Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Aping God

The beautifully evolved Alice RobertsThere can be no finer proof of man's ascendency to near angelhood than Dr Alice Roberts back on our tellies once more in her new series, Origins Of Us. But tempting as it is to leap off the high dive board of swoonsome superlatives and turn a few half pikes in the air before hitting the waters of sycophancy that isn't what this post is about.

I'm about to get all serious on your ass.

After I watched the show on Monday - en elegant tour through the current evidence of man's development from ape-like hominid to tool-making homo sapien - I thought I'd give Dr Alice's blog a go on the BBC web site, especially as all my emails to her seem to bounce back these days (just a problem with her junk mail filter, I'm sure).

I started perusing the comments left by others (purely to scoff and scorn at their pathetic attempts to court this good lady's attentions, naturally) and was instantly horrified by what I found.

Now I need to be careful how I express this because I like to think I am a fairly tolerant person when it comes to other people and their beliefs. I'm not in the habit of denegrating people for their religious choices. If you want to go and live in a Yurt and weave yoghurt as an offering for the old god's that's up to you; your vegan diet means more roast chicken for me on a Sunday. Live and let live, I say, in this life and the next.

But surely Creationists are the most dumbassed people in the universe? I thought they were purely an American breed (sorry, America) but no, it seems, they exist (solely by the will of God and nothing at all to do with evolutionary imperatives) in the UK too.

There were several comments which (if I can paraphrase) ran along the lines of: yes, Dr Alice, you are very pretty and this show was beautifully photographed but you do know science is wrong and we humans did not eveolve from apes or come out of Africa but were created by God somewhere in the vicinity of Israel, don't you? Shame on you for not pointing this out to your viewers!

I confess my first instinct was to throw a couple of verbal molotov cocktails into the mix and set the blinkered world-view of these idiots alight but then I thought: what's the point? What is the point of trying to reason with these people? They wilfully ignore the crushing weight of scientific evidence stacked up against them. Worse than that. They go on and on about The Truth and yet when they are presented with it they see only the work of the devil.

How can you argue with people who think like that?

What scares me the most is that in this so called technologically advanced, civilized age of ours there are still people who cling to medieaval beliefs with the passion of the simpleton. The world is flat. The sun orbits around the world. And man is not an animal but is special and alone in his spiritually.

Gah. It honestly makes me spiritually sick.

It's the old dilemma, isn't it? Do you take religious texts word for word or do you accept that they were the products of a darker, much harsher, less enlightened world and therefore appropriately filter out the wildly imagined and the guesswork and retain the spiritually relevant? But then we have the problem of one person's interpretation being held above that of another.

But isn't this what is happening anyway?

The only difference betweeen religion and science is that religion purports to proclaim the whole truth without facts or evidence to back it up; science acknowledges it doesn't know the half of it but can prove what it does know.

In the final analysis, I'll cast my vote with science - though am keen to point out this does not mean there is a lack of spirituality on my part (but the details of that are my business).

Did man descend from the apes? The only evidence against it is that you never see apes fucking each other over or killing each other because of conflicts in their religious beliefs.

Maybe 'descend' is the operative word, here, eh?

Go in peace, people. Go in peace.



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29 comments:

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Snap

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: I hope that's an expression of agreement and not the sound of your mind buckling under the weight of my pompous argument!

Kelloggsville said...

I believe that whilst the Bile is the word of God interpreted through man, much of it is symbolic and described in imagery that made it understandable to people at the time. I think there are lines to be drawn between the start of the world and evolution with the story of the 7 days of creation. The problem with science is there are a number of gaps that leave the question of creation still open to question. There are also so many 'coincidences' along the way that leave you wondering how it could not have been crafted. I do not doubt evolution nor God, I think they both have a hand in this. I don't consider myself to be a dumbass. Nor am I clinging to medieval beliefs, I have faith and faith doesn't go out of date. Science in many ways is helping to support my faith. Science and creation do not have to be separate entities.

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: I actually agree with you and have heard many scientists say the same in interviews. The two will eventually become one and then we shall have true wisdom. That's my hope anyway.

