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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Creationism and the Swine Flu

I don't know exactly what it is about creationists that really gets my goat. Is it the blatant denial of the scientific method and what it can tell us about reality? Is it the blind following of dogma dictated by a 2 000 year old book? Is it the fact that it directly and happily attacks my one true love, evolution? Or is it that it promotes crappy ideas that end up hurting people?

The hypocrisy burns my mind, and yet I'm eerily drawn to it. I just have to read the latest idiocy and willful ignorance gleefully smeared all over the intertubes. One man who has been cropping up all over the place lately is this one: Ray Comfort. You may have seen his extremely uninformed video called "The Atheist's Nightmare", where he claims that bananas are proof of God.

Hopefully, you know enough about human history to know that none of the plants we eat today do not resemble their appearance from a few millennia ago. Wild bananas are green, hard, and full off seeds.

You may also have already seen this delightful comic strip by Doonesbury:

Ray Comfort does not seem to understand even basic evolutionary theory. He's way too upset about what being an animal does to his morality (I wish he would realize that it being an animal does not ruin anybody's morals).

On his blog a while ago, he wrote this:
The spread of the so-called 'swine flu' demonstrates yet again how useless and sometimes deadly a mutation can be. Furthermore, as the infection spreads around the world, the search for an antidote is desperately sought, but the very fact that the virus is seen as something to be opposed actually supports the Biblical view of this world. It is always good and right to oppose sickness, but in evolutionary terms, why don't humans simply resign themselves to it and allow the strong to survive? The evolutionary point of view would say the virus has a 'right' to live, so 'good luck' to it!

First of all, the mutation leading to the swine-flu is BENEFICIAL for that organism. It gets to party with a whole lot more hosts as a result of that mutation. The fact that it hurts us humans as opposed to swine is completely irrelevant to nature. Evolution does not say anything along the lines of "rights" to live, it is in no way normative and in no way directed by value judgments (nor does it give value judgments). Also, our understanding of evolution makes many viruses preventable.

It is quite simple for a person who is a part of nature to use their rational mind to decide what they think is good or bad. However, Comfort follows God, an unknowable being with unknowable motives, and his view is thereby closer to the one he tries to ascribe to his strawman "darwinists". Let God decide.

Just to be clear, it is absolutely essential to understand why he denies evolution so fervently. First of all, it has nothing to do with science. He doesn't even attempt to understand the science behind evolutionary theory. And, as he demonstrates in the video below, he thinks that evolutionary theory destroys his sense of morals. If anything, I think it heightens our sense of morality, because even though we are not accountable to God, we are accountable to every living thing around us, our future selves and our future children. Ray Comfort is waiting for the apocalypse, so his relationship to earth can be destructive without him imagining any consequence. Now that is scary.

About three minutes in, he makes some of the most ignorant claims about evolution I've ever heard. I'm ok with the fact that the people he asks questions of in the beginning are not able to explain evolution satisfactorily, but the fact that he, who spends so much time wanting to tear it down attempts to do so by distorting the facts or apparently never having asked those questions to anyone with a sliver of understanding, only reflects his blatant intellectual dishonesty.

Also, once again, he flaunts the fact that it is not about science for him, it's about God, and his own trembling sense of morality. The little dialogue he refers to in the end (about how to SAVE people, reminds me of this So-Called "What If.." game that some evangelicals like to play. They make you admit that you may not have lead a perfect life, and then prompt you to accept Jesus as your savior after scaring you with the scenario that there may be a God, who is very, very, angry with you for not living a perfect life after he created you that way. And one time, Todd Friel on a radio show made a huuge mistake. He tried this tactic on anti-theist number one, Christopher Hitchens. (Author of God is Not Great. How Religion Poisons Everything.)

The radiotalk can be heard at pharyngula or be found on youtube.

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