acceuillons avec les bras ouverts…

      – Fin de l’harangue –

      Vous m’entendez bien?

  2. Jerry said

    It seems like many people, even “smart, educated” people, are very selective in their willingness to think critically about lots of issues. I’m sure I do the same, get lazy, and rely on pure emotional reactions rather than some kind of logical thought process in making decisions and forming beliefs, but I try hard not to do that with big picture items like evolution or God or the like. It seems like the fear of death takes over especially as people get older, so anything that threatens their comfortable views about the Bible and God are often off limits for critical thinking. Evolution is a wonderful mechanism and it reminds me of how I’m related to all the species around me and that “human” is just another species, no matter how “special” the religions of the world claim we are.

    • Charity said

      I like your writing voice. I hear you. Critical thinking is difficult to apply consistently. It’s something we have to train ourselves to do. I know I’m irrational sometimes. We aren’t as special as we like to think we are, but we do have special exclusively human traits like our awareness of death, the idea of having duties, and, a uniquely human ability to love the way we do. People are scared of death. Not only of their own deaths, but of the deaths of the people they love. But soothing the fear with a religion that promises life after death doesn’t change the fact of the matter. Religion minimizes life (although a whole lot of people don’t see it this way). People know they will die, but believe their souls will continue to exist. Letting go of a belief in God, and souls, is life-affirming. Not living for something after this life means we can develop a meaning and code of conduct that isn’t based on a higher power (like God, or the universe, etc.). Not having a choice about being born into this life, we can choose how to live it, recognizing all human choices are influenced by biology and our environment.

      We have instinct, animal drives, that are part of our biological makeup. And minds that have been programmed by our environment. Following our instinct has that counterbalance of the rational mind (separate ideas, but both part of the whole person, not cleanly separate). I think it’s possible to be irrational by not using our conscious minds for critical thinking, as well as lose touch with our instincts at the expense of experiencing life and our senses fully.

  3. Jerry said

    Thanks, Charity. I agree with what you say, especially in terms of religion minimizing life on this earth. I don’t think it’s possible for religions to do otherwise because religion often focuses on looking upwards to the next life rather than at the one right in front of us. If there is any attention to this life, it’s usually in the context of this life being a proving ground for the next.
    This distinction between the rational and irrational drives we have reminds me of Spock on Star Trek, who was such a great analogy for the struggle we have between the need to think logically and the irrational impulses that helped us survive as we evolved.

    • Charity said

      Yes. There’s a life right in front of us. Let’s bring life to the present moment. The past is part of now, but also behind us. The future is just a thought. It’s not here yet. There is only ever now, even though now is gone while we are thinking about it now. So while I do think it’s wise to plan for the future, living now is really all we can do. No matter how much a person dreams of the future, or the past, it’s this moment that’s being lived. For me the idea of the afterlife trivializes the whole experience of the present life. Of death. Living can become about suffering through life until another life gets here.

      I agree that impulses can often be irrational, like those Spock struggles with growing up part human and part Vulcan. But sometimes I think we can second guess ourselves too much instead of trusting our instincts, our id or impulse responses to life experiences. I guess I’m back to that earlier thought about balance, equilibrium. Using critical thinking skills as a framework (rationality), while being fully open to the life experience using the senses.

  4. Sarge said

    The great fear of the unknown has always led people to do things. Why was the crop beaten flat by wind and rain just before we got it in? Why will we starve because of it? Why did this sickness kill my children and leave a couple more in need of care that we can hardly afford to give in either time or resources?

    Did I do or not do something to cause this? How do I make up for it whatever short-coming or offence? What entity can I enlist on my side, and how?

    I gather from hearing people talk about it, that evolution affronts them, deep down because it is simple a part of an indifferent nature. That is intolerable to many people. They have a ‘personal’ god and all the bric-a-brac that goes with it to get them through the day, and they can’t use chance or cause and effect in their business.

    It means, that once you close your eyes that final time, that’s it. Hard to take for a lot of people.

    • Paulo said

      “I gather from hearing people talk about it, that evolution affronts them, deep down because it is simpl[y] a part of an indifferent nature. That is intolerable to many people.”

      Sarge, you bring up a very good point. It is hard for many people to accept the thought that we live in a world where shit just happens for no reason, and when we die, we die. I have known many people who believe that “everything happens for a reason,” that there is ultimately someone in control who will “save” them. I am not one of those people. I’ve come to accept the thought that we are part of an indifferent process of nature, and it is no longer frightening nor discouraging. I believe it is up to us as human beings to be courageous and give meaning to our lives, even if this meaning is only meaningful to us. I am glad to see like-minded people on this site.

