Hate Mail

Ben Bartlett

[Editor's note: This one is fairly polite, albeit misguided. It was sent on April 1, 2001, so there's always a possibility that it was merely an April Fool's joke, but it didn't strike me as something that was intended as a parody. You can be the judge]

... I was disturbed, however, when reading your creation v. evolution debate. It seems to me that you made several errors which you are often ripping on others about.

I've found that Christians often leap to this conclusion. In fact, I have also found that it is exceedingly rare for them to thoroughly read through my arguments before passing judgement on them.

First, you constantly admonish people to read, research, and do their homework. However, you seemingly had not read many of the books written by Christian scientists who apply logic, the scientific method, and all their expertise and come out with a creationist conclusion.

Impossible. The scientific method cannot possibly come out with a creationist conclusion because the scientific method always assumes a natural mechanism for every phenomenon. Since the Creationist conclusion is that there was a supernatural mechanism, it is impossible for someone to apply the scientific method and come up with a creationist conclusion. I make this point in my Introduction to Creationism. You obviously didn't read it.

[Editor's note: this glosses over some details, but you get the general idea. A workable scientific theory contains terms which can be observed and evaluated, it contains mechanisms, and it has some predictive capability. Creationism satisfies none of these requirements. Or, to put it another way, even if a true scientist could somehow demonstrate that there was some entity who created life on this planet, he would immediately attempt to figure out what mechanisms this entity used, rather than simply saying that the entity was God and therefore inscrutable and unknowable, so no mechanisms are necessary]

You are also engaging in an appeal to authority: "you can't be right because so-and-so disagrees with you". Your idea of doing my "homework" is apparently to expect me to read every single repetitive piece of creationist pseudoscience in existence and then refute them for you, rather than having you point out what's wrong with my argument. As a matter of debating methods and logic, your criticism is fundamentally unsound. You fail to point out a single hard error in my arguments, and instead you merely use name-dropping and vague reference to other people who have supposedly made very good arguments.

Many scientists, historians, and intellectuals have actually become Christians after studying the evidence.

And after being surrounded by a culture of Christian indoctrination, from coworkers, acquaintances, parents, relatives, Sunday Schools, literature, television, and movies. In other words, America. Without that environment, no one can possibly find an independent path to Christianity, which is why Christianity never touches any part of the world until the missionaries get there and start indoctrinating children.

This is an example of severe religious egocentrism; you assume that your religious beliefs are universal, and that people could actually arrive at them independently, without indoctrination. This is nonsense, and it dismisses all of the world's other religions in one fell swoop. You did know that the world had other religions, right? Why didn't any of them independently find a God who remotely resembled yours, until the crusaders came and started shoving your religion down their throats?

If you claim to have an unbiased opinion, you ought to read some works by some of these people. I would suggest Josh McDowell or Geisler Brooks. Books such as Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, When Skeptics Ask, and The Case for Faith are very well thought out and informative. The Case for Faith, especially, covers many of the main issues involved in this debate from the perspectives of leading scientists in each seperate area.

Then find arguments in it and present them to me. It is fallacious to simply use the name of a book as an argument, and it is intellectually lazy to expect your debating opponent to do all the work for you. You seem to believe these peoples' claims of their own scientific methods, even though their conclusion is impossible if one uses the scientific method.

[Editor's note: I've read some of these "cases for Christianity" before. They usually base their arguments upon the assumption of numerous Christian preconceptions that do not come naturally to someone who wasn't raised Christian, such as the notion that if science is not 100% perfect, then we must resort to the Bible to explain all unknowns]

Second, I would be interested in your thoughts on the Origin of Life. I am not sure of your opinion on this issue. The Chaos Theory, plus the inability of something to come from nothing virtually disqualify athiesm. Even Stephen Hawking is a deist.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. You obviously have no idea what chaos theory is, since it deals only with the difficulties of mechanistic modelling in complex systems and has nothing to do with abiogenesis. You also confuse abiogenesis and evolution theory as if they are the same thing. You misrepresent the origins of life, since at no time is something required to come from nothing. Mass/energy are always conserved. As for Stephen Hawking being a deist, he is quite careful not to stake his name to specific religious beliefs so you are leaping to conclusions without evidence. You are also acting as though deism and Christianity are compatible, when in fact they are not.

[Editor's note: Notice how he relies upon the appeal to authority again. Stephen Hawking's apparent deism is a personal choice, and one which he would freely admit is not based on any kind of science.

