Response to Creationist 22

22. “If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

The question I want to look at here is: is there any excuse for this level of ignorance?

It’s obvious 22 hasn’t thought about his objection at all. He’s just reciting a mantra, and one which creationist propaganda organisations have now repudiated as being too stupid even for them.

Given that Creation Ministries International is now providing the evolutionary answer that humans aren’t descended from modern apes, but both share a common ancestor, it seems redundant for me to do so. Then again, it also seems redundant to have to state an even more basic explanation that should be obvious: that it’s possible for some x to become y, yet still leave a remainder of x.

A wittier response is to turn the illogic on the creationists’ own theory of human origins: if god made Adam and Eve from dirt, then why is there still dirt?

It’s fun to come up with variations. Here’s another one:

If Nicholas Soames MP is descended from Churchills, why are there still Churchills?

If you can think of any more, add them in the comments. I’ll award prizes for the best ones.

Unfortunately 22’s question leaves us with very little information about him. We can’t tell anything about his thought process on evolution, because, as with 12 and 18‘s echoing of taught untruths about hominid fossils, there is no evidence of any thought process having occurred at all. We can only make very general guesses about them: they’ve been raised in creationist communities, are poorly educated, and have been exploited by the anti-science authority figures they trust.

You could argue that they’re no different, in the validity of their learning process, from most people who believe in evolution. They’ve listened to the lessons of people they accept as authorities (parents, preachers) and possibly researched further using sources recommended by those authorities (creationist books and websites). Arguably, that’s no different from someone who simply started by trusting a different source (science teachers) and read different books and websites.

Maybe it is that relative, if science education simply consists of teachers saying, “this is what happened, this is scientific fact, accept it”. Possibly, that is exactly what science education is like in many US public schools, and if so, that’s a big problem. It must be partly to blame for the dire current situation in which only 39% of the US population believe in evolution, and it needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency.

Science education should focus much more on how science works as a method, and encouraging students to research further on topics they want to know more about – both by reading more information and by experimenting. If a secondary school student is curious about the origins of galaxies, there’s limited primary research they can do, since it mostly requires very expensive telescope arrays and supercomputers, but there are plenty of other areas of science where students could and should be doing primary research, not just to verify the facts for themselves but also to see that verifying facts is a better paradigm than blindly believing authority.

In about 1998/99, there was a media brouhaha in the UK about the health effects of microwave radiation from mobile phones, and the fact that wired headsets, which were marketed as a safe way of avoiding the radiation, were potentially even more dangerous as the wire acted as a microwave transmitter. It was all a lot of unsubstantiated scaremongering without any solid evidence behind it. So a few friends and I went into our school physics lab at lunchtime with a mobile phone and a headset, got a microwave detector and did some tests. It turned out that the headseat did give off some radiation, but not nearly as much as the phone itself.

My point is, science education doesn’t have to be just rote facts, and if it’s any good at all, absolutely shouldn’t be. And this was only just on the cusp of the age of widespread internet access. There’s even less excuse now for poor basic research.

You might say that creationists just trust other websites (creationist propaganda ones) than the ones I do, but you’ve got to be actively closed-minded not to realise that, say, Wikipedia is a major authoritative and unbiased source in a way that Answers in Genesis or Creation Ministries isn’t. And there’s a vast difference in the type and extent of linked evidence, even if you’re restricting yourself to online research. A creationist website says “there’s only one supposed fossil of an early human, Lucy, and that’s just a few bone fragments” and finish there, whereas scientific websites will show you reams of catalogued photographic evidence that there are other fossils, with information about which museums you can go to to see them in person.

Even the boundaries which prevent secondary school level students doing research into formerly inaccessible topics like astrophysics are being removed as well, with an explosion in educational outreach programmes from higher level institutions, to give schools access to telescopes, particle accelerators and supercomputers.

You could push the relativist case further, and say that people who have been raised in creationist communities would have much less access to all of that, or understanding or interest or trust in it, because of the anti-science authoritarian education they’ve received. Taking that view to its logical conclusion, you could trace everyone’s beliefs back far enough to explain their entire mental state as the result of mechanical processes acting on them from birth, and in that sense, sure, let’s not get too angry at creationists, as they’re just poorly programmed computers.

On the other hand, in order to interact with each other as human beings, we need to hold people to a certain level of accountability for their own decisions, and the decision to have an inadequately supported belief about the origin of the human species, which you dishonestly pretend is based on the number of extant pre-hominid fossils, without even trying to genuinely research what that number is, is inexcusable.

8 thoughts on “Response to Creationist 22

  1. If these questions/photos came from a debate about Creationism, why are people still debating creationism?

    If Saab’s cars came from their experience in making aircraft, how come they still make planes?

  2. If pizza comes from Italy, why is there still Italy?

    If Ambre Solaire provides protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays for up to twelve hours, why is there still the sun?

    If an object necessarily follows from something that necessarily exists, why are there still things?

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