P.S. Your typo with the Bible really threw me initially!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Agreement :-)
It could also be the sound of the human back breaking due to its badly compromised design. It has occurred to me that we behave like two different species, they and we.

It has just occurred to me too, that in six weeks time I will be able to see some of these TV programmes - au naturel - that you are always talking about. Will Dr Alice still be on then?

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: sadly not - the series is only a 3 parter but will, no doubt, be available on iPlayer (as everything is these days)? I take it you saw the first episode? The bit about the human back was very interesting and you make a point that is even moreso - we are a hybrid almost. And, of course, I suspect evolution is not yet finished with us.

Jon said...

"science acknowledges it doesn't know the half of it but can prove what it does know."

I'm not going to comment on my faith either, not least because my position is best described as "confused."

But since we are being serious, and since I am qualified to do so, being as I was a trained scientist with letters and everything, I'm going to pick up on this point.

Science over the past few decades has shown an alarming tendency to build castles on sand. Most obviously this is appearent in the fields of cosmology and particle physics where results that fail to agree with theory have been downplayed in the belief - the faith - that somehow it's all going to come good.

This is not good practice.

I could write a great deal more on the topic, not least on how what I can only describe as unqualified "fundamentalist anti-theists" are starting to stiffle scientific discussion by howling down anyone who suggests that we need to look anew at some established theories, but I've got a big pile of laundry to do.

Steve said...

Jon: it would appear, then, that laundry is about the only thing on this planet that it is safe to believe in. Except when socks mysteriously go missing. Can science or religion explain that? Huh?

Nota Bene said...

You're lucky Dr Alice is not on my list of five, otherwise there would be fisticuffs. Creationism is what I do when I make Airfix kits. One day God will pop along and tell us which is right, in the meantime, I'm voting for the being creating everything at the beginning and then letting it all grow up.

Steve said...

Nota Bene: wind up the clockwork engine and let it run. Methinks that's nearer the truth. But then, what do I know? I'm just a wind-up engine (merchant?) myself.

John Gray said...

have you heard any of Francesca Stavrakopoulou's lecures/work?
she has an interesting take on the origins of religeon and the debunking of historical perspectives of the same

heard her on THE MUSEUM OF CURIOSITY the other week.... you may find her interesting...especially her thoughts on child sacrifice
http://en.wikipedia org/wiki/Francesca_Stavrakopoulou

Steve said...

John: child sacrifice?! Whoa! Now we really are getting all Old Testament on people's asses!

Marginalia said...

Serves you right Steve, bothering that lovely young doctor woman and so clever.

"Out of Africa", that was a film in the 80's wasn't it. Nothing to do with evolution.

"Planet of the Apes" must be on the creationists' banned list.

The thing is "we", that is those with a scientific bent (steady there boy) think we know how things happen. We have a few clues, some rational thought and we arrive at something which we hope approximates to what may actually have happened.

Creationist know that God created the earth. End of discussion.

Steve said...

Marginalia: ah the ol' faith chestnut. Can't argue with faith even when the facts prove otherwise. If you believe it's true then it's true for you, yah boo sucks to everyone else. Unfortunately that kind of argument just makes me shrug my shoulders and walk away. I daresay I am no loss to those with 'Faith'.

libby said...

Oh I used to struggle with this one Steve..I'm very much like Kellogsville...and on either side of the coin I found myself wondering 'but how do they really know?'...so I have decided not to worry about it all and just keep my own counsel as it were.

Steve said...

Libby: yes, venturing an opinion either way is dangerous. But to me black is black, cold is cold and bullshit is bullshit. When people start saying black is white purely out of faith that it is actually white then I'm afraid I tend to bail out. I don't have any beef with the existence of God. I really don't. I do have beef, however, with people who think we were magically created out of dust when we share a proven 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees.

Rol said...

Wow, Steve, you're not still believing in that crazy old Darwin dude, are you? Didn't you hear he was exposed as a big practical joker years ago?

Gorilla Bananas said...

We apes certainly don't kill each other over religious differences, but I regret to say that it happens quite often from disputes over territory and females. More so for the chimps, we gorillas are pacifists most of the time.

