Monday, 8 October 2012

Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip

Here's Jerry Coyne discussing the practicalities of fitting all the world's animals onto a boat that is too large to remain stable.

In this show, Conspiracy Road Trip, Andrew Maxwell takes conspiracists on a variety of subjects, such as 9/11 and UFOs, and challenges their beliefs. On this occasion, he took five British creationists (four Christian and one Muslim) to the States to look at some of the evidence and discuss it with experts in their fields.

There's a good quote from Jerry in discussion with Maxwell:
Evolution is unique amongst the sciences because it strikes people in the solar plexus of their faith; it strikes them in the idea that they are specially created by God, because evolution says you're not. It says that there is no special purpose for your life, because it's a naturalistic philosophy, we have no more extrinsic purpose than a squirrel or an armadillo. And it says that morality does not come from God, it's an evolved phenomenon. And those are three things that are really hard for humans to accept, particularly those brought up in a religious tradition.
There tends to be agreement on these points between creationists and atheists, although more liberal theists and accommodationist atheists would disagree with them. One of the creationists articulated this well, by saying that if the young earth belief she held was wrong then it all was. I think the acid of science can have this effect on religious belief. But folk can be very flexible, so cherry-picking is entirely consistent with theism, if the person is already happy to commit to any random possibility that happens to appeal to them.

If you think Jerry's talk didn't go down well, then you should see how well persuaded the gang were by Christian scientists explaining the evidence gently. In short, they weren't. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion from this, admittedly unscientific, experiment that persuasion depends more on the personality of the persuadee than the style of rhetoric employed. It's a truism to say that faith is an integral part of a person of faith, but it's exposed in all its humanity in this episode. You can see that each person's faith reflects their personalities, their wants and needs; changing faith is changing the person you are, and not to be taken lightly. Anyone who says your faith is wrong, whether gently or bluntly, is, in a sense, attacking and potentially killing the person you are, and re-birth is needed if the evidence is to be taken seriously.

So, in the end, it's a lot less traumatic for these persons to simply ignore the evidence. I can see how that could be, and I'm just glad I never got so hooked into a faith that I would feel so destroyed by losing it.


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