Furthermore, deism in no way contradicts evolution theory. Deism is the belief that God created the universe and its laws, but does not interfere in its operation. This means that everything in the universe has been the result of natural mechanisms, including the origins of life on this planet. Deism bears no resemblance whatsoever to creationism or for that matter, Christianity. When this person attempts to use Stephen Hawking's deism as a criticism of my support for evolution theory, he is barking up the wrong tree]

Third, I see your attacks on the Christian community in general to be useless, hypocritical, and immature. Your inability to seperate people (who are prone to mistakes, power grabs, and selfishness) from the idea itself is extremely unprofessional.

Strawman criticism. I make a point of attacking the ideas themselves. When do I engage in these ad hominem attacks of which you are accusing me? The morality page? I make a point of discussing passages from the Bible itself, as well as the text of the Ten Commandments. Doesn't that qualify as discussing the idea rather than the people?

Find me one example of an incident in which I criticize creationists using ad hominem attacks rather than direct rebuttals of their ideas. And as for your accusations of "hypocrisy" and "immaturity", I would like to see you back that up with something more substantive than a typical Christian knee-jerk defensive reaction.

In fact, I have observed that you have failed to provide examples to support any of the "points" you're making. Nothing but unsupported statements and vague accusations so far, and I have little confidence that the situation will improve as the message wears on.

[Editor's note: he probably thinks I shouldn't criticize the Bible because the New Testament isn't as bad as the Old Testament. However, the Old Testament is so horrifying that it should have been deleted, rather than merely being supplemented.

The Old Testament/New Testament duality of the Bible is part of the problem, because it allows people to use it to justify anything from selfless love to horrifying atrocities. Christians can choose to emulate Jesus, who taught people to reject legalism and to reason their way through ethical choices ("do unto others as you would have them do unto you"), or they can choose to hew to the hate-filled, blood-soaked Old Testament (hence the fact that "an eye for an eye" is still widely quoted by Christians as a justification for vengefulness). The existence of this theological duality is one of the reasons for the duality of the Christian faith itself, with its followers split between hate-filled fundamentalists and moralists]

Fourth, you fail to recognize rather obvious weaknesses in evolution. First, how did life originate? Second, how did certain body parts evolve? Even Darwin himself stated that it takes an enormous stretch of the imagination to believe that the eye just "evolved", and he made that statement before he supposedly lost his mind. Why would an animal suddenly need an eye? It wouldn't, and it wouldn't try to get one either. So no matter how many generations of creatures you have, an eyeball would never evolve. Though minor changes in coloration and bone structure are simple, creating an entirely new body part with an entirely new sense (sight) is completely impossible.

I discuss all of these common, ignorant questions in my page. You obviously didn't read it, or else you would be addressing the explanations I posted rather than posing the original questions.

Finally, you fail to consider how enormously simple creationism is. Evolution needs thousands of factors to be true to have happened.

Creationism is not enormously simple. It postulates a supernatural God whose workings and mechanisms are supposedly so complex that they are beyond our mortal comprehension. How is that "simple"? The complexities of Creationism are so vast that it doesn't even attempt to explain how any of this was done, and simply sticks the "God" label on the entire incomprehensible mess.

Evolution, on the other hand, is a very elegantly simple theory. Life replicates. There is built-in variation in life. A local environment tends to favour some of those variations over others. This slowly causes a population to become weighted in a certain direction. Over time, the species changes. Is that so complicated?

The idea that lightning hitting a pool of neurons and "happening" to create life, Earth "happening" to be a perfect living enviroment...evolution is a long shot by any standard.

Only if you are grossly ignorant of the facts, and given the strawmen revealed in the above statements, that is obviously the case. Amino acids have been formed in laboratory conditions from raw materials and electrical activity, so your first "point" is clearly nonsense, having been disproven by observation (and I mentioned this on my page but you obviously ignored it). As for abiogenesis, that didn't require lightning, and it would have been a simple chemical reaction. And as for Earth being the "perfect living environment", you are confusing the chicken with the egg. Life has optimized itself for Earth's environment because that's what life does. That's the principle of evolution! You are attempting to put the cart before the horse by assuming that instead of life adapting to the Earth, the Earth had to be pre-adapted to life.

This is an example of the common creationist tendency to imprint creationist assumptions upon evolution theory, and then wonder why the resulting morass doesn't work. You assume that life was created in its current form, so its living requirements were fixed, and Earth had to be designed with an environment that suited those requirements. Nothing could be farther from the truth; in reality, life and the environment are intertwined, altering each other over time. If you doubt that, then ask yourself this: where did all the free oxygen come from? Oxygen is an extremely reactive substance, and it tends to quickly react with other materials to become bound up in oxides. But the first life forms were anaerobic, and their biological processes produced free oxygen. Over time, some creatures adapted to use this oxygen, while others continued to pour it out as waste (eg. plants still do this, hence the abundance of oxygen in our atmosphere). But if all of life was created in a few days, there would have been no time for plant life to produce all of the necessary free oxygen, and the first oxygen-breathing animals would have suffocated. Of course, you can always explain such problems away with "miracles", but that's blatantly unscientific, just as it's unscientific to propose a "theory" which is based on the name of a "Creator" rather than the description of a mechanism.

