Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Don't! Stop Believing!

Last week, Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, two of the creationism movement's foremost idiots, went on national tv to try and prove the existence of God, claiming they would be able to do so without invoking faith or the Bible. Opposing them were a couple of dorky, atheist 20-somethings calling themselves the Rational Response Squad. Suffice it to say, Cameron and Comfort not only didn't prove anything, they also didn't avoid invocations of faith or scripture.

Comfort's purported proof was not in fact any sort of proof, it was conjecture. He conjectured that if you see a painting, you know there was a painter; ergo, creation is proof of creator (he has made this argument before, using a soda can as proof of a soda factory). He further claimed that, if one wanted to verify this scientifically in a lab experiment, one could gather scientists in a lab and ask them if a painting were proof of a painter. Now, there are several ways to debunk this argument, but the first that occurs to me is that that is not an experiment, it is a survey, and only proves what people think about the painting, not what actually created it. Another argument that has been made against Comfort's weird claim is that this line of thinking means something must have created God, but that's not actually proof against creation; it's more of a philosophical cunundrum. He then went on to attempt to "stir the conscience" in order to get people to do their "God given duty" and ... I'm not sure, but I think he was going for believing. This was, of course, problematic given his original premise.

The Rational Response Squad, though starting by just asserting that Comfort had failed, and debunking his several claims (making the point, among others, that the existence of a painter can be verified by asking around and finding him or her, whereas God is more elusive), then went on to make scientific arguments against creation and logical arguments against God.

This brings me to my point: in arguments between atheists and creationists, atheists will appear to win 99% of the time. Of course it helps that Comfort and Cameron are morons who also believe that bananas are proof of creation and that non-scientist evolution-supporters who claim not to be experts are a hole in the argument for Darwinian evolution, but the same would happen with other, less crazy creationists/intelligent designists. This is not because atheists are necessarily right that God does not exist. It is because modern creationists choose to attempt to use science and logic (or things they call science and logic) to prove the existence of God. The problem with this is that God, if he/she/it does exist, is not a scientific or logical being. And this is a problem, not only for Christian creationists, but for atheists as well.

The argument for creationism is that God intervened with the world in some tangible, measurable way to create life as we know it, and that we can be sure of this. The argument for atheism is that there is nothing at all, in any form anywhere, that is not in some way tangible or measurable, and that we can be sure of this. I was raised Catholic, and I never believed either of these, nor was I told to believe either of these by any spiritual authority figure in my life. I never saw a conflict of interest between what I was told about science and what I was told about religion, because it was always impressed upon me that it was beyond human understanding to grasp the way that someone like God behaves.

So to creationists, I pose this question: why do you try and prove a non-specific idea using scientific methods? And to atheists, I pose this question: how can you prove scientifically that something that is beyond science does not exist?

And to everyone, I pose another question: Why do we care? Many arguments have been made about this too, of course. Many claim that God's existence is the only reason to act within any sort of moral code, which I believe is quite a hateful comment on the human condition. And of course, it begs the question, where are people more moral, more orderly in their behavior, in theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran, or in aggressively secular states like Sweden and the Netherlands?

Some creationists have said of science that it is more of a leap of faith to deny God than to accept God. While I would call this quite a hyperbole, I would also call it a fair point that absolute denial of God is in fact somewhat of a leap of faith. To do so with surety, one must presume that only what one perceives empirically is real. This, just like the assumption that one's own set of folklore and traditions are more divine than anyone else's, is an arrogant thought. Belief - any kind - is arrogant and small-minded. Many have said it before, of course, but it bears repeating. The cliché goes that the only thing you can be sure of is that you can't be sure of anything. I, however, don't even claim to be sure that I can't be sure of anything. Who knows what revelations the next day will bring? I sure don't claim to. This is because I'm an agnostic.

You know, in case you were wondering.

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