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Fun with church signs

A local church recently changed its sign to read:

Begin to weave and God will provide you with the thread.

I’ve heard a similar statement made by Christians trying to "convert" those of different religious persuasions, but it goes something like, "Just have faith in Jesus and He will show Himself to you." This isn’t something that is used only by fundamentalists or TV evangelists. I’ve heard it from far more moderate sects.

The problem, of course, is that it’s a "cart before the horse" sort of thing. The request is for someone to reach a conclusion before seeing any evidence… just have faith in Jesus (the conclusion) and He will show Himself to you (the evidence).

Faith, of course, in a religious context, is belief that is not based on evidence, so the evidence is something that is somewhat irrelevant here, not just because you’re supposed to get to the conclusion without it, but also because, in this case, it’s non-existent (before or after your application of faith). Jesus doesn’t appear and play a game of Frisbee with people and visions, hearing voices, and Jesus pareidolia don’t really qualify as "appearing."

Requesting evidence for religious claims is something that, for some reason, tends to offend a lot of fundamentalists. Not all of them, of course, but enough that it makes them seem a bit disingenuous. If someone makes a claim (Jesus was born of a virgin… Jesus performed miracles… Jesus rose from the dead… Jesus is God… God is real) without providing supporting evidence, he has no justification for being upset that his claims are dismissed. This, in general, is a huge failure of theists (of any denomination) and is, perhaps, the reason that "faith" is placed in a position of such high regard.

With no evidence to back them up, all they have is faith.

Assertions Are Easy

Vampire Bat Some people wonder why evolution isn’t more accepted than it is. Despite the monumental amount of evidence in multiple fields of scientific inquiry, those pesky creationists, bringing up the same tired arguments, sometimes seem like B-movie zombies. No matter how many times they get smacked down, they keep coming back to torment scientifically-minded, rational people with their brainless moaning and logic resistance.

It’s not that they have anything new. Oh, sure. Occasionally a new bit of scientific evidence will be discovered… a fossil, some DNA functionality, a new species in a remote location… and they’ll latch onto it and somehow manage to twist it into something they claim supports intelligent design or a young Earth, but it doesn’t. Aside from that, it’s the same old stuff. Why, then, won’t their arguments die?

Because assertions are easy.

For example…

Transylvania has the largest population of vampire bats in the world, which is why vampire legends originated there.

See how easy that was? Does it sound reasonable? Sure it does, as long as you don’t know anything about vampire bats (or vampire legends). It took me about 20 seconds to come up with that claim and type the sentence. How long would it take you, if you don’t actually know any data about vampire bats, to refute my statement?

The internet helps, but you have to have motivation. Wikipedia is an obvious and expedient place to visit. Here’s what you find out from the Wikipedia article

Vampire bats are bats whose food source is blood, a dietary trait called hematophagy. There are three bat species that feed solely on blood: the Common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus), the Hairy-legged Vampire Bat (Diphylla ecaudata), and the White-winged Vampire Bat (Diaemus youngi). All three species are native to the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.

There you go. All the known species of vampire bats are native to the Americas. What if you don’t know where Transylvania is? Another visit to Wikipedia lets you know it’s in Romania… which isn’t part of either of the Americas. So it would seem that my statement has been soundly refuted and put to rest.

Or has it?

Oh no, I say.

There used to be another species of vampire bat that was native to Romania, but it went extinct over 100 years ago. Vampire legends started well before the bats went extinct.

Now what? The Wikipedia article says nothing of an extinct species of vampire bat. There’s nothing in the Romania information that states anything about vampire bats being native to the country. If you want to do more research into debunking my claim, you’re going to have to spend a bunch of time searching the internet… to refute something that you’re 99% sure is completely bogus, anyway.

But how much time did I spend on my claim? Not much… perhaps under a minute… and if I really believe what I’m saying, I’m going to start making that statement all over the place to anyone who will give me 30 seconds of his time or to any place that will allow me to post my nonsense. By the time I’ve reached 1,000 people, you’d still be trying to confirm whether there actually was a species of vampire bat in Romania 100 years ago.

Then suddenly you’ll find that someone else is saying that vampire bats lived in Romania 100 years ago, but they’re saying that bones were found that prove it… and that the bats were as large as ravens… and a group of scientists is researching whether or not they preyed on human babies.