Your approach is clearly based on assimilation of creationist pseudoscience literature without even the most vague attempt to understand the true science being discussed. Your reference to "creation scientists" is laughable; most of these people have either irrelevant degrees (eg. sociologists discussing biology, or physicists discussing paleontology) or they have useless degrees from creationist diploma mills. But more importantly, their arguments betray a fundamentally unscientific approach, in which a non-natural mechanism is proposed as a reasonable alternative to a natural one even though that goes against the entire intellectual foundation of science itself.

The odds against it are incredible.

Obviously, you were too lazy to read my probability page. Again, this is quite typical of brainwashed creationists; you look at the conclusion, you know you disagree with it, so you argue without even bothering to see how your opponent arrived at that conclusion. You don't even try to make rebuttals targeted at my specific points, and you simply regurgitate the same repetitive creationist nonsense that we've been hearing for more than a hundred years.

However, creationism only has one X factor; God.

No, that's an aggregate name which you're putting on a series of mechanisms which are supposedly so complex that they are unknowable, unthinkable, and utterly beyond our comprehension. It's a name for something which we can't possibly understand, and you actually argue that it's "simple"! That's like saying that evolution requires only one thing: science. You are conjoining a huge number of variables into a single word and arguing that it's simple. At least "science" is documented. Creationism never even attempts to explain how God made everything, because it's supposed to be beyond our comprehension. And they expect this to be taken seriously as a "scientific theory", which is also laughable.

Didn't you ever wonder why creationists sell their theories to the general public rather than trying to get them published in scientific journals? They know that they have zero scientific validity, and any real scientist would see that. "Creation Theory" has no mechanism, therefore it is not a scientific theory. It isn't a question of whether it's a good theory or a bad one. It isn't a question of whether it's better than evolution theory or worse. It's the simple fact that Creation Theory does not fit the requirements of a scientific theory at all. From a scientific standpoint, there is no such thing as Creation Theory; the term is simply a misnomer that people have applied to an irrational religious belief.

[Editor's note: Don't creationists ever wonder why no scientist has ever submitted a formal research paper on this "creation theory?" They write for the consumption of the general public, not the consumption of the scientific community. Their idea of "research" is to try to cast public doubt upon known scientific theories rather than presenting a viable theory of their own]

The only thing Creationism requires that is hard to believe is that there is a being that is beyond the rules of time and space.

Since there is no evidence whatsoever that he exists, I would say that "hard to believe" is an understatement. Try "hopelessly irrational". Religion is irrational, while science is rational. That's simply the way it works. If you don't want to admit that, you're only being self-delusional.

I would have far more respect for a religionist who is willing to admit that religion is irrational, and perhaps even be proud of it, rather than playing your dishonest game of pretending that it has some rational underpinning. "Irrational" isn't necessarily bad. Love is hopelessly irrational, and what is life without love? A happy life requires more than strict rationality, but the same is not true of science.

[Editor's note: it may also be noteworthy that his statement contains some enormous leaps of faith. Even if we suppose that there is some being out there who exists outside of our universe and is not bound by its rules, how do we know that he can interfere in its operation? How do we know that he was responsible for the origins of life on this planet? Why is there no sign of his meddling, and why has it apparently ceased? Why should we assume that this entity bears any resemblance to the Judeo-Christian God, or has any intelligence at all? Why should we assume that it's just one entity? It is quite common for creationists to assume that if you can just get people to acknowledge that there might be something outside this universe, then everything else falls into place. However, that is an incredibly narrow minded viewpoint, and it betrays their dogmatic, unimaginative mindset]

Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein believed that he was there.

More attempts to appeal to authority. Besides, they are totally fraudulent. Have you actually read Stephen Hawking's books? I have, and nowhere does he ever state faith in the Christian God. He makes vague reference to [a deist] God in some of his literature, but that's it. As a typical Christian egocentrist, you naturally assume this means he's talking about your God, and not any other concept of God. Some scientists like to think that the universe itself is God, complete with all of its rules and laws. Did you know this? Apparently not.

As for Einstein, consider the following quote: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."- Albert Einstein, 1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side. You are grievously misrepresenting these men by assuming that they share your beliefs.