      • The Chaplain said

        Well, the indifferent natural world still scares the shit out of me–when I think about it, that is. Fortunately, my rational AND irrational/emotional/instinctual/caffeine-fueled brain take comfort in statistics that suggest my odds of dying tonight are pretty low (relatively speaking), and there is absolutely no evidence that the gods worshiped by ancient Middle Easterners will try to kill me (or preserve me, for that matter); that, at least, is reassuring, even if I know that the annihilation of my conscious mind is inevitable (but hopefully when I’m 98 years old).

        So, I want to be the fly in the ointment of this conversation, partially because it is a role I naturally play particularly well, but also because dualities (yup, this sounds a bit post-modern) don’t cut it for me. I am referring to the rational/irrational duality. I know it is a useful tool for discussions to create a duality like this for explanatory purposes, but it becomes misleading after a point, at least for me, since following arguments that use dualities always result in my mistaking dualities for reality. In reality, we have no evidence that the mind or body (whoops, another duality) are split into rational and irrational. I am a huge proponent of the idea (which has slightly more evidence) that we are like (here comes a borrowed metaphor) a melting pot. Although distinct tastes and textures seem to exist, they are not “pure”; everything bleeds into everything else. Or, to borrow a line from Claire Denis’ film Chocolat, when a character tries to explain the concept of the horizon [paraphrased], “you see the horizon, it’s there, but when you get closer to the line it disappears. It doesn’t exist.” In other words, when we think we are acting rationally, we very well might have grabbed a chunk of potato out of the stew–but I am willing to bet that there are a whole bunch of irrational party crashers hanging on to the side of the bus (yeah, that’s a mixed metaphor JN–I beat you to it my fellow English major! I choose to preemptively label my crimes against the English language, as opposed to fixing what I wrote.) Also, when we try to live instinctively and naturally, or listen to our “animal” self, I do not for a minute think that there are not rational currents running through the whole decision or experience. (And it is important to remember that rationality is also human and therefore instinctual and animal. One is not more natural or real than the other: a scientist sitting in a lab is drawing on and responding to the prompts of instinct as much as the guy who fights with another over a girl. It is only our biases that make us think acting more like the lower species is more instinctual. One is no more a truer reflection of instinct than the other.) That is the nature of the human: we are never one thing at once.

        However, all this post-modern talk about the lack of a center does not mean that all forms of knowing or being are equally beneficial, productive or whatever other adjective you want to add. In fact, we can clearly see through history that science has an overwhelmingly successful track record–due to it’s ability to marginalize the irrational parts of the stew. And that is my segue into this absolutely excellent essay: Too Good to Be True, Too Obscure to Explain:
        Cognitive Shortcomings of Belief in God
        . One of the relevant passages:

        the raison d’etre of science, in collaboration with philosophy, is to achieve as far as possible a 3rd-person, intersubjective and therefore maximally objective understanding of the world. In principle and almost always in practice, any honest scientist will (eventually, sometimes after considerable controversy about methods and data) reach more or less the same conclusions in a well-researched domain of inquiry as another scientist, whatever their original differences. Why? Because over the last 350 years experimental methods and criteria of explanatory adequacy have been selected precisely for their bias-reducing properties, for their capacity to filter out subjective hopes and expectations when picturing reality. The predictive, explanatory successes of science, not to mention its practical applications, compel consensus about matters of fact no matter what we wish were the case. Science abstracts away from the motivated human perspective to give us, as far as possible, what philosopher Thomas Nagel called “the view from nowhere.”[7] That this view is often not particularly to our liking (no evidence for God, heaven, the soul or immortality) suggests that science isn’t projecting our wishes onto the world.

        Jerry, I want to end by referring back to your point about intellectual laziness, since it ties into the ideas present in the article I posted above,

        It seems like many people, even “smart, educated” people, are very selective in their willingness to think critically about lots of issues. I’m sure I do the same, get lazy, and rely on pure emotional reactions rather than some kind of logical thought process in making decisions and forming beliefs, but I try hard not to do that with big picture items like evolution or God or the like.