What… is… going… on?!?

Assertions are easy.

It’s what creationists do. They shovel on the assertions (Gish Gallop, anyone?) and then, when their assertions are left unchallenged, they declare victory… and spread the news. It takes very little time to make assertions, but gathering evidence and presenting a logical refutation takes quite a bit of time (in comparison). Even if you already know the evidence and the refutation, it generally takes more time and effort to deliver it.

It’s not just creationists, though. Politicians do it. So do their opponents… especially protestors. Scientology does it (Fair Game doctrine). Climate change deniers do it. Moon hoaxers do it. Obama birthers do it. Sometimes, to add to their pseudo credibility, they’ll actually add facts to back up their claims… but only the facts that support their arguments. They’ll leave out contradictory facts or simply leave their facts out of context. They’ll misquote an expert (or quote mine). They’ll twist words.

When moon hoaxers do it, it’s amusing (unless you’re Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin). Nobody really takes them seriously. When creationists do it, it’s more serious because they want to teach our children to believe their nonsense… and they frequently want it in our schools. When climate change deniers do it, it can be dangerous in the long term… and just irresponsible.

Am I doing it right now? Sort of… but not really. These are my opinions based on my observations. I’m sure plenty of examples can be found where creationists have provided valid scientific data to irrefutably support their arguments.

*snicker* …or not.

Creationism = Intelligent Design = Not Science

Man and DinosaurI’ve done a lot of reading recently about Evolution and Intelligent Design (Creationism) and really, the arguments for Intelligent Design, whether they’re being put forth by unqualified supporters in Texas or by biologists like Michael Behe, are all non-starters. ID supporters have yet to come up with any evidence to support their theory. Their arguments consist solely of attempts to cast doubt upon the scientifically supported theory of evolution, attempts which always fail, but sadly seem to take hold of those who really have no knowledge of evolutionary theory or the evidence that supports it.

I was delighted to find this article at Evaluating Christianity about the nonsense put forth by Young Earth Creationists. It’s witty and insightful and definitely worth taking the time to read.

Here are some highlights. I’ll quote this bit for starters.

If creationists are correct, then not only do we need to scrap all of biology, but we need to throw out everything we think we know about archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, geology (no plate tectonics!), chemistry and physics (since radiometric dating is supposedly unreliable), and probably a few dozen other scientific disciplines. Think about that for a minute. If young-earth creationism is correct, then every single scientist in any of these fields of study is either an idiot or a fraud.

If you find that hard to swallow, you’re not alone.

I find it interesting that, of the Young Earth Creationists that I know (only a few), none of them reject science out of hand. I don’t think any of them deny that the Earth revolves around the Sun or that the Earth has shifting plates that cause earthquakes when they change position or many other science’y ideas. They seem to, out of necessity to support their views, only deny the science that contradicts their bibles. It’s “pick and choose” science… somewhat like “pick and choose” biblical religion, it would seem.

Anyway… here’s my favorite part because it really hits the nail on the head with regard to arguments about evolution and science.

This is why I don’t take creationism seriously. Not because I “reject the Bible” or “have differing views of the evidence,” or whatever. I don’t take it seriously because the people who are qualified to weigh in on these claims — people of varying backgrounds, races, religious and political beliefs — have done so and reject your claims.

I imagine that some (like longtime EC commenter Nathaniel) may try to draw the same analogy to Biblical historians versus Jesus-mythers. But here’s the main difference: by their own admission, 30% of Biblical historians concede that there was no empty tomb. If 30% of biologists denied common ancestry, or 30% of astronomers thought that the stars were 6,000 years old, then we would indeed have a real controversy and those ideas should be engaged on their merits.

For example: a small minority of paleontologists, led by Jack Horner, contend that T.rex was a scavenger rather than an apex predator. This is a highly contested hypothesis and is subscribed to by only a tiny minority of palentologists — but it is, nevertheless, a respectable scientific dispute.

It’s a simple and clear explanation of why some disputes are valid and others are really not (check out the rest of the article for context and additional arguments).

If you’re going to make attempts to refute scientific theories, then you’d better have a scientific argument. Creationists don’t have one, and never will, because the basis of their entire position is thoroughly unscientific. You can’t propose “it was magic” as your explanation and expect to be taken seriously.

Not even by magicians.