So, let us assume that there is a God who is beyond the rules of science.

That's the whole point, isn't it? God and science are mutually incompatible. You obviously know this to be true by describing God as something which is beyond the rules of science, yet you continue to dishonestly insist that there is some rational, scientific basis to your belief in him.

[Editor's note: if there was a divine being who routinely interfered in the operation of this universe, we would have seen some evidence of this interference by now. That is why most religious scientists are deists, like Hawking and Einstein: they believe that a God, if he exists, does not interfere in the operation of this universe, so all scientific discussion must concentrate on strictly natural mechanisms]

The question then changes. Instead of asking, "What can we glean from what we see?", we must ask how God relates to us.

In other words, instead of using the scientific method, we are to throw logic to the winds and think in terms of religion. I would have more respect for you if you simply admitted that you don't want to be rational about it, rather than pretending that there's something called "creation science" and attributing your faith to logic. Faith and logic are mutually incompatible. If you want to maintain your faith anyway, then be proud of your irrationality. Don't hypocritically pretend that your faith is logical.

In that respect, then, the Bible must be examined in every single aspect, not just its version of the world's beginnings. By the way, I would be surprised if you had ever studied Hebrew. My father and several of his colleagues and seminary professors, all creationists, happen to know that the "differing creation stories" is merely a result of the style of writing at the time. Surely you didn't think every theologian in the history of Christianity simply ignored that argument? We are not so shallow as that.

But you are so shallow as to fail to see that the "style of writing at that time" was not scientific and not meant to be taken as literally as historical documents are today, so the whole idea of Biblical inerrancy and pseudoscientific interpretations of the Bible is stillborn. That's what I was trying to show when I highlighted the inconcistencies, and you obviously missed the point completely. You acknowledge that the writers of the time made little or no effort at literal, factual consistency (a well known fact) but you don't seem to recognize how this punches a huge hole in the whole notion of the Bible as a source of scientific observations.

[Editor's note: As for the argument that every theologian in the history of Christianity couldn't possibly have ignored an obvious problem, that would carry a lot more weight if he had somehow explained that problem rather than simply appealing to the authority of all those theologians. Besides, he's wrong. Many theologians have identified this inconsistency as such, and in fact, I learned about the Genesis inconsistency not in my spare time, but in a theology class at Conrad Grebel College (a church college) on the University of Waterloo campus. The theology professor in that class would have probably taken exception to Ben Bartlett's claim that none of the theologians in the history of Christianity noticed that before!]

Please respond to my letter, even if only to acknowledge that you recieved it. Please understand that I highly respect your intelligence and desire to find the truth logically.

The truth? That is a matter for philosophers to decide. But science? That is a method, and creationists don't follow it. At the heart of all creationist thinking is a fundamental dislike of science and its methods; it is exceedingly rare to find a creationist tome which doesn't make perjorative statements about close-minded scientists sooner or later, or negative statements about the "humanist" assumption that natural mechanisms exist to explain everything (even though that's part of the scientific method). Yet they insist on pretending that even though they dislike scientists and disagree with the scientific method, that their theory is science!

That's simply dishonest, and that's the problem with "Creation Science". It's a non-science trying to masquerade as a science for the purpose of worming its way into the public schools. This is done for two reasons:

  1. Creationists hate the scientific method, but they cannot deny that the public has great confidence in science because science, unlike religion, has produced tangible technological advancements for human society. Therefore, it behooves them to use fraud in an attempt to take advantage of the public's ignorance, so that they can appropriate some of that confidence in order to support their belief system.

  2. Creationists want to tear down the wall between church and state, so that they can use the public schools to indoctrinate children in their religious beliefs. They know that the Constitution prevents this, so they try to pretend that creationism is a science, and they lobby politicians to let them teach it in science class even though no reputable scientist would ever submit a serious paper in support of creationism.

Sincerely,
Ben Bartlett

You have obviously spent a great deal of time studying religion. Now, perhaps you should spend some time studying science, lest you continue to grievously misrepresent it. Otherwise, you should not be so arrogant as to make the claim that there is a scientific basis to creationism; one who has little or no familiarity with the scientific method simply doesn't have the right to make such statements, particularly if he cannot back them up with anything less fallacious than the appeals to authority which you've been using exclusively.

[Editor's note: His next E-mail to me was blank, except for an interesting payload: a computer virus. It was harmless and could not execute under any circumstances (since I use KMail on Linux), but when I E-mailed him to ask if it was deliberate or not, he refused to reply. It may have actually been a deliberate attempt to infect my computer]


Last updated: August 5, 2001


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