        I resemble this statement on a regular (hourly) basis. It is hard work to ferret out the more justified positions from those that are less justified. (I was going to write “belief,” but I think the word “position” captures my meaning better.) Your statement about the big picture items stands out, since this is always a subconscious point of mine whenever I debate or write about religious beliefs. Although it definitely doesn’t come through in my writing, part of what I am saying to Christians is, “You think you know things that allow you to make hugely consequential life or death decisions with certainty and a clear conscience. You think you know something? Let me show you that you don’t know shit…” Yeah, there’s a lot of sub-text going on when I write. 🙂 When it comes to life, death and human suffering, we should all–Christian and Naturalist alike–pause and remember that we know very little. Even what we think we know with absolute certainty might be totally overturned by the next generation’s Einstein. So tread very lightly on humanity–this goes for things like voting for the Presidents of political parties who will start unnecessary wars leading to the slaughter of ten of thousands of civilians, to the decision to support a seriously flawed and racist capital punishment system. And to believe that a really old and ignorant fucking book–filled with slavery, homophobia, sexism, genocide, and war-mongering–gives you the right to decide life and death? Well that is just so fucking stupid, it’s almost too much for a soft-hearted (towards non-believers, of course) putz like me to take. Yes, it makes me mad, and I happen to think my anger is justified. There is nothing in the world that will rile me up more than a moderately-educated Christian who proudly and loudly proclaims his certitude that causing suffering or death is a good thing because his book of shit says so.

        The fly has now wiped the ointment from his wings…flit, flit!

        • Charity said

          The natural world is all there is, but science gives us knowledge to help us understand nature, including humans, and make predictions. Language is a construction of the human mind symbolizing our experience within the natural world. Even science relies on language. Without the human mind (as it exists today), there wouldn’t be science, or psychology (a form of science), or meaning.

          …some thoughts.

        • JN said

          “(yeah, that’s a mixed metaphor JN–I beat you to it my fellow English major! I choose to preemptively label my crimes against the English language, as opposed to fixing what I wrote.)”

          Who says I even read this blog? I don’t care how mixed your metaphor is. Your potato can hang out the side of the bus with the party crashers for all I care.

          I think even the belief that we are rational is in itself a somewhat irrational notion (to varying degrees).

          I agree, Charity, language is waaaaay better than science…and especially better than psychology. Language, in various forms, is pretty much a universal trait of living creatures. With language, you can make anything sound good.

        • The Chaplain said

          Charity, related to your point about the centrality of language in human experience, according to Lacan, “the unconscious is structured like a language.” The link does a good job of explaining this very broad and commonly misinterpreted statement.

          JN, yeah I can tell you don’t read this blog — if you say it it must be true! 🙂 I totally agree with your statement, “I think even the belief that we are rational is in itself a somewhat irrational notion (to varying degrees),” for the stew reasons I listed above. We are never purely rational or anything else.

        • JN said

          (I think there may be a typo in my DNA)

        • Charity said

          JN–Before the development of human science, psychology, and language, there was only being. An experience of living as perceived through the senses. Without this experience of the natural world, would language exist?

        • Charity said

          Instructor-Possibly the unconscious is structured like a language due to its experience with the environment, leading to the structuring of language as we speak and write it from this interaction with the unconscious and the environment. Language, a product of an unconscious drive to master our environment? Leading to science, psychology, religion?

  5. Sarge said

    I live in a very unique place, in a geological way of speaking. And yet, most of the people around here, even ones that are much more educated than I am, have no idea what it means, and frankly don’t care.

    A young woman I know told me that a science teacher in the high school actually refused to discuss things like fossils in class beyond what she was required to put out from the text. The (then: five years ago) girl had brought in some fossils she had found, but was told they were to stay in her back pack.

    Between this teacher and her classmates, she was ‘enlightened’ that these objects were 1) tools of the judeo-christian deity to fool and trip up the weak in faith (must be that love that passeth understanding at work, there), or they were 2) “Of The Devil” and cursed.

    Ya can’t argue with locic like that. No, I really mean it, you can’t argue with it. No way, you’re dealing with an absolute that has no ‘for the sake of arguement’ possibility whatsoever.

    I have been wounded in combat, an disabled by them. Now I’m looking at a long road dealing with cancer, and while not all that close, it’ll be one of probably three things that end my life.

    Both in combat and now undergoing treatment, I have observed that religion seems to be a kind of mental escape hatch for what is considered not good. Busted your ass in the mills or mines? Well, when you croak (if you kept the faith) all will be well. You’ll see your deity, and he’ll like you…mansions…streets of gold…eternally singing praises to god…obsertving saints casting down crowns beside a sea (whatever FOR!!??)…

    And yet, with all this heavy belief, under fire and in the oncologist’s waiting room, I’ve heard a lot of people petioning this entity that they love and can’t wait to see, if it will please defer the trip. Pretty please?

    • The Chaplain said

      Great comment. I’m very sorry to hear what you are dealing with right now, but I also admire you greatly for rejecting the very alluring and strong pull of the fear of death that leads so many people to a false paradigm. If your combat experiences weren’t enough to establish your bravery (and they are enough), then that stoicism in the face of the awareness of your life’s fragility and your accpetance of it–well, it’s just really noble and good, in my mind, in a way that groveling before make believe is not.

