Response to Creationist 9

9. “If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?”

The poor framing of 9’s question reveals its rhetorical nature. If it were a genuine enquiry, it wouldn’t need the first clause. “How did the first single-celled organism originate?” is a perfectly good question, clearly and accurately stated, and easily googlable. If 9 really wanted an answer to it, she could have it in seconds. So either she doesn’t want the answer, or the answer is too hard. I’ve already accused 1-8 of not wanting the answers, so for a bit of variety, let’s be generous to 9 and suppose she does want the answer, she’s tried looking it up and she still doesn’t understand.

(I have to admit I’m stretching my own credulity in imagining 9 has ever actually sat down to google this question and started reading a genuine scientific explanation of it. Mainly because of her second, exasperated question, “By chance?” No genuine scientific explanation would give her that impression – it’s classic creationist rhetoric. But let’s roll with the idea anyway.)

Let’s suppose, as well, that the reason 9 asks for an explanation of the evolution of the first single-celled organism, rather than, say, modern species, or any other branch of the great tree of life, is that she’s studied the evolution of single-celled and multicellular organisms, and she’s happy that the mechanisms of genetic mutation, adaptation and natural selection work for all of those, but she finally got stuck trying to understand the protein mechanics necessary for early cell formation.

(And not that she simply read a creationist website which told her, “Evolution can’t explain how the first single-celled organism appeared. Evil Darwinian scientists want you to believe that all of the parts necessary for it fell together BY CHANCE!”)

What 9 doesn’t realise is that it’s absolutely fine. That stuff is pretty advanced: it’s undergraduate-level cell biology, or higher. She’s not expected to understand it all. What’s not fine is the logical leap she made next: deciding that since she couldn’t grasp the most complicated bits of it, all of biology must be false, and Noah rode a velociraptor onto the Ark.

She probably found she hit similar walls as she advanced in her studies in other subjects. Mathematics was boring, but she understood it… until she got to calculus, which made her brain hurt. But she didn’t then reject number-based maths (which, after all, is only “number theory”) in favour of chocolate-maths, where all she has to do is eat chocolate and be comforted by the belief that the reason she can’t understand calculus is that it isn’t real, and was just made up by evil mathematicians.

Why doesn’t she subscribe to chocolate-maths? Because there are no lying bastards going around telling her about chocolate-maths and campaigning for maths textbooks in schools to include it as an alternative to number-maths. So she has to accept that there’s only one maths, and when it seems hard, it really is hard, and maybe too hard for her to understand. We all have limitations to our capabilities, and we have to learn to live with them. That’s part of being a human adult.

While 9 has presumably managed to come to terms with her limitations in understanding maths, and Spanish, and most other subjects, she’s currently being offered a get-out from admitting she’s not up to understanding the entirety of biology and physics, and she’s accepting it enthusiastically. Could someone please tell her that it’s OK, and she doesn’t need to be an expert on those either?

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