Anyway, I'm not ashamed of sharing 95% of my DNA with humans. The Creationists may be weak of mind, but they're still my cousins, and blood is thicker than coconut milk.

Steve said...

Rol: didn't he go on to form the Marx Brothers?

Gorilla Bananas: I suspect you are being far more charitable than we really deserve.

Owen said...

Once again one of my favorite expressions comes to mind : you should never try to teach a pig to sing, because it wastes your time, and it annoys the pig...

One cannot "reason" with blind faith, that's why it's called "blind". I have no patience for proseletyzing (sp.) people who are 100% certain that they own the truth. The only "truth" in my humble point of view is that there is no single brand of truth when it comes to faith. As for evolution ? Hmmm... did some supreme being put all those fossils out there simply as red herrings to throw us off the scent ? :-)

Now, teaching Alice to sing would be a whole 'nother subject, and I would love to give that a try. If you can find her real e-mail address, you will pass it on, right ? I have faith in you Steve...

Nana Go-Go said...

Charles Darwin Rules....stick that in your creationist pipe and smoke it!

Steve said...

Owen: in my world view supreme beings don't waste their time leaving trails of red herrings... As for teaching Alice to sing, I'd certainly like to make some lovely music on her fiddle. Her email address, alas, doesn't seem to be working right now. All my replies seem to come from the police. Go figure!

Nana Go-Go: that's what I like to see. Someone sticking their neck out and not sitting on the fence!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

No I didn't see the Back episode. Fancy that. The reality is I can't afford to "watch" stuff. Don't know how you are charged for your broadband in the UK, but video time here really chews through my monthly allotment (and 17 year old does all the chewing) and we have to gasp out on dial-up for a week if I start indulging in good British television!

Nice commentary here - Humour,sanity and respect prevailing, which reminds me that I haven't checked on Kellogsville and her sore back for awhile. You've even brought out the benign in Gorilla Bananas!

TimeWarden said...

All religion is a lie. The stories in The Bible are brilliant but to take them literally is no different to believing Bram Stoker's Count Dracula is true! Now I've probably insulted someone or other with those remarks but does it ever occur to Creationists that it works both ways, that science may find doctrinal 'beliefs' taught as truth deeply offensive? No! It's like when you cater for vegetarians. When you eat at theirs, do they lay on meat? Certainly not!!

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: qute an achievement all that, isn't it? Maybe I'm a holy man? ;-)

TimeWarden: funny, I watched a show on the Beeb last night looking into those superfast nutrinos... seems the foundations of science are being right royally wobbled at the moment. But at least the scientists have the honesty to admit that and to be prepared to review and adapt. That is the biggest plus.

autumnraven said...

Evolution happens now...right now...and yet creationists would still vehemently disagree. Funny funny that faith thing. Can't hold it against 'em...faith has a few up points...but really? I came up with something years ago to help deal with the annoying position I was put in growing up, however...

Somewhere in the bible it says 'a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day' to God. They actually could have messed up that translation and it could be a billion. So the earth is like 4 billion years old and if you knock out the first 2 billion in creating the sun and the earth itself that puts us in our seventh billion year....

And on the 7th day God rested.

Hmmmm...

But mostly I just laugh because they are putting faith in a book that has been translated by the rich and the powerful for the last thousand years...yeah, have fun with that.

Steve said...

Autumnraven: oh so with you on that translation thing... all those deliberate mistranslations (thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live that got changed to thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, etc) and all those accidental ones... all those political ones... and people wrapping their souls up in the lot like it's a magic shield. It just ain't good.

Mark said...

They used to say that faith was belief in the face of no evidence; more accurately it is belief in the face of huge amount of evidence. The point to remember about creationist, in my experience, is that they don't operate by the same rules as you or I , or indeed the same rules way they apply to the rest of their lives. The 'I believe in creation' is sort of badge, a kind of uber-faith that gains its equivalent of 'street cred' almost by dint of its ridiculousness. it is more about psychology than logic.

Steve said...

Mark: well put. It is these "different rules" which makes me want to kick them up the arse though I recognize that is hardly a balanced and fair response. It does, however, reflect my frustration.