      I think you are absolutely right about religion being an escape hatch from misery. How else can you explain the fact that slaves in the South took to Christianity: a religion used to justify their enslavement? It’s simply that Christianity was the only outlet and escape, what little there was, from the unbelievable misery and suffering they endured. When religion is the overarching paradigm in a society, and all other modes of thought are oppressed by the “moral” majority, you gotta go with what you have as an escape hatch. To this day, the church plays a very important role in the African-American community for this very reason. Sadly, God wasn’t so great at helping the slaves out, was He? What a useless diety.

      Here is a poem by William Blake, just for the hell of it, that captures this same idea in 18th century England:

      London

      by William Blake

      I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
      Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
      And mark in every face I meet
      Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

      In every cry of every Man,
      In every Infant’s cry of fear,
      In every voice, in every ban,
      The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

      How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
      Every black’ning Church appalls;
      And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
      Runs in blood down Palace walls.

      But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
      How the youthful Harlot’s curse
      Blasts the new born Infant’s tear,
      And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

      And now a call to action: Christians, throw of the mind-forged manacles! Free yourself from superstition and fear of imaginary realms and creatures! Embrace THIS life.

  6. Sarge said

    We actually have a town named Fossilville not far from where I’m at, too.

  7. Sarge said

    Our friend, Bill Blake was quite a smart man, wasn’t he? Also, Kipling had some pretty good ones regarding religion. The Gods of the Copybook Headings is one of my favorites.

    Thanks for the kind words. Everyone copes with things like end-of-life issues differently, some eye the religious escape trunk and say they have it open, (me? I just want to live as much as I can to the fullest extent possible and enjoy. A couple months ago I had surgery to remedy a problem of bone growth from repairs to facial wounds I recieved in 1971. My mouth has been wired shut for about three months, and will be for a while longer. I have nightmares about steak and fried potatos. Worse than anticipating the end from melanoma, I can tell you!)
    And as to combat, it’s not so much bravery as anger, stubborness, and a bit of indifference that got me through. And in knocking around the world I’ve seen worse things.

    The ‘evolution’ question seems to me, at the bottom, to be a “what’s it all about, really” thing, and so I’ve been told, if we’re descended from apes, why don’t we all run wild in the streets? If it’s true, what’s to stop us? To them, their orderly system is shot.
    They have to be ‘special’ to the deity that loves/hates them. They can’t just be creatures.
    I saw a cartoon once where a charactor was informed that they were “as meaningless as a melon”.
    Objectively, I thaink we are. Subjectively, we see it differently, but in a century none of what we thought will really matter.

    • Charity said

      “I saw a cartoon once where a charactor was informed that they were “as meaningless as a melon”.
      Objectively, I thaink we are. Subjectively, we see it differently, but in a century none of what we thought will really matter.”

      It changes one’s perspective when the world is framed this way. To face the reality of it.

      Your mouth is wired shut?! Hard to imagine what that would be like. I imagine it would feel strange not being able to express thoughts verbally, let alone the discomfort. I’m personally glad you are writing here. Seems as though it’s this moment we have that matters (and whatever’s in it we give subjective meaning to–like being able to eat again, or living a long life, or having money, or experiencing pleasure, or promoting human rights and freedom, or helping others who are suffering, or investigating the natural world, etc). For me it’s especially good when the moment includes people I care about or love.

      • Sarge said

        Having one’s mouth wired shut…it’s been interesting, I can say that.

        I’ve noticed that even if they know you can hear, people avoid talking to you, generally.

        It has, on reflection, been a subjective/objective thing. My wife has sort of been enjoying it, my colleagues in other activities are nervous wrecks waiting for puns that don’t materialise…but should. They tell me that it’s like waiting for a dropping shoe.

        They gave me one of those things like Hawking uses, but took it back before I got out of the clinic. I probably should have waited ’til I got home to reveal that I’d programmed in all sorts of rude, vulgar noises and other naughtiness, but nooooo, not me, I couldn’t wait… so they took it away and I’ve been using steno pads.

        I can tell you that ensure and smoothies get old very fast. Having a continual headache that goes between a throbm through toothache, to the worst ‘brain freeze’ type enlivens things.

        I told one of the Dr’s that the first thing I was going to do after they unlatched my face was eat a steak dinner with fries.
        He said it would be a big error, I said I micturated upon his scrofulous error. The first thing I was going to do was… EAT A STEAK!

        He nodded, said, “OK, if that’s the FIRST thing you do, here’s what’s gonna be the SECOND…”

        It didn’t sound like a lot of fun, so I’ll take it slow. I wrote that I didn’t want to “make a mis-steak”.

        He asken my wife, couldn’t she PLEASE not let me have a pencil unless it was necessary?

        Subjective…objective…

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