In light a few recent events, I thought it was appropriate to revisit a subject that I touch upon frequently in this blog: religion and faith, specifically Christian creationism.
For anyone living under a rock, there was a recent announcement from the scientific world that has the creationist community abuzz. A Harvard team has announced the discovery of gravitational waves predicted by the BBT and cosmic inflation. Naturally, the creationist camp has had a lot to say about this. Sadly, most of it has been incorrect. I’ve seen a lot of chatter on social media sites and other blogs that this whole gravitational waves things is “just a theory” like the big bang and inflation, or that it’s simply a model dreamed up by scientists to help prove their secular theories (as a quick aside, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific processes. The BBT theory was developed to explain observations made by astronomers and physicists–not the other way around. And, ironically, one of the earliest scientists to propose an expanding universe created from a single point was a Belgian physicist who also happened to be a Roman Catholic priest. But details like that are often
covered up lost to history).
Unfortunately for creationists, that’s outright false.
The gravitational waves discovered by the Harvard team are not theoretical, they aren’t simply a model, and they aren’t a simulation. They are an actual, literal piece of physical data. They were detected using a physical, scientific instrument. They exist in the real world. Answers in Genesis neglected to mention this key point, which does nothing but perpetuate the misinformation and falsehoods surrounding this latest discovery.
AiG leads me to another interesting story. Suffice it to say, I ended up being referred to Ken Ham’s official Facebook page the other day by my brother, who had seen that one of his friends had commented on it. Needless to say, there was a lot of discussion going on about the gravitational waves, and a lot of this, “it’s just a theoretical model” hoopla being banded about. I decided to make a comment clarifying the situation. I was perfectly civil and cordial. I said nothing about anyone being “wrong” or “incorrect.” All I simply said was, “The data obtained by the Harvard team is actually not a model or a theory, but a tangible, observable piece of evidence.” And guess what? My comment was instantly deleted and I was banned from the page. And creationists are the ones going on about how secular science and public schools are indoctrinating people, and that scientists aren’t leaving room for debate? Please, give me a break. The censorship here for a simple, non-combative Facebook post is astonishing.
As I further pondered the differences between mainstream science and creationism, a second thought occurred to me. And it goes a little something like this: if creationists are correct, why is there even a universe? If one is going to take the bible and everything in it to be literal truth, then anything beyond the earth, moon, and the sun is superfluous and useless.
If taken literally, the bible would seem to indicate that the only life God created is the life on earth. There is nothing in the bible about aliens, extraterrestrials, other habitable planets, or even cosmic microbes. Zip, nada, zilch. If one subscribed to a literal interpretation of scripture, then it’s just the life on earth in the universe. The entire universe. So I ask again, what is the point of the universe if creationists are correct? Because if creationists are indeed right, then every single star in the sky is completely and utterly devoid of purpose. The billions of stars in our galaxy do absolutely nothing for us. We receive no light or heat from them. The same could be said of all of the other galaxies. Essentially, God created a mind-blowingly huge universe, filled it with billions of galaxies and trillions of stars…and then only put life on one planet. Because…and this is where I lose it. If creationists are correct, other galaxies serve zero purpose. So why do they exist? If the cosmos was created for the sole benefit of mankind–as a literal interpretation suggests–why doesn’t the universe only consist of the sun, the moon, and the earth? (I’m lumping the moon into this equation because of it’s involvement with the physics and mechanics of the earth that life has incorporated into it’s biology).
And please, don’t tell me that God created the universe and filled it with stars and nebulae and comets and everything else just to remind us of his power or whatever. I’m pretty sure that an omnipotent being beyond time and space could make his power known to us anytime he damned well pleased in an infinite variety of ways. There is no logical reason why the universe is as large as it is and contains what it contains if creationists are correct.
And speaking of things that make no logical sense, the creationist responses to Fox’s new “Cosmos” program are, to me at least, very amusing. The last episode of the show focused on evolution, a touchy subject for creationists. What I particularly liked about the program was the simple way that they laid out the evolution of the eye, something that creationists commonly point to as irrefutable proof that God must exist, because the eye is “too complex” to have evolved through a sequence of random mutations. Except that there really isn’t anything “overly complex” about the eye to begin with. “Complex” is an entirely subjective word. For some people, Shakespeare is too complex to read, but that doesn’t mean there was a supernatural element to ol’ Bill’s writing.
If you believe that the eye is “too complex,” then you either don’t know enough about physiology or you don’t really understand how evolution works. The physiology of the eye is actually very well understood and quite easy to grasp–there isn’t anything beyond reason or understanding at work here. One common fallacy that creationists like to use when talking about complexity is the 747 argument: that the chances of something as complex (again, a subjective idea) as the eye spontaneously emerging is similar to a tornado fully assembling a 747 after passing through a junkyard.
The 747 argument, however, is based upon a flawed conception of evolution. The 747 gambit completely ignores the fact that evolution is a gradual process that functions as the result of accumulations of mutations. The true biological equivalent of the 747 gambit is essentially taking an atom and going straight to a fully formed human being overnight with zero steps in between. This, as any biologist will tell you, is not what evolution is based upon. The entire 747 gambit fails to address the most basic, foundational tenant of evolution: a gradual accumulation of small changes over large stretches of time.
But back to the eye. A common theme I hear in the creationist community with regard to evolution is that human beings are the most evolved or most superior creature on the planet. One would have to subscribe to this belief if one interprets the bible literally, since the bible tells us that God clearly created man to be superior to animals–indeed, he gave us dominion over them. However, the complexity argument breaks down when you realize that there are animals with superior eyes to those of human beings. Nocturnal creatures have a tapetum lucitum that allows them to see in the dark; human eyes don’t see in the dark. Think of the visual acuity that birds of prey have in order to see small prey in thick brush hundreds of feet from the air at incredible speeds; human eyes don’t have that kind of acuity. There are many animals that are more complex or have more complex parts than human beings, which were supposedly created with a design superior to animals.
All of this say that while people in this country are free to believe whatever they want, and I personally don’t care what you believe in the privacy of your own home or church, this week seemed to see science deliver several critical blows to the creationist narrative. I’ll be curious to see how their responses develop in the coming